Iran is poised to consolidate its growing power in the Middle East as it tries to complete a strategic land bridge from the Arabian Gulf to the Mediterranean despite advances in Syria by the United States and its allies, UPI News reports. Having cleared the last obstacles for the Shia-controlled corridor on the Iraq-Syria border, the Islamic Republic, unlike its ally Russia, plans to remain in Syria permanently and is building military bases in southern Syria, moves that Israel sees as a strategic threat.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a pro-Israel Washington thinktank that has been highly critical of the U.S. failure to produce a military-economic strategy to prevent Syria falling apart, said the absence of a U.S. blueprint helped Iran accumulate power.
“Iran has basically created its own foreign legion,” he observed. “You’ve had a variety of Shia militias from other countries… come to the Syria-Iraq theaters. …That’s something that gives it the power to project power significantly,” he said in his article for The Arab Weekly.
Iran plans to remain in Syria once the war ends to consolidate its expansion across the Middle East, preferably with Bashar al-Assad as a puppet president. Tehran recently recruited thousands of Afghan and Pakistani Shias – one estimate is as high as 6,000 – swelling its force of Shia mercenaries, which constitutes an arm of the Islamic Republic’s extra-territorial military forces.
Along with Hezbollah’s battle-hardened Lebanese veterans, their main purpose is to regain as much valuable Syrian territory, such as oilfields, as possible before any peace deal is clinched.
“Unless the U.S. commits to preventing the march of these forces, Iran will be the ultimate victor in the Syrian conflict, thereby expanding its influence across the Middle East and setting the stage for future conflict – with both Sunni states and with Israel. Indeed, this would likely mark not the end of a war but rather the beginning of yet another,” observed David Adesnik, director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The Iranian Regime is resorting to desperate measures to prop up their diminishing role in the Middle East as the rest of the region pulls away from them. In Yemen, where the Regime supports the terrorist Houthi militias in their fight against the internationally recognized government, over 85% of the land has been retaken from the terrorists by the Saudi-backed coalition.
The European Parliament also called on Iran to halt its support for the Houthis, condemning the recent missile attacks targeting Saudi interests, while a United Nations sanctions monitors report indicates that the missiles are actually of Iranian origin. In response, Iran is orchestrating deadly clashes between the Houthis and forces loyal to the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh and smuggling weapons to the Houthis through countries like Oman because they can’t engage directly via traditional means or launch their own missiles against the Saudis without risking direct war.
In Lebanon, where Iran supports the Hezbollah terrorists, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is putting pressure on the terrorist group by resigning. In Iraq, where Iran supports the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs), the Regime cannot justify the use of proxy forces as ISIS is being evicted, which is why French President Emmanuel Macron called on Iraq to dismantle the PMUs.
It is no secret that the Iranian Regime has been meddling in the Middle East, determined to escalate tensions and leave a path of destruction, but why? Well, the Regime dreams of a Shi’ite Crescent stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean which will allow them to easily transport weapons, troops, and money to its terrorist proxies, especially the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Actually, Iran has virtually completed a “Shi’ite Crescent” of influence across the heart of the Middle East, using a string of battlefield successes to link a network of allies and proxy forces now spanning from nation’s border with Iraq all the way to Lebanon.
The crescent, a longtime strategic goal meant to confront rival Sunni Arab powers led by Saudi Arabia, includes several semipermanent bases established in territory claimed as the radical Salafi Sunni Islamic State movement recedes. It also presents a strategic challenge to the U.S. presence in the region that the Trump administration is still struggling to meet.
Tehran has long sought the land bridge to Lebanon, where the Shi’ite militant movement Hezbollah has proved to be its most potent ally in the rivalry with Sunni states and with Israel, with which Hezbollah has repeatedly clashed.
“The physical link to Lebanon “is a symbolic win for the Iranians,” said Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
While the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has long had a sophisticated logistics operation in place to move weapons, material, and supplies to Lebanese Hezbollah as well as other proxy forces in Iraq and Syria, the emerging Shi’ite Crescent is a testament to Tehran’s ability enlist proxy forces among indigenous regional forces to challenge its adversaries.
“What you [now] have, nevertheless, is a slick operation in Tehran that is looking to project its influence far beyond its borders — and it has been quite successful in doing this with relatively little effort. It’s been a lot of return on very little investment,” said H.A. Hellyer, a senior nonresident fellow on Middle East affairs at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
This is why Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has long called for the eviction of the Iranian Regime from the Middle East, especially Syria and Iraq. Now it appears that the rest of the world is waking up to this.
“Wreaking endless havoc in Yemen and creating obstacles one after another in the Syria talks are Iran’s agenda. In response, a strong and united international effort is needed to confront Tehran’s ambitions and deter it back once and for all,” Human Rights Activist Heshmat Alavi wrote on Al Arabiya.