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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Iran's Plans

Interesting read at Foreign Affairs by Ehud Yaari, Iran's Ambitions in the Levant: Why It's Building Two Land Corridors to the Mediterranean
. . .for any containment plan to be effective, Washington must examine Iran’s newly emerging strategy in the Levant and must understand that although Tehran still hopes to achieve regional hegemony in the long term, its current plan is to focus on obtaining and maintaining a predominant position in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. The bloody quagmire involving those three countries offers more opportunities to consolidate power than what would surely be a riskier confrontation in the Gulf, where Iran would have to contend with the United States and its allies. Success in the narrower approach, moreover, could ultimately strengthen Tehran’s hand against Saudi Arabia and those in the Sunni bloc.

General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force division within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is one of those in charge of executing the new policy vision. For the last three years, he has been kept busy setting up the building blocks for at least one, but more likely two, land corridors across the Levant (one in the north and one in the south), linking Iran to the Mediterranean. These pathways would traverse a distance of at least 800 miles from Iran’s western borders through the Euphrates and Tigris valleys and the vast expanses of desert in Iraq and Syria, providing a link to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and finally ending at the edge of the Golan Heights. The two corridors would serve as chains to move military supplies or militiamen when needed.

We discussed Iran's actions as part of our Midrats talk with Bill Roggio at about the 20 minute point

Keep an eye on this.

UPDATE: More discussion of Iran's goals at StrategyPage in Iran: Enemies Within And Without:
But that changed in 2017 as the alliance with Turkey and Russia began to come apart. Iran blames this on Israel which, in this case, is partially correct. Israel knows that Iran wants to establish a pro-Iranian militia in Syria similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Assads know this would mean they would have to share power in Syria with Iran. Most Syrians don’t care for this, just as most Lebanese don’t care for the Hezbollah presence. No one, including Russia, Turkey and Israel, want another Hezbollah established in Syria. Iran will not back down on this and that has damaged their relationships with their allies.
Iran is also accused, by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States as well as most Yemenis, of trying to establish another Hezbollah in Yemen. That was always a long shot and this attempt seems to have failed. Iran seemed to anticipate that and their support of the Shia rebels was always a low cost and largely covert operation. Iran tried to persuade the Yemeni Shia to adopt a more cautious and gradual strategy. That advice was ignored and when the Yemeni Shia had an opportunity to seize the capital and declare a new government in 2015 they did so. It didn’t work but came close enough to encourage Iran to spend a lot of what little cash they had to support the Yemeni Shia more lavishly. Iran knew that the Yemeni Shia, or at least some of them, would be grateful for this support and that would benefit Iran long-term. If nothing else it annoyed the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs. By early 2017 the outnumbered and outgunned Shia rebels continue to hold out against the Sunni majority and their Arab (led by the Saudis) allies. This is mainly a media victory for Iran because the Sunni Arab Gulf states are providing the Iranians with excellent media opportunities to criticize the Arabs and the West. Iran is making the most of the fact that the Arabs, even with greater numbers and superior weapons, are unable to quickly defeat fellow Arabs who just happen to be Shia. Iran, the largest Shia majority nation in the world, considers the Shia form of Islam superior to the Sunni variants. Iranian media plays up the suffering of Yemenis in general and manages to keep itself too low profile for the media to pay attention to. Moreover, the Shia form of Islam makes a big deal out of losing battles but ultimately winning it all.

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