The regime in Tehran agreed to allow Iranian pilgrims to join this year’s hajj, which is good news. Still, Iran’s regime is facing a new balance of power in the Middle East and across the globe, as the Trump administration has begun overhauling the appeasement policy of his predecessor.
When Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited the US and met with President Trump, there was a turning point in Saudi-US relations. The Deputy Crown Prince, is also the kingdom’s Defense Minister. He has described Iran’s destabilizing nature across the globe and support for terrorism as a dangerous challenge for the Middle East and the world. He said in his recent meeting with his American predecessor James Mattis, that Saudi Arabia is at the front lines of these dilemmas. The fight against ISIS, confronting Iran’s activities in the region, and military cooperation between the two countries were amongst the main subjects in these talks.
In an article for Al Arabiya by Heshmat Alavi, a political and rights activist focusing on Iran, he writes, “Iran’s support for the Lebanese Hezbollah has become a part of Middle East reality, with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassrallah admitting receiving money and other support from Tehran. While this relationship has been constantly condemned over the years, a new voice has recently raised quite a few eyebrows.”
In his first report to the Security Council, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, referred to the necessity of disarming the Lebanese Hezbollah. Guterres called on all other Lebanese groups to bring an end to their participation in Syria’s war. He condemned Hezbollah crossing its forces into Syria as a violation of UNSC Resolution 1701. His report also condemns Hezbollah’s continuing possession of weapons as a violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and this country’s obligations in the face of UNSC resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006).
Iran’s Yemen campaign has suffered major setbacks with the Saudi-backed coalition taking the initiative in making major advances towards Sanaa, the capital.
“In a sign of desperate times calling for desperate measures, the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen targeted a gathering of coalition forces east of Sanaa by launching Iran-made “Zelzal-1” missiles. This hideous attack resulted in the destruction of a local mosque in the targeted area and leaving at least 26 coalition fighters killed,” writes Alavi, adding, “As Tehran sees its measures failing in the strategic company of Yemen, strategically aimed to send messages to Riyadh, we will unfortunately have to brace for further episodes of heinous crimes against Yemen’s liberating forces and its innocent people.”
Iran enjoyed the appeasement policy of the Obama administration on Syria. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, when asked about Washington’s current view on Syria’s Bashar Assad, made remarks that caught Iran off guard. “We view him as a brutal man who has led his country into this morass… We believe that will be a transition away from Assad, because we don’t believe he can ever be an acceptable leader to all of the Syrian people,” Toner stated, “…it’s our opinion, given what he’s wrought, the devastation he’s wrought on his own people. But it needs to be a decision by the Syrian people, and that includes moderate Syrian opposition…, on how to transition to a new government. We think one that doesn’t include Assad, obviously, but that’s where we’re at on this. So it’s up to the Syrian people to decide. Our opinion is that he’s not a credible leader.”
The Iranian regime has serious trouble, with a high number of casualties in the proxy militias trained and dispatched by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to Syria. A senior Iranian official has plead with the government to issue citizenship for Afghan nationals currently fighting under the so-called “Fatemioun Division” flag in Syria.
During the past 12 months 2,000 IRGC foot-soldiers from Afghanistan and Pakistan have been killed in Syria and Iraq, according to Mohammad Ali Shahidi Mahalati, head of the “Martyrs Foundation”. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) declared in July 2016 that approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Afghan nationals had been dispatched by the IRGC to Syria. In January Brigadier General Hossein Yekta verified this when he said that 18,000 Afghan nationals are fighting in Syria under IRGC command.
These developments lead to a conclusion about how Iran’s IRGC has affected the region.
Alavi writes, “And as the tides are changing against Tehran’s interests, the mullahs are weighing to up the ante on such provocative measures, or wind down the tone. The end result will especially be crucial as the regime finds itself in an extremely weak position before highly sensitive presidential elections in May.” He believes that this is the right time to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, and bring an end to its regional warmongering and domestic crackdown.