How the Islamic Republic is strategically dominating the Middle East — and the U.S. is assisting.
Front Page Magazine, by Caroline Glick, June 3, 2016
Reprinted from jpost.com.
Strategic thinking has always been Israel’s Achilles’ heel. As a small state bereft of regional ambitions, so long as regional realities remained more or less static, Israel had little reason to be concerned about the great game of the Middle East.
But the ground is shifting in the lands around us. The Arab state system, which ensured the strategic status quo for decades, has collapsed.
So for the first time in four generations, strategy is again the dominant force shaping events that will impact Israel for generations to come.
To understand why, consider two events of the past week.
Early this week it was reported that after a two-year hiatus, Iran is restoring its financial support for Islamic Jihad. Iran will give the group, which is largely a creation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, $70 million.
On Wednesday Iranian media were the first to report on the arrest of a “reporter” for Iran’s Al-Alam news service. Bassam Safadi was arrested by Israel police in his home in Majdal Shams, the Druse village closest to the border with Syria on the Golan Heights. Safadi is suspected of inciting terrorism.
That is, he is suspected of being an Iranian agent.
There is nothing new about Iranian efforts to raise and run fronts against Israel within its territory and along its borders. Iran poses a strategic threat to Israel through its Hezbollah surrogate in Lebanon, which now reportedly controls the Lebanese Armed Forces.
In Gaza, Iran controls a vast assortment of terrorist groups, including Hamas.
In Judea and Samaria, seemingly on a weekly basis we hear about another Iranian cell whose members were arrested by the Shin Bet or the IDF.
But while we are well aware of the efforts Iran is making along our borders and even within them to threaten Israel, we have not connected these efforts to Iran’s actions in Iraq and Syria. Only when we connect Iran’s actions here with its actions in those theaters do we understand what is now happening, and how it will influence Israel’s long-term strategic environment.
The big question today is what will replace the Arab state system.
Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Libya no longer exist. On their detritus we see the fight whose results will likely determine the fates of the surviving Arab states, as well as of much of Europe and the rest of the world.
Israel’s strategic environment will be determined in great part by the results of Iran’s actions in Iraq and Syria. While Israel can do little to affect the shape of events in these areas, it must understand what they mean for us. Only by doing so, will we be able to develop the tools to secure our future in this new strategic arena.
Until 2003, Saddam Hussein was the chief obstacle to Iran’s rise as the regional hegemon.
US forces in Iraq replaced Hussein until they left the country in 2011. In the meantime, by installing a Shi’ite government in Baghdad, the US set the conditions for the rise of Islamic State in the Sunni heartland of Anbar province on the one hand, and for Iran’s control over Iraq’s Shi’ite-controlled government and armed forces on the other.
Today, ISIS is the only thing checking Iran’s westward advance. Ironically, the monstrous group also facilitates it. ISIS is so demonic that for Americans and other Westerners, empowering Iranian-controlled forces that fight ISIS seems a small price to pay to rid the world of the fanatical scourge.
As former US naval intelligence analyst J.E. Dyer explained this week in an alarming analysis of Iran’s recent moves in Iraq published on the Liberty Unyielding website, once Iranian- controlled forces defeat ISIS in Anbar province, they will be well placed to threaten Jordan and Israel from the east. This is particularly the case given that ISIS is serving inadvertently as an advance guard for Iran.
In Syria, Iran already controls wide swaths of the country directly and through its surrogates, the Syrian army, Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias it has fielded in the country.
Since the start of the war in Syria, Israel has repeatedly taken action to block those forces from gaining and holding control over the border zone on the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprising recent announcement that Israel will never relinquish control over the Golan came in response to his concern that in exchange for a cease-fire in Syria, the US would place that control on the international diplomatic chopping block.
A week and a half ago, Iran began its move on Anbar province.
On May 22, Iraqi forces trained by the US military led Iraq’s offensive to wrest control over Fallujah and Mosul from ISIS, which has controlled the Sunni cities since 2014. Despite the fact that the lead forces are US-trained, the main forces involved in the offensive are trained, equipped and directed by Iran.
As Iraqi forces surrounded Fallujah in the weeks before the offensive began, Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds forces, paid a public visit to the troops to demonstrate Iran’s dominant role.
The battle for Fallujah is a clear indication that Iran, rather than the US, is calling the shots in Iraq. According to media reports, the Pentagon wanted and expected for the forces to be concentrated in Mosul. But at the last minute, due to Soleimani’s intervention, the Iraqi government decided to make Fallujah the offensive’s center of gravity.
- Footage surfaces of Iranian IRGC fighter embedded with Iraqi forces near Fallujah (longwarjurnal.org)
- Two Weeks in January: America’s secret engagement with Khomeini (bbc.com)