Sunday, June 7, 2015

Iran -- A Paper Tiger? - Shoula Romano Horing

by Shoula Romano Horing

The victories by Sunni rebels and ISIS in Iraq and Syria  since March against the Shia-led governments and militias, supported  and led by Iran, has exposed Iran as a paper tiger with questionable military prowess, which should not be feared but pressured.

It seems that President Obama has once again strategically bet on the wrong horse in the Middle East.

His grand strategy of trying to extricate America from military involvement in the Middle East by recognizing Iran's supposed  regional hegemony and attempting to develop a friendly, working relationship with the mullahs has been completely discredited by recent events. Many of the supporters of the nuclear deal in the Obama administrations have been suggesting the idea of military cooperation between Unites States and Iran to defeat ISIS where Iran and its proxies will be the ones on the ground with American air cover, as an example of the bonus resulting from such strategy.   

Reality shows that Obama and his supporters have overestimated Iran and its proxies’ power and have underestimated the power and determination of ISIS and the moderate Sunni nations to defeat Iran. The victories by Sunni rebels and ISIS in Iraq and Syria  since March against the Shia-led governments and militias, supported  and led by Iran, has exposed Iran as a paper tiger with questionable military prowess, which should not be feared but pressured. Barack Obama’s claim that the alternative to a deal with Iran is a war, completely ignores the reality that Iran and its proxies cannot afford another war. Iranian forces are fighting in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria and must defend their long border with Iraq, as well as being needed back home to protect the totalitarian regime from its own population.

It should also be a wakeup call to the Americans not to be in a rush to sign the final nuclear deal by end of June. Signing a deal at this time will give billions in economic relief from sanctions to the regime which is in trouble and make them a nuclear threshold state. It will give the Iranians a major strategic advantage and make them the regional power that they are presently not. Such a deal will put the U.S. squarely on the side of its Shiite enemies in the war against its Sunni friends and the U.S. will be blamed for generations for saving Iran and it proxies when they were against the ropes.
It seems that Obama and the West are once again the last to figure out the shifting power balance in the Middle East.

The Russians, who will deal with the Devil for a buck, seem to realize the military weakening of Assad and his main supporter Iran. The Russians are beginning to consider a future without Assad in Syria. Sources in the Syrian opposition say that Russian planes have not delivered military supplies to Syria for the last three months and have recently transferred around 100 senior diplomatic and technical officials who had been providing support to Syrian security and military officials in Syria back to Russia. Moreover, on May 26th  the Russians stated that it will not deliver  S-300 air defense missiles to Iran in the near future,  despite lifting an embargo last month on the delivery of such weapons, saying “it not just premature but wrong”.

The bad news for Assad and Iran is reinforced by the tone of alarm and panic last week of Hizb’allah leader Nasrallah’s speeches. He termed the Islamic State, as "a danger second to none in history” and said that Hizb’allah was fighting an “existential threat to Lebanon” and the entire Arab world. Warning that if Syria’s Sunni rebels succeed in toppling the Assad regime, they would perpetrate slaughter, rape, and slavery in Lebanon. He also called for a general Lebanese mobilization against Islamic State, attesting to the difficulties Hizb’allah and the Assad regime are having in finding enough people to fight on all the fronts where they are engaged, and where 1000 Hizb’allah fighters have died.  

It seems that Iran and its proxies cannot defeat the Sunni rebels who use anti-tank weapons used by Israel in 1973 and the ISIS forces who use captured American military armored vehicles, explosives, and suicide bombings.  Iran's Revolutionary Guard has been once again been exposed as militarily incompetent as they were during their war against Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq for eight years.

As Baghdad was menaced by ISIS last July after their win in Mosul in 2014, Iran acted faster than any other country by sending advisers and fighters to shore up Iraqi defenses. Iranian generals had been doing precisely the same thing in Syria for at least three years since 2012 with their proxy Hizb’allah. In Iraq, Iran has been using the elite Qud Force, the external operation wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp and Basij Forces to fight against ISIS, as well as Iranian backed Shiite militias and the Hizb’allah Brigades. The Basij forces are a voluntary paramilitary force within Iran that is directly under the command of the IRGC and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.  Many of the Iranian military commanders in Iraq and Syria are veterans of the Iraq- Iran war and have been spotted in the front lines of key Iraqi battles including Qassem Suleiman, the head of the Quds Force .    Now all these Iranian forces are fighting to retake Anbar and Ramadi from ISIS.

On the other side of the struggle, Sunni governments, led by Saudi Arabia have decided to take the fight to  Iran  and its proxies themselves.                   

The Guardian reported recently that in early March, Sunni countries including Turkey, Qatar, and Gulf States, led by newly crowned King Salman of Saudi Arabia, secured an agreement to unite all opposition groups including moderate Sunni rebels and al- Qaida’s Jihadists to end the Assad-led Syrian regime and to quash the ambitions of Assad ‘s main backer, Iran.

Since then, in northwest Syria, the Sunni rebels are defeating Assad loyalists. They have captured the regional capital of Idib and the nearby town of Jisr al-Shughur, and Aleppo, to the east, now looks much more likely to fall to the rebels. Moreover, rebels have been shelling Assad's palace from their stronghold in the eastern neighborhood of Damascus, and are advancing toward the Alawite enclave in northwest Syria and the strategic Qalamoun mountains on the border between Syria and Lebanon. Furthermore, the rebels from the north and the Islamic State fighters from the east are threatening Syria’s third and fourth cities of Homs and Hama. The Islamic State has captured the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and apparently massacred Syrian soldiers there. Across the border, the Iraqi army and Iranian-backed Shiite militias, trained and armed by Iran, capitulated to ISIS in Ramadi in about 72 hours and are now 70 miles away from Bagdad.

Last week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS was now in control of all six border crossings between Iraq and Syria. Even with the constant presence of U.S. Air Force jets, ISIS controls territory roughly the size of Jordan.

Congress must stop Obama from making this ultimate strategic mistake of signing an imminent deal with Iran. If many Democrats are reluctant to challenge their own president, they should at least delay the signing of a deal with Iran for a few months until the strategic picture in the Middle East becomes clearer.

Shoula Romano Horing is an Israeli born and raised. Her blog: 


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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