Dalia Al-Aqidi:Terrorist roads all lead to Tehran/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: Iran desperate to ensure Assad regime survives/داليا العقيدي: كل طرق الإرهاب تؤدي إلى طهران/د. مجيد رافيزادا: تستميت إيران لضمان نجاة واستمرارية نظام الأسد

36

د. مجيد رافيزادا: تستميت إيران لضمان نجاة واستمرارية نظام الأسد
Iran desperate to ensure Assad regime survives
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/February 06, 2022

داليا العقيدي: كل طرق الإرهاب تؤدي إلى طهران
Terrorist roads all lead to Tehran
Dalia Al-Aqidi/Arab News/February 06, 2022
US President Joe Biden surprised the world last week by announcing the death of the leader of Daesh, Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi, who had led the terrorist group since the killing of his predecessor, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in a US raid in 2019. According to the president, Iraqi national Al-Qurashi was responsible for the recent attack on a prison in northeast Syria that was holding Daesh fighters and was also the driving force behind the genocide of the Yazidi people in northwestern Iraq in 2014.
“We all remember the gut-wrenching stories: Mass slaughters that wiped out entire villages, thousands of women and young girls sold into slavery, rape used as a weapon of war. And thanks to the bravery of our troops, this horrible terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.
Despite the domestic and international challenges facing the US administration, especially the fears of a Russian move on the Ukrainian border, the White House wanted to deliver a global message that Washington will continue its war against terrorism and extremism wherever they are. Biden also wanted to erase the negative image of the US military’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and restore confidence in its ability to carry out successful missions. Eliminating a terrorist leader will provide the president and his Democratic Party with a much-needed push before the US midterm elections and a foreign policy victory in case his efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal fail. Undoubtedly, the world is much safer without Al-Qurashi, but will Daesh collapse as a result of his death? Absolutely not. The death of Al-Baghdadi did not end the terrorist group, nor will the killing of Al-Quraishi prevent it from executing more attacks against innocent people, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.
Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project and former coordinator of the UN Security Council’s Daesh, Al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team, predicted that retaliation was likely once the group has named Al-Quraishi’s successor. “Most likely it is going to be an Iraqi, simply because there is a big structure in Iraq and Daesh is originally from that country, and they chose Al-Quraishi because of his tribal affiliation,” Schindler told the Jerusalem Post. As soon as 2022 began, Daesh strongly returned to the fore by carrying out operations in unstable countries such as Iraq, Syria and Libya. Last year, the group managed to significantly increase its funding, which led to the reorganization of its ranks in these countries, especially Iraq. It is not surprising that Daesh’s terrorist operations have been escalating amid the Iraqi political dispute. The results of last October’s elections pulled the rug from under the feet of the pro-Iranian militias, who had insisted on taking all the credit for the liberation of Mosul and the defeat of Daesh in 2017. The leaders of the Iranian proxy militias and their supporters act as if they control Iraq and its citizens under the pretext of protecting their honor and liberating their lands.
If Daesh were to be defeated, the presence of multiple pro-Iran militias in Iraq would no longer be needed. Suppose that Daesh is ultimately defeated and all its sleeper cells in Iraq are eliminated. In that case, the many pro-Iran militias would no longer be needed, but Tehran strongly rejects this. To serve their own political interests, militia patrols and checkpoints are required to turn a blind eye to the movement of Daesh members and even facilitate their attacks. Simply put, if Daesh dies in Iraq, so too do the pro-Iran militias.
Meanwhile, in Syria, the presence of the terrorist group gives Bashar Assad, who continues to murder his own people, global legitimacy and a valid argument. This also benefits the regime in Tehran.
If we take a closer look at the map of this troubled region, all roads lead to Tehran.History will describe the war against terrorism as one of the most prolonged and bloodiest wars of all time, as long as this dangerous ideology continues to receive oxygen.
Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi

د. مجيد رافيزادا: تستميت إيران لضمان نجاة واستمرارية نظام الأسد
Iran desperate to ensure Assad regime survives
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/February 06, 2022
The Iranian regime is expanding its presence in Syria and increasing its military, financial and advisory assistance to militia groups there in order to preserve one of its top national security interests.
Tehran’s increasing influence in Syria can particularly be seen in the eastern part of the Arab state. On the military side, according to the Washington Post: “Iran has been playing the long game in Deir Ezzor, successfully recruiting local Syrians to allied militias, providing services the deeply distrusted government cannot deliver and putting down roots in a strategic province that could further Tehran’s regional interests even after the Syrian civil war eventually ends and Iran’s support for President Bashar Assad is no longer as vital.”
To more effectively infiltrate and control Syria, the Islamic Republic has also been building and opening schools and attempting to convert some Sunni mosques into Shiite ones. Some of Iran’s leaders even think of Syria as part of Iran. For example, Mehdi Taeb, a confidant of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said Syria is Iran’s “35th province… if we lose Syria we won’t be able to hold Tehran.”
From the perspective of the Iranian regime, Syria is of great strategic importance as it is the crux of Tehran’s regional hegemonic strategy. Hence, Syria is a matter of national security for the Islamic Republic. In addition, the regime has long used Syria as its main weapons conduit to Hezbollah. And a convergence of interests exists between the foreign policies of Syria and Iran, particularly with respect to their stance toward the US.
In other words, any fundamental change in Syria’s political establishment would echo across the Middle East and significantly affect the region’s political chessboard.
This is why the Iranian regime has put all its efforts into ensuring the survival of the Alawite state and President Assad’s hold on power. The Islamic Republic began by providing advisers to the Syrian government. Later, it also provided technological, financial and intelligence assistance. Iran has also assisted and trained Assad’s forces militarily and dispatched soldiers from the Quds Force, an elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that conducts extraterritorial operations. When these soldiers proved to be insufficient, more IRGC forces were sent to fight in Syria.
Tehran has also sought the help of its Shiite proxies, primarily Hezbollah, to fight major battles in support of Assad’s forces. When the numbers of Syrian rebel and opposition groups increased, Iran hired Shiite fighters from other countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In addition, the Islamic Republic has hemorrhaged billions of dollars maintaining Assad’s presidency. One of the major reasons Iran has been capable of successfully keeping Assad in power and increasing its influence and presence in Syria is that Tehran’s agenda is based on a long-term plan and its policy toward Damascus is proactive.
To counter the Iranian regime, the US can take several steps. First of all, it must form a coalition within the Gulf states and support regional powers such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This would allow Washington to more effectively oppose the Iranian regime’s growing presence and influence in Syria. Secondly, the US should be careful when renegotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. Any agreement that lifts all sanctions against Tehran would help the regime and its militias in Syria — this is due to the fact that Iran would rejoin the global financial system and significantly increase its revenue by increasing oil exports. Since Iran’s economy is primarily a state-controlled economy, the major beneficiaries of additional revenues are the supreme leader, the IRGC and Iran’s network of terror and militia groups.
The Iranian regime’s financial assistance to Assad is among the most critical factors, so the US cutting this lifeline would be vital. This has almost been done in the past, such as in 2014, when Iran was in a difficult situation financially due to UN Security Council sanctions. The pressure on Tehran was reflected in speeches made by Khamenei, who anxiously called on Assad to make reforms and control the situation in Syria. Unfortunately, those sanctions were lifted as a result of the 2015 nuclear deal. One crucial way to cut the financial lifeline to Syrian militia groups would be to reimpose those sanctions on the Iranian regime. Syria is of great strategic importance as it is the crux of Tehran’s regional hegemonic strategy. Thirdly, America’s focus should also be on Iran’s human rights violations. Cases should be pursued to bring to justice those Iranian leaders and militia groups that have engaged in crimes against humanity in Syria. The International Criminal Court, Amnesty International, the UN and human rights organizations can be used to achieve this.
In a nutshell, the Iranian regime continues to increase its presence and influence in Syria. To confront Tehran, the US must cut off the flow of funds to the regime and form a powerful coalition with the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh