But this is far from being the extent of the Quds Force’s political influence, and Khedery also declared that Suleimani was effectively in control of Lebanon, where Hezbollah acts as an Iranian proxy and wields at least as much power as the official government; Syria, where the Assad regime has been propped up almost single-handedly by Iranian interventionism; and Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels recently seized power in the capital city of Sanaa.
This dramatic, rapid expansion of influence certainly boosts the morale of the IRGC, which is already prone to making combative, rhetorical statements about Iranian strength and the country’s readiness for open conflict with the West. Al Monitor wrote on Thursday that IRGC head Major General Mohamman Ali Jafari has explicitly denied that Iran’s security has been boosted by its participation in negotiations with the P5+1.
Apparently responding to contrary statements that had been made by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Jafari insisted that the relationship between security and nuclear talks runs in the opposite direction – that Iran has participated in negotiations and has secured Western concessions precisely because the Islamic Republic was starting from a “position of strength,” buttressed by its military strength and its influence in the region.
This commentary is in line with IRGC officials’ various statements emphasizing and frequently exaggerating the technological capabilities of the Iranian armed forces. In the latest example of this, Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reports that IRGC Lieutenant Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami claimed that Iran had acquired the ability to manufacture high-tech engines for unmanned aerial vehicles, of a sort that only Britain is currently capable of producing.
Salami’s claims are dubious to say the least. It is difficult to believe that Iran is capable of such technological advances in light of the outmoded status of much of its active air force. Britain’s The Telegraph points out that F-4 Phantoms are known to be part of that air force and to have conducted air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq, and that these aircraft date back to 1958.
The Tasnim report makes mention of a downed American drone that the IRGC claimed to have reproduced and flown earlier this year. Independent analysis of images of that supposed replica cast serious doubts on its authenticity, suggesting that it was little more than a model.