Hanin Ghaddar

Iran's "divine victories"

Iran is secretly in love with the US.

Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani (C). (ISNA)

In the name of fighting terrorism, and while the international coalition strikes ISIS, Iran has been achieving “divine victories” across the region. The most obvious one is in Yemen, but more discrete victories are underway in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Without a doubt, the Obama administration has noticed this trend, but the victories do not seem to be troubling the US. Iran’s regional interests, strangely, do not contradict Washington’s goals, which are only alienating the Sunni majority in a region torn with sectarian hatred. This cannot end well.


From Yemen to Iraq


“The road to liberating Palestine passes through Yemen,” stated Ali Akbar Velayati, the advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader for international affairs, during a meeting with Yemeni Zaydi scholars earlier this week. “Yemen has a strategic location and is near the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Oman and Bab al-Mandeb,” he added.


Velayati also expressed full support for the Houthi rebels and leadership, who control vast swathes of Yemen and recently took its capital, and asked them to play a role similar to Hezbollah’s in Lebanon.


Although this is unsurprising in the context of Iran’s growing role in the region, it does put further pressure on Hezbollah. In Syria as well as along Lebanon’s border, the Party of God has suffered many losses, and has yet to achieved the “divine victory” it promised. On the contrary, it brought the Al-Nusra Front to Lebanon’s door and increased the organization's popularity among the country’s Sunnis.


The Houthis made daddy proud, while Hezbollah didn’t, and Iran is probably now more assured in Yemen. Hezbollah is still very important for Iran, although it is not the spoiled kid anymore. Tehran has already shifted its policy of hegemony to the wider region and will try to draw its strength in Syria from influence in Iraq and Yemen.


This shift can be observed in the recent comment made by Hezbollah’s number two, Naim Qassem, who said earlier in October during a meeting with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura that that “all parties should expect painful compromises" in order to reach a “political solution to Syria's conflict.”


So this is not a “divine victory” anymore; it is a compromise, and a very painful one. Does that mean that Iran has decided to use the Yemen card against neighboring Saudi Arabia in order to accrue benefits from a political solution in Syria? Maybe, but such a possibility is already enough to begin preparing for the ramifications of a strong Iran in the region.


Look at Iraq. The smooth and discrete Iranian interference – both militarily and politically – there is fascinating.  Not only did Iran jump quickly and pragmatically to endorse and aid new Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, but also continued its military presence – through the Qods Forces - in Iraq without any objections from the Iraqi government or the West.


In Syria, there is another enemy


On the surface, Iran and the US have the same objective, which is fighting ISIS. However, Iran doesn’t really care about, or feel threatened by, ISIS. In Syria, Iran’s Iraqi militias and Hezbollah do not fight ISIS, while regime forces rarely bombed ISIS-controlled areas. On the contrary, Iran and ISIS are fighting the same enemy, the Free Syrian Army’s battalions.


According to the Washington Post, Assad’s forces have dramatically intensified air and ground assaults on areas held by moderate rebels since the beginning of the coalition’s strikes against ISIS, mainly around Aleppo and Homs.


According to Reuters, the Syrian air force carried out more than 200 air strikes around the country in the past 36 hours. The air raids struck areas in the Hama, Daraa, Idlib, Aleppo and Quneitra provinces as well as the Damascus countryside.


On the ground, the regime’s military, backed by Hezbollah and Iraqi militias, has encircled the Aleppo in an attempt to cut off supply routes to the Syrian rebels in the city. “If the regime manages to fully besiege Aleppo at this time, they would block and undermine the plans of the alliance to use the opposition, or at least present the opposition, as the ultimate ground force to deal with ISIS,” Riad Kahwaji, chief executive of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told the Washington Post.


It is obvious that the Syrian military wants to weaken rebel groups before they get the training and equipment promised by the Obama administration.


And what is the US doing about that? Nothing of significance, and Tehran is loving it. Washington is too slow when it comes to weakening Assad and its allies, while Iran quickly seizes the opportunity to gather bargaining chips in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.


When a new phase of political negotiations begins, Iran will be stronger, and the Syrian rebels will be weaker. Iran will have Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, and can easily push for political gains. They’re getting ready to compromise, while pretending to “fight terrorism.” Iran will be able to control the region with the help and blessing of the US. The only result will be a very long sectarian war that will tear the region apart, using both Sunnis and non-Iranian Shiites blood for the war.


The “soft” economic war being waged on Iran through the reduction of oil prices could be effective in the long run, but it is not enough, and we don’t have time. Why allow Iran to gain power in the region and use it to counter this oil war?


Fighting ISIS is crucial and we all want it gone, but allowing Iran and its allies to thrive will create another ISIS, and the new ISIS will blame the US for its own existence.


Hanin Ghaddar is the Managing Editor of NOW. She tweets @haningdr

Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani (C). (ISNA)

It is obvious that the Syrian military wants to weaken rebel groups before they get the training and equipment promised by the Obama administration.

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Hanin: You have become so boring.... with the same litany every day.

    October 25, 2014

  • Vlad Tepes

    This reminds me of WWII when there was an alliance between the US and Russia when they had to fight a common enemy. Philosophically both had different ideology but needed unity to defeat a common enemy. At the end, both sided became even more chilled towards each other and both fought for territory and influence leading to the Cold War. I think that is what we are seeing here. Everyone just trying to get what they can during a time where much of the area is in upheaval. I don't know about "divine victories", but Hezbollah has done pretty well for itself considering the mistakes they made early in Qusayr. al-Nusra already had plenty of Lebanese fighters going to Syria and plenty of support within Lebanon. They have fighters in ISIS as well. How can they be condemned when there was already so much hatred directed at the Alawite community? They were killing people almost immediately for simply being Alawite or Shia under the pretext of being "Assad's dogs". I would call it genocide. You really need to get your facts straight.

    October 25, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    The fact that the US government tolerates someone like you in Dearborn, Michigan, defending Hezbollah, tells me you must be benefiting greatly from the alliance that Iran-Hezollah has with the US-Israel, and so you must be a Zionist Shiite agent operating on US territory. How much do they pay you to defend them? Do they pay you in smuggled cigarettes and diamonds? Do they require you to grow a beard, and to never wear a western tie? ... ? Tell us more... please.

    October 25, 2014

  • Vlad Tepes

    What the hell are you talking About?? You must be drunk off of all that Zionist booze you bought at the Tel Aviv bar again.

    October 25, 2014

  • Ogharit

    Fenrir completely ignores all the savage and barbaric atrocities being commited/commited by Assad thugs and glorifies hezbullah criminalities in Syria. He is an Assad shill and troll

    October 27, 2014

  • Vlad Tepes

    Whatever dude. I am no troll, nor an Assad shill. I believe Assad to be clueless and a rotten leader. But I have my opinions and you have yours. War is an ugly thing and no one can control everything their people do.

    October 28, 2014