Posted tagged ‘Iran military’

Iran Sending Warships to Atlantic Ocean Amid Massive New Military Buildup

August 14, 2017

Iran Sending Warships to Atlantic Ocean Amid Massive New Military Buildup, Washington Free Beacon, August 14, 2017

Iranian military ship and light replenishment ship are seen docked for refueling / Getty Images)

Iran is preparing to send a flotilla of warships to the Atlantic Ocean following the announcement of a massive $500 million investment in war spending, according to Iranian leaders, who say the military moves are in response to recent efforts by the United States to impose a package of new economic sanctions on Tehran.

The military investment and buildup comes following weeks of tense interactions between Iran and the United States in regional waters, where Iranian military ships have carried out a series of dangerous maneuvers near U.S. vessels. The interactions have roiled U.S. military leaders and prompted tough talk from the Trump administration, which is currently examining potential ways to leave the landmark nuclear deal.

Iran’s increasingly hostile behavior also follows a little-noticed United Nations report disclosing that Iran has repeatedly violated international accords banning ballistic missile work. Lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and some policy experts also believe that Iran has been violating some provisions in the nuclear agreement governing nuclear-related materials.

With tensions over sanctions and Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement growing, Iranian parliamentary members voted to increase war spending by more than $500 million. This is at least the second recent cash influx to Iran’s military since the landmark nuclear deal that unfroze billions in Iranian assets and saw the United States awarding Tehran millions in cash.

Iranian lawmakers reportedly shouted “death to America” as they passed the measure, which boosts spending to Iran’s contested missile programs by around $260 million.

The bill also imposes sanctions on U.S. military officials in the region. Additionally, Iranian officials are moving to set up courts to prosecute the United States for the recent sanctions, which Iran claims are in violation of the nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, following several aggressive encounters with U.S. military vessels in the Persian Gulf, Iranian military leaders announced that they would be leading a flotilla of warships into the Atlantic Ocean.

“No military official in the world thought that we can go round Africa to the Atlantic Ocean through the Suez Canal but we did it as we had declared that we would go to the Atlantic and its Western waters,” Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari was quoted as saying over the weekend.

“We moved into the Atlantic and will go to its Western waters in the near future,” Sayyari said.

U.S. military officials reported Monday yet another “unsafe” encounter with an Iranian drone that was shadowing a U.S. carrier in the Persian Gulf region and reportedly came close enough to an American F-18 jet to risk the pilot’s life.

As with other similar encounters during the past months, the Iranian craft did not respond to repeated radio calls by the United States. While the drone is said to have been unarmed, it is capable of carrying missiles.

Iranian leaders have been adamant that the country will not halt its work on ballistic missile technology, which could be used to carry nuclear weapons.

The United States has issued several new packages of sanctions as a result of this behavior, but U.N. members have yet to address the issue, despite recent reporting that found Iran is violating international accords barring such behavior.

“Little-noticed biannual reporting by the UN Secretary General alleges that Iran is repeatedly violating these non-nuclear provisions,” Iran Watch, a nuclear watchdog group, reported on Monday.

“Thus far, the United States has responded to such violations with sanctions and designations of Iranian and foreign entities supporting Tehran’s ballistic missile development,” the organization found. “However, the U.N. and its member states have not responded. More must be done to investigate allegations of noncompliance and to punish violations of the resolution.”

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, said that Iran’s recent behavior shows the regime has not moderated since the nuclear deal was implemented. The Obama administration sold the deal in part on promises that it could help bring Tehran into the community of nations.

“Every time the Islamic Republic has cash, it chooses guns over butter,” Rubin told the Washington Free Beacon. “What the [nuclear deal] and subsequent hostage ransom did was fill Iran’s coffers, and now we see the result of that.”

“What [former President Barack] Obama and [former Secretary of State John] Kerry essentially did was gamble that if they funded a mad scientist’s lab, the scientist would rather make unicorns rather than nukes,” Rubin said. “News flash for the echo chamber: Iranian reformist are just hardliners who smile more. Neither their basic philosophy nor their commitment to terrorism have changed.”

Iran: A “Paper Tiger”

April 1, 2017

Iran: A “Paper Tiger,” Iran Focus, March 31, 2017

(What would Russia do? Please see also, Iran’s Elections: A Breaking Crisis? — DM)

London, 31 Mar – While Iran calls for the destruction of Israel, according to some experts, an American or Israeli attack against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and military sites would be fairly easy to execute. This is because, although Iran points to technological advancement in their military, it is actually has overextended itself in Syria.

A report published in March by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), noted Iran has backed off their provocations against U.S. Navy vessels, and has even ceased their threats to sink these ships in the Persian Gulf. The report continued, “The slogan ‘death to America’ has disappeared almost entirely from the official discourse of regime spokesmen, including Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, as have public burnings of the American flag.”

Fars News Agency reported on March 26, that deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, warned the U.S. to be more careful about its warship movements in the Persian Gulf, which is a softer warning than we’ve heard in the past from Iranian leaders.

President and founder of MEMRI, Yigal Carmon, has stated that Iran’s claims of domestic development of military technologies are “complete nonsense,” but said that the country’s acquisition of North Korean missiles is concerning. Carmon said further, that Iran imports North Korean missiles and renames them to give the impression that they were domestically developed.

He explained that Iranian media publishes stories every few weeks about success of their military programs. One such story in January 2013, announced that Iran’s Space Agency had sent a monkey into space, yet pictures of the monkey before and after the “mission” failed to match up. “Iran does not create any quality military equipment, they only are able to buy from abroad. What do they invent to counter U.S. ships? All they are able to come up with is suicide speed boats,” he said.

Iran has also “displayed what they claimed to be domestically built submarines, but when we saw the picture that they put out, we saw that the size would be good for the Baltimore aquarium,” said Carmon.

The ballistics test Iran conducted in January failed. Carmon believes that Iran poses no real challenge to the U.S. “If the U.S. or Israel attack Iran’s nuclear sites and military targets, it will be a done deal,” he said.

A comparison of American and Iranian financial resources may bolster this argument. Fox News columnist Jonathan Adelman, an international studies professor at the University of Denver, wrote in February, “Look at the figures. The American GDP of over $18 trillion is more than 40 times the GDP of Iran ($450 billion)…. Given all this, the fear of Iran getting nuclear weapons still remains real. But, even more real is the notion that the biggest power in the world, plus three significant regional powers (Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), could handle Iran if they would put their minds to it.”

Iran sank $6 billion annually of its resources into the Syrian Civil War, according to Bloomberg News.

Dr. Harold Rhode, a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and a former U.S. Defense Department official, has stated that while America is strong both militarily and internally, Iran and North Korea “appear strong, but are weak and rotten inside.” Rhode said that while Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, it is destroying its country by inaction on domestic problems such as its water crisis. London-based NGO Small Media published a study in March 2016, saying that Iran “faces an unprecedented crisis of water resources that threatens to render vast swathes of the country near-uninhabitable within the coming decades.”

A dangerous opium drug problem is also facing Iran. Rhode speculated that Iranian authorities could crack down on drugs, but ignore it instead, in order “to keep the people preoccupied so they don’t concern themselves with overthrowing the government.”

Rhode believes the American or Israeli approach should be one of strength, but said, “Do we need to have a massive invasion [of Iran]? No. We must show that this regime cannot do what is necessary to keep themselves in power.”

There are alternatives to “actual physical attacks,” such as electronic warfare, when it comes to confronting Iran, according to MEMRI’s Carmon.

Rhode said other options should be considered before putting troops on the ground, including bringing about regime change. “We live in very stable societies, we expect changes to come slowly, but that is not how it works in totalitarian societies like Iran. The moment the people see the regime has lost its ability and willingness to keep itself in power, the regime will topple very quickly, as happened to the shah in 1979. The shah was not willing to do what was necessary to put down the rioting,” he said, and called Iran a “potentially a paper tiger” adding that it is “our job to encourage regime change—and we can.”

Guest Column: Washington Finally Designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

February 4, 2017

Guest Column: Washington Finally Designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Raymond Tanter and Edward Stafford, February 3, 2017

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The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions Friday on a host of Iranian companies and individuals as terrorists. It is a welcome development, which hopefully sends a signal to Tehran to rein in its global terror support, ballistic missile testing, and oppression of its people.

The action targets people and entities involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force.

The Iranian entities operate like a network out of Lebanon. It is the base of Hizballah (Party of God), an IRGC proxy, which was designated in 1997, but the IRGC was not designated.

Friday’s sanctions could help liberal democracy grow in Iran by showing Iranians that their leadership would face consequences for violating civil liberties at home and international relations norms abroad.

Per the Iranian Constitution (See Articles 107, 110), Iran is a theocratic dictatorship. Its parliament is under the sway of the Supreme Leader and other ayatollahs who select themselves. There is no such thing as a separation of powers by an independent authority.

Iran’s military is subordinated to the IRGC, which also controls most of the economy. Electoral results that do not satisfy the leadership are ignored and protests of anti-democratic governmental action are ruthlessly and systematically suppressed.

In the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections, the Greens and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) led protests. There is evidence the NCRI continues to exist despite facing heavy persecution. But the Greens have faded away, with their leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest in Tehran, subject to the whims of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

It appears as if Iran’s leaders face few domestic consequences for their illiberal and anti-democratic rule; so, to paraphrase Burke, the fewer consequences from within, the more needed from without.

Candidates for Designation

A 2015 study by Israel’s Meir Amit of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Portrait of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force, provides ample evidence of the IRGC’s role in fomenting global terrorism.

Starting in 2012, the IRGC recruited several thousand Shi’ite volunteer fighters from among Afghan refugees living in Iran. The IRGC also cultivated terrorist networks in the Golan Heights. These activities morphed into terrorism on Aug. 20, 2015, when local forces, including Hizballah operatives supported and supplied by the IRGC, fired four rockets at Israel from the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. Two hit Israeli territory in the Upper Galilee and two fell in the Golan.

Last April, Hizballah with the backing of the IRGC, began building new military installations in Syria, according to a report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. These appear to be geared toward a future, conventional war with Israel, but they offered Hizballah a venue from which it can launch strikes against northern Israeli cities.

Deliberately targeting civilians is a textbook example of terrorism. During this same time, the IRGC helped Hizballah operate complex weapons rockets that increased Hizballah’s ability to target Israeli cities.

A study published last fall by Iranian specialist Alireza Jafarzadeh and his colleagues shows how Iran fuels the Syrian civil war by placing the IRGC on the ground and transporting some Afghan refugees living in Iran to fight in Syria. The IRGC combined its troops and those of surrogates on the ground in terrorist assaults on civilians in places like Aleppo, Syria. This combination of forces on land with Syrian airstrikes proved to be a toxic mix of terrorism: “Syria is our 35th province, and is a strategic province for us,” Mehdi Taeb, a former commander of IRGC intelligence said in 2013. Because Taeb retains influence in the IRGC, his statements were and are indicative of the depth of the IRGC commitment to Syrian regime capabilities to conduct terrorism against civilians:

“If the enemy attacks us and seeks to take Syria or Khuzestan [an Iranian province], our priority would be to keep Syria, because if we keep Syria, we can retake Khuzestan. But if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.”

These three studies show the IRGC meets the legal criteria for an FTO designation. They are: 1) It must be a foreign organization; 2) engage in terrorist activity or terrorism, or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism; and 3) the organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States).

To designate an organization or individual, there must be evidence they threaten the United States’ national security, foreign policy, or economy. The studies cited show that the IRGC is a threat to U.S. national security interests.

As evidence of congressional interest in designation, on Friday, MSNBC reported a bipartisan letter to President Trump in favor of sanctions against the IRGC. In addition,The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Terrorist Designation Act” was introduced in the House and Senate in January. These identical bills emphasize that the IRGC meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law.

“If a foreign organization looks like a terror group, operates like a terror group, and supports terrorism, then it should be called for what it is–a foreign terrorist organization,” said House co-sponsor Michael McCaul, R-Texas. “As obvious as that seems, for years the IRGC has been allowed to operate clandestinely using front companies and illicit networks to evade formal designation.”

Fellow Texas Republican and Senate co-sponsor Ted Cruz added that, by designating IRGC as a foreign terror organization, the U.S. would be “signaling to financial institutions and companies who facilitate or conduct business with the IRGC that they may be held liable.”

The Way Forward

Regarding the executive branch, President Trump made excellent choices for his national security team—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Defense Secretary James Mattis; National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn; Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly; Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats; and Director of Central Intelligence, Mike Pompeo.

These talented officials need not sing from the same songbook, that is, they need not agree. But it is important that their views be taken into account in the interagency process. That said, consider two major benefits of designation their consultation might produce.

First, tagging the IRGC would give succor to democratic forces within Iran by imposing costs on anti-democratic ones, including those who lead the IRGC. The IRGC leader Qasem Soleimani, who goes virtually unchallenged, would be weakened. A weaker Soleimani could give rise to splits within the regime and place Iran on its back foot. Now, Tehran can spend money abroad on Afghan fighters, Hizballah in Lebanon and Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and ignore unmet economic needs of the population.

Second, designating the IRGC sends a strong signal to the Arab Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia: Washington is serious about regime change in Tehran. Prince Turki al Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief, spoke to a group of Iranian dissidents in Paris in July 2016. Although he was not then in the government, Prince Turki remains an influential player in Riyadh.

A crowd of over 100,000 Iranian oppositionists chanted in Farsi that they wanted regime change in Iran. Prince Turki spoke to the dissidents in Arabic, saying he also wanted to see regime change in Tehran. This remark brought the house down.

In a subsequent brief conversation with Tanter, Turki said that designating the IRGC would be a good start toward unraveling of the Iranian regime.

The bottom line is that designation could help bring liberal democracy to Iran by weakening the grip of its key repressive institution—the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies like Hizballah.

Iran’s New Indigenous Air Defence System

January 3, 2017

Iran’s New Indigenous Air Defence System, Gatestone InstituteDebalina Ghoshal, January 3, 2016

Clearly, if Iran continues to develop long range launch capabilities, it could choose destabilize the entire Middle East region, and directly threaten Israel and Europe.

The rapid development of an advanced system such as the Bavar-3 demonstrates that the Iranians are capable of developing not only defensive but also offensive weapons systems, even as Iran remains prohibited under the present UNSC Resolution 2231 (2015) from developing surface-to-surface nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

If Iran continues to develop offensive nuclear and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, the international community may be in for an unpleasant surprise — awakening to find a nuclear-armed Iran protected by sophisticated, hardened air defences. By then, the balance of power in the Middle East will be altered irreversibly.

While Western governments and NATO continue to congratulate themselves on the Iranian nuclear deal, in Tehran it is business as usual as the regime continues to plan for war.

In August 2016, on Iran’s National Defense Industry Day, the mullahs unveiled a sophisticated, domestically-built air-defence system — a surface-to-air long range missile system called the Bavar-373 [“Belief”]. Iran’s system was commissioned in 2010, when UN sanctions suspended a deal for Iran to purchase additional S-300 air defence systems from Russia.

As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani bragged with complete accuracy, “The Islamic Republic is one of the eight countries in the world who have mastered the technology to build these engines.” Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan claimed that Iran would begin mass production by the end of 2016. As the Bavar-373 is made entirely from domestic components, it can be manufactured and deployed even in the face of future sanctions.

2179Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (right) poses with the Bavar-373 air-defense system, August 21, 2016. (Image source: Fars News/Wikimedia Commons)

Bavar-373 is a marked upgrade from previous Iranian air defence capabilities. It is reportedly mounted on a Zafar 8×8 special wheeled chassis, designed to operate both on and off roads, with an operational range of 800km. The system uses Sayyed-3 category canister-launched missiles along with target acquisition radar, target engagement radar, and phased-array radar. The Sayyed-3 missiles hit mid-altitude targets with greater destructive power and increased range and speed than previous generations of Iranian missiles.

The Iranians claim, probably accurately, that the Bavar will be capable of downing bombers and other combat aircraft including helicopters and drones. Many reports confirm that the Bavar is superior to the Russian S-300, as it has greater mobility, better targeting capability, and faster launch preparation.

The Bavar is just one of Iran’s moves to develop military self-sufficiency in order to circumvent future sanctions. While still purchasing some components from Russia, Iran is clearly planning to go it alone in the future — especially with ballistic and cruise missile technology. The rapid development of an advanced system such as the Bavar-3 demonstrates that the Iranians are capable of developing not only defensive but also offensive weapons systems, even as Iran remains prohibited under the present UNSC Resolution 2231 (2015) from developing surface-to-surface nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Clearly, if Iran continues to develop long range launch capabilities it could choose to destabilize the entire Middle East region and directly threaten Israel and Europe.

Iran’s intentions appear ominous. Tehran continues to deploy defensive systems at nuclear and military sites throughout the country, apparently concerned about a potential Israeli strike. Even more worrisome, the Bavar system could make any attack by Israel or NATO extremely difficult and costly.

If Iran continues to develop offensive nuclear and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, the international community may be in for an unpleasant surprise — awakening to find a nuclear-armed Iran protected by sophisticated, hardened air defences. By then, the balance of power in the Middle East will be altered irreversibly.

U.S. Money Transferred To Iran Used To Expand Iran’s Military Budget

December 15, 2016

U.S. Money Transferred To Iran Used To Expand Iran’s Military Budget, MEMRI, Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*

While we cannot establish whether the money transferred from the U.S. went directly into the expanded defense budget, it, at a minimum, enabled the government to release an equal amount of money for defense purposes. It is noteworthy that the increase in the proposed defense budget for 2017 is approximately equal to the amount transferred by the U.S. Whatever the source of the defense budget increase, the IRGC will have ample resources to expand its nefarious activities far beyond the borders of the Islamic Republic.

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The government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani has submitted to the Majlis (parliament) a draft budget for the fiscal year March 2017-March 2018 for a total of $99.7 billion equivalent. The budget envisages a growth in expenditure of 13.9 percent over the preceding year, but a sharp increase of 39 percent, or $10.3 billion, in funds earmarked for defense, including a big increase in the budget of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Notwithstanding political, economic and social conflicts between the Rohani government and the IRGC, foreign policy is closely coordinated by the two bodies. Upon reaching power, the Rohani government declared two key priorities: reforming the national economy, and reaching agreement with the West on the nuclear program. The government has shown no objection to the role of the IRGC, a potent military force accountable to the Supreme Leader, in regional politics, and particularly in Syria and Iraq. A branch of the IRGC, the Qods Force Brigade, commanded by Gen. Qasem Soleimani, is responsible for spreading Iran’s subversive and, often, terrorist activities across the Middle East and beyond.

Growth Of Iran’s Defense Budget

Overall, Iran’s defense budget has increased from $6 billion in 2013 during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to $8 billion in 2014, and in access of $10 billion for the next Iranian fiscal year. However, the section of the military budget earmarked for the IRGC has registered a far greater increase than the military budget as a whole. The budget allocation for the Revolutionary Guards was $3.3 billion in 2013, increased to $6 billion in 2015, declined to $4.5 billion in 2016 but increased by 53 percent to $6.9 billion for 2017 which translated into 77 percent of the total defense budget. In fact, under the Rouhani presidency, the total allocations to the military, the IRGC, the Organization for the Mobilization of the Oppressed (Basij), and the General Staff of the Armed Forces all rose to almost 80 percent since mid-2013 when Rohani assumed the presidency.

Apart of its dominant share in the national defense budget, the IRGC derives vast revenues from its control over energy, construction, banking, and marketing (as well as smuggling of contraband.) Much of these economic activities are carried out by a company known as Khatam Al-Anbiya (“Seal of the Prophet”) established by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the late 1980s as the economic arm of the IRGC. Upon the withdrawal of the major oil companies such as Shell Oil (Anglo-Dutch) and Total (French) from Iran’s oil sector following the international sanctions, ownership of the oil and gas fields vacated by these companies was transferred to Khatam Al-Anbiya.[1]

The Ultimate Destiny Of The U.S.-Transferred Cash To Iran

In seeking to strengthen the policy of rapprochement with Iran, the Obama administration (though its Treasury Department) has surreptitiously transferred to Rohani’s government two tranches, in cash, for a total of $1.7 billion, allegedly as the cumulated interest on Iran’s deposits, made during the Shah regime before the 1979 revolution, for the purchase of American weapons

It is a commonly accepted premise that money is fungible. While we cannot establish whether the money transferred from the U.S. went directly into the expanded defense budget, it, at a minimum, enabled the government to release an equal amount of money for defense purposes. It is noteworthy that the increase in the proposed defense budget for 2017 is approximately equal to the amount transferred by the U.S. Whatever the source of the defense budget increase, the IRGC will have ample resources to expand its nefarious activities far beyond the borders of the Islamic Republic.

*Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst (emeritus) at MEMRI.

 

[1] Al-Quds al-Arabi, December 10, 2016

Iran’s Forces Outnumber Assad’s in Syria

November 24, 2016

Iran’s Forces Outnumber Assad’s in Syria, Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh, November 24, 2016

Pursuing a sectarian agenda, Iranian leaders have also fueled the conflict by sending religious leaders to Syria to depict the conflict as a religious war.

Iran’s military forces and operations in Syria are significantly more than what has been generally reported so far.

The Syrian war has led to the rise and export of terrorism abroad as well as to one of the worst humanitarian tragedies, in which more than 470,000 people have been killed.

Iran has played a crucial role in maintaining in power President Assad, who has repeatedly used chemical weapons on civilians. Iran has promoted continuing the conflict.

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While, according to reports by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Syrian military has fewer than 50,000 men, Iran has deployed more than 70,000 Iranian and non-Iranian forces in Syria, and pays monthly salaries to over 250,000 militiamen and agents. According to a report entitled, “How Iran Fuels Syria War,” published by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), non-Iranian mercenaries number around 55,000 men; Iraqi militias are around 20,000 men (from 10 groups), Afghan militias are approximately 15,000 to 20,000 men, Lebanese Hezbollah are around 7,000 to 10,000 men, and Pakistani, Palestinian and other militiamen number approximately 5,000 to 7,000.

In addition, the composition of Iranian IRGC forces are around 8,000 to 10,000 men, and 5,000 to 6,000 from the regular Iranian Army.

The major Iranian decision-makers in the Syrian conflict are Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the senior cadre of the Revolutionary Guards. Iran’s so-called moderate leaders — including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif — are also in favor of Iran’s military, advisory, financial, and intelligence involvement in Syria. Rouhani repeatedly announced his support for Assad and pledged to “stand by [Syria].”

Khamenei insists on using more military power in Syria:

“[I]n December 2015, Khamenei ordered the IRGC to stand fast in the Aleppo region. He reiterated that if they retreated, their fate would be similar to the Iran-Iraq war and the regime would ultimately be defeated in Syria. Thus, in January 2016, the IRGC doubled the number of its forces in Syria to about 60,000 and launched extensive attacks in the region. However, despite tactical advances in some areas, these forces have been unable to even take control of southern Aleppo. IRGC faced a deadlock. In March 2016, Khamenei ordered the regular Army’s 65th Division (special operations) to be deployed around Aleppo, and increased the number of other forces as well. Plans for a major offensive to capture Aleppo were set in motion. During attacks by the IRGC and the Iranian army in April 2016, dozens of the regime’s forces, including IRGC commanders and staff, Iranian army personnel and foreign mercenaries from Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, were killed. Although the IRGC and the Iranian regime’s regular army forces have failed to change the balance of military power in Syria, Khamenei insists on sending more IRGC and army forces into the Syrian quagmire. Seeing no way forward, and no way back.”

Iran has also played critical role in pushing Russia to intensify its military involvement in Syria by providing air support, so that the IRGC and its allies could help Iran’s military make quick territorial gains.

Iran has spent approximately USD $100 billion on the Syrian war. The sanctions relief given to Iran as a result of the “nuclear agreement” has significantly assisted the Iranian leaders’ ability to continue the war.

Iran also pays salaries to non-Iranian militias to participate in the war: “The Tehran regime spends one billion dollars annually in Syria solely on the salaries of the forces affiliated with the IRGC, including military forces, militias, and Shiite networks.”

Iran, for example, pays nearly USD $1,550 a month to the IRGC’s Iraqi mercenaries who are dispatched to Syria for a month-and-a-half, and approximately USD $100-200 a month to the Syrian militia fighters from the Syrian National Defense.

Pursuing a sectarian agenda, Iranian leaders have also fueled the conflict by sending religious leaders to Syria to depict the conflict as a religious war.

“Iran’s ruling regime has deployed a vast network of its mullahs to Syria, where their warmongering stirs up the fighters. And much like during the Iran/Iraq War, religious zealots are also sent to Syria to fuel the flames of religious fervor among the IRGC’s Basiij fighters and Afghan and Iraqi mercenaries.”

Iran has divided Syria into five divisions and haד over 13 military bases including the “Glass Building” (Maghar Shishe’i), which is the IRGC’s main command center in Syria, located close to the Damascus Airport. The IRGC placed its command center near the airport because,

“the airport would be the last location to fall. IRGC forces airlifted to Syria are dispatched to other areas from this location. One of the commanders stationed at the Glass Building is IRGC Brig. Gen. Seyyed Razi Mousavi, commander of IRGC Quds Force logistics in Syria. Between 500 and 1,000 Revolutionary Guards are stationed there.”

Other Iranian bases are scattered across Syria including in Allepo, Hama, and Latakia.

Since Brig. General Hossein Hamedani was killed in Syria, the current command of Iran’s forces in Syria lies with the Command Council, whose members include: IRGC Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani (deputy of Qassem Soleimani who is the commander of the Quds Force) and IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Jafaar Assadi (aka Seyyed Ahmad Madani).

The Syrian conflict has become the “root cause” of terrorism, which does not recognize borders and has spread to Europe and America. Since the Syrian war is the epicenter of terrorism, fighting terrorist groups such as ISIS without resolving the Syrian conflict is fruitless.

Terrorist groups such as ISIS are the symptoms, and the Syrian war is the disease. We need to address the disease and the symptoms simultaneously.

The best strategic and tactical approach is to cut off the role of a major player in the conflict: i.e. Iran. Without Iran, Assad would most likely not have survived the beginning phase of the uprising.

Iran kept Assad in power and gave birth to terrorist groups such as ISIS. In other words, Iran and Assad are the fathers of ISIS. Iran and Assad also played the West by claiming that they are fighting terrorism.

Considering the military forces and money invested in Syria, Iran is the single most important player in the Syrian war, and has tremendously increased radicalization of individuals, militarization and terrorism. Iran benefits from the rise of terrorism because it expands its military stranglehold across the region. Iran is top sponsor of terrorism, according to the latest report from U.S. State Department.

Iran will not agree to abandon Assad diplomatically.

In order to resolve this ripe environment of conflict for terrorism in Syria, Iran’s financial and military support to Assad should be strongly countered and cut off.

The big Mosul offensive is stuck, halted by ISIS

October 19, 2016

The big Mosul offensive is stuck, halted by ISIS, DebkaFile, October 19, 2016

mosul_offensive_declaration_16-10-16-1

Less than a day after its launch, the big Mosul offensive prepared for more than a year by the US, the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces and others, ground to a halt Tuesday Oct. 17, DEBKAfile’s military sources report – although none of the parties admitted as much.  Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi said his troops were busy opening up corridors for some million civilians to escape, while US sources suggested that the Islamic State would use primitive chemical weapons against the advancing Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Both had the ring of cover stories to account for the spearhead forces, the Iraq army’s 9th Armored Division and the Federal Police special anti-terror units, being thrown back Tuesday on their way to Mosul from the east and the south, while still 10-15km short of the city. They sustained heavy losses in lives and hardware.

The 9th Division and its newly-supplied heavy US Abrahams tanks were stopped at al-Hamdaniyah outside Mosul and retreated, recalling a previous defeat at ISIS hands in June 2014, when troops of the same division fled under Islamist attack, leaving their tanks behind.

The Iraqi anti-terror force withdrew from the village of al-Houd outside Mosul, a move which left the Kurdish Peshmerga no option but to stop its sweep of the villages around the city or expose their flanks to ISIS suicide and car bomb assaults.

Tuesday night, both Iraqi and Kurdish commanders announced a pause in their advance and said they would meet Wednesday to decide how to proceed.

The Kurdish Peshmerga’s role in the battle of Mosul has run into a further major impediment, which likewise has not been publicly aired. It turned out Tuesday that at least 3,000 of the 12,000 Kurdish fighters taking part in the offensive came from the banned Turkish underground PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) which is fighting the Turkish government. They came down from their northern Iraqi strongholds in the Sinjar and Qandil mountains. Ankara thereupon warned Washington and Baghdad in a strong ultimatum that unless those fighters were pulled off the field, Turkish troops would step in to attack them.

A second front within a front would effectively torpedo the entire Mosul liberation campaign against ISIS before it gets underway.

The first bricks of the military Tower of Babel predicted by DEBKAfile in the background report below were set in place sooner than expected.

Sunday night, Oct. 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, supported by a bevy of generals, announced that the military operation to recapture Mosul from its two-year occupation by the Islamic State had begun.

Three formally approved participants are taking part in the operation, DEBKAfile’s military sources report:

1. American special operations, artillery and engineering units – equipped with floating bridges for crossing the Tigris River – plus the US air force for massive bombardment to crush enemy resistance.

2. Iraqi army armored divisions, special ops forces, regular troops and anti-terror police units.

3. The Iraqi Kurds’ Peshmerga.

The Iraqi prime minister pledged formally that only Iraqi fighters would enter Mosul, i.e. no Americans, Kurds or other non-Iraqi forces.

It was a pledge that neither the Iraqi Sunni and Shiite combatants nor the Kurdish and Turkmen fighters trusted him to uphold, after similar promises went by the wayside in the US-led coalition battles fought in the past two years to retake the Iraqi towns of Ramadi, Tikirit, Baiji and Fallujah from ISIS.

The first forces to enter those cities were by and large pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias, especially the Bader Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Units, under Iran’s supreme Middle East commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Nonetheless, despite the ravages they wrought in those Sunni cities, US air support was forthcoming for their advance, while in Washington US officials pretended they were helping Iraqi government army units.

With regard to the Mosul campaign, Obama administration officials and military officers, like the Iraqi prime minister, insist there will be no repetition of the Iranian-backed Shiite invasion and conquest of yet another Sunni city, where a million inhabitants still remain.

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They don’t explain how this will be prevented when those same pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite forces are already massing northeast of Mosul, near the Iraqi-Syria border, and standing by for the order to advance into the city.

Tehran quite obviously has no intention of being left out of the epic capture of Mosul.

Neither is another uninvited party, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. He too has positioned a Turkish military concentration in Iraq, in defiance of strong objections from Washington and Baghdad. Turkish troops stand ready to move forward to do Erdogan’s will and achieve three strategic goals:

a) To actively frustrate Kurdish Peshmerga entry to Mosul, although its 15,000 fighters out of the 25,000 invasion force are a vital element of the spearhead thrust into the city. Ankara has warned that if Kurds set foot in Mosul, Turkish troops will follow.

b)  To block the path of Syrian Kurdish YPG militiamen from entering Iraq and linking up with their Iraqi brothers-in-arms.

c) To provide backing, including Turkish air support, for the Iraqi Turkmen militias still present in the Turkmen quarter of Mosul.

DEBKAfile’s military sources count six assorted military groupings taking part in the liberation of Mosul. They have nothing in common aside from their determination to drive the Islamic State out.

They are utterly divided on the two main aspects of the offensive: How to achieve their common goal and what happens to Mosul after the Islamist invaders are gone.

The underlying US rationale for embarking on this high-wire operation is President Barack Obama’s aspiration to achieve Mosul’s liberation before his departure from the White House in January, in the hope that this landmark success will provide a major distraction from his administration’s failed policies in Syria.

The Islamic State might have been expected to take advantage of the prior warning of the offensive for a stand in defense of the Iraqi capital of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate and so exploit the conflicting interests of the invading force.

But ISIS leaders decided against waiting for the combined offensive. Indeed, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, thousands of jihadis made tracks out of the city two or three months ago, relocating the bulk of their combat strength and institutions in two new locations: in the western Iraqi desert province of Anbar at a site between the Jordanian and Saudi borders and eastern Syria. Several hundred fighters were left behind in Mosul to harass the US-Iraq-Kurdish armies as they advance into the city and exploit the invaders’ discord to retain a foothold in Mosul.