Let’s face it, while nuclear negotiations are plodding along the long and winding road to an unknown destination, Iran is enjoying a “breathing space” as a result from the divisions between the members of the P5+1 regarding what to do with Iran until the deal is inked.
This “breathing space” has allowed Iran to strengthen its diplomatic and economic relations and has brought much needed relief to the Iranian people in the form of a better economy and an environment of guarded hope for a better future.
Steady Course for Nuclear Program
At the same time, this “breathing space” has also allowed Iran to stick its course on its nuclear program.
Doing so might sound like a valid strategy but since Iran’s nuclear program had crossed too many red lines in the past, this means that it remains beyond the red lines in the present. Yes, there is more transparency but the military base at Parchin and the heavy-water plant at Arak are still hidden under veils of secrecy which inspire doubts as to the sincerity of the Iranians regarding military dimensions to their nuclear program.
Steady Increase in Military Influence
But while the nuclear program is on a steady course, this “breathing space” has allowed Iran’s military programs beyond its borders to increase dramatically.
- Syria: Iran’s military influence in Syria has been well documented but it remains unchecked to date: Tehran supported Assad from day one by giving him 12 billions of dollars in loans and credit, airlifts of weapons and supplies, the use of Iranian drones, Hezbollah (Iran’s terrorist proxy) and IRGC troops in battlefields and high level management by none other than Qassam Suleimani himself, the head of the IRGC’s Qods (Jerusalem) corps which focuses on military programs outside of Iran. In fact, Suleimani even promised Assad to build him an “IRGC” regiment in Syria and a Syrian Hezbollah. Tehran convinced its new-found friends in Baghdad to allow shipments of weapons over Iraqi air space while Iran’s FM Javad Zarif issued half–hearted denial as to Iran’s involvement in Syria and urged the West to stay out of Syria and let the war take its course. In any case, analysts believe that without Iran’s support, Assad would have lost his power. The West’s answer to Iran’s involvement in Syria? Nothing more than a few finger wags.
- Iraq: Iran’s involvement in Iraq’s fight against ISIS is not easy to fathom. Iran is definitely supplying the Iraqis with weapons and military intelligence. Although Zarif stated repeatedly that no Iranian troops are in Iraq, other reports show that the IRGC is definitely involved in Iraq – Suleimani himself has travelled several times to Baghdad and met with high level military officials as part of an effort to “overhaul Iraq’s lackluster professional military“. Iran supplied Iraq’s Kurdish troops with weapons in spite of hot-cold relationships with Kurds in Iran. How does the West answer to Iran’s involvement in Iraq? Trying to cooperate with Iran.
- Gaza: Tehran is also very open in its renewed support of Hamas against its “Zionist” enemy, Israel. Hamas fell out of favor by supporting the Syrian rebels but once war broke out between Israel and Hamas, Iranian military and financial support were re-committed with vows to supply Hamas in the future and even expand to the West Bank, until a final victory over Israel. It is with the help of Iran that the Gazans developed and amassed the missiles that rained down on Israeli cities. The Gazans who profess victory in the war against Israel believe that “the great victory…was a manifestation of Iran’s continued support“. At the same time, Iran has never stopped supporting Hezbollah terrorist in their activities against Israel. And yes, once again, Suleimani is at the epicenter of Iran’s involvement by “calling for the continued militarisation of the Palestinian resistance“. What’s the West response? Next to nothing as long as public sympathy for Gazans continues.
- Turkey: The relationship between Turkey and Iran is not easy to map over the years. The Turks are weary of Tehran’s Islamic Revolution but are happy to make money off of Iranians by circumventing sanctions through a “gold for oil” swap worth billions. But Turkey is also a strategic battlefield for Iran because it is allied with NATO. Since late last year, there has been an ongoing investigation by the local Turkish police on an Iranian-backed terrorist network called Tawhid-Salam (Jerusalem Army). Although Suleimani seems to not be physically involved in Tawhid-Salam, Nasser Ghafari, Qods’s top ranking official in Turkey is fully implicated. The full extent of the network’s activities is still unknown but it does include spying on NATO radar bases, “eliminating” pro-Western intellectuals and leaders and meeting with IRGC or Qods leaders. The West’s response? Nothing at all since most Westerners seem oblivious to a terrorist cell in Turkey anyway.
Iranian backed terror is not a new development but it is a growing one. A closer investigation of the Islamic uprisings in Europe and the US would probably show that Iran’s helping hand is deeply involved.