US must counter Iran’s influence in Syria

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US must counter Iran’s influence in Syria

US soldiers during a drill in Syria’s northeast Deir Ezzor province on December 8, 2021. (AP Photo)

The Iranian regime has turned Syria into a proxy battleground as tensions between the United States and Tehran rise in that theater. It is one of Iran’s main policies to turn other countries in the region into proxy battlegrounds in order to advance its political interests and hegemonic ambitions.
Last week, the US military carried out airstrikes in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province targeting “infrastructure used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”, according to a statement by Colonel Joe Buccino, US Central Command spokesperson. The order came directly from President Joe Biden, who “gave the direction of these strikes pursuant to his Article II authority to protect and defend American personnel by disrupting or deterring attacks by groups supported by Iran”.
Earlier this month, a drone attack hit a compound run by US troops and US-backed Syrian opposition fighters in eastern Syria near the borders with Jordan and Syria. ‘Iraq. Major General John Brennan, Commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, stressed that such attacks “put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk and undermine the important efforts of our partner forces to sustain enduring defeat. of (Daesh).”
Syria is a central pillar of the Iranian regime’s strategy in the Middle East. Some Iranian leaders even think that Syria is part of Iran. For example, Mehdi Taeb, a confidant of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, once said that Syria was “Iran’s 35th province…if we lose Syria, we can’t hold Tehran.”
The Iranian regime appears to have penetrated all Syrian government organizations, including its security and military infrastructure. Iran’s IRGC and its elite Al-Quds Force, which operates beyond Iran’s borders, are the main players. The regime also relies on its paramilitary groups and Shiite militia proxies.
While Iran’s hardliners favor interventionist policies, there are no significant differences between Iran’s political factions when it comes to the regime’s Syrian policy, which is most likely led by Khamenei personally. as well as senior IRGC and Quds Force officials. . To more effectively infiltrate and control Syria, the Iranian regime has built and opened schools and attempted to convert some Sunni mosques to Shia mosques in order to shift the country’s demographics in its favor.
The Iranian regime is also using Syria as a proxy battleground to score points against Israel. By exploiting the instability in Syria, the IRGC and the Al-Quds Force benefit from a military presence near Israel’s border. The IRGC has also established permanent military bases in Syria and exercises significant control over some of the country’s airports. From the Iranian leadership’s perspective, this is helping to tip the regional balance of power in their favor.
The Iranian regime has also gone further and set up factories involved in manufacturing advanced ballistic missiles and other weapons inside Syria. These include precision-guided missiles with the technology to hit specific targets. Iran’s arms factories based abroad give it an advantageous military capability to wage wars or strike other nations via third countries, such as Syria.
One of the most effective ways to reduce the Iranian regime’s influence in Syria is to cut off the flow of funds to the government, the IRGC and the Al-Quds Force. The proposed nuclear deal will instead increase Tehran’s revenue. For example, in 2013 and 2014, the theocratic establishment was in dire financial straits due to four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions. The pressure on Tehran was reflected in the speeches of Khamenei, who impatiently called on Assad to control the situation in Syria. Unfortunately, the 2015 nuclear deal changed things. Billions of dollars have poured into the Iranian treasury, bringing significant relief. Financial and military support for Assad grew, and Tehran later publicly acknowledged having forces on the ground in Syria.

The Iranian regime appears to have penetrated all Syrian government organizations, including its security and military infrastructure.

Dr Majid Rafizadeh

The new nuclear deal will not moderate the Iranian regime’s regional policy. Instead, hardliners – primarily the supreme leader and IRGC leaders – will act to reinforce their monopoly over the political and economic systems. And the main beneficiaries of Iran’s improved economic status will be Khamenei’s golden circle, the IRGC, the Al-Quds Force, the Ministry of Intelligence, the Basij military force and Iran’s allies, including Bashar Assad in Syria and Tehran’s proxies throughout the region. . In other words, the nuclear deal will mean that the Iranian regime will have more funds to invest in its military and proxy groups and to interfere more in the internal affairs of other countries.
The US administration must implement a comprehensive policy, including reducing the flow of funds to the IRGC, to effectively counter Iran’s destabilizing policy in Syria.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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