Rafizadeh calls attention to a report by Der Spiegel that points to evidence that a operations are being renewed at nuclear facilities in Syria, specifically in an area of Syria where the presence of both Iranian operatives and Hezbollah members has been observed. Making matters worse, North Korea seems to be similarly involved in this joint venture.
FrontPage Mag points out that Iran’s access to these facilities exacerbates concerns about its clandestine pursuit of a nuclear weapon. But the article also notes that “Iran-Syria and North Korean-Syria military and nuclear cooperation has been going on for a long time.” But with Iran’s expansion into new territories, it appears that these separate threads of cooperation may no longer be separate.
Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency pointed to a similar growth in multi-lateral, anti-Western cooperation on Thursday. It asserted that growing economic ties between Iran and Russia may soon lead to expanded nuclear ties and further cooperation in foreign policy aims. According to Tasnim, the Iranian supreme leader’s senior advisor on international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati “referred to Iran-Russia cooperation on Syria and said it can serve as a positive model for the expansion of regional cooperation.”
Velayati also claimed that Moscow was in support of Iran’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, thus raising the prospect of China’s involvement in a growing Asian bloc that may exchange economic and military resources among its members, in defiance of Western restrictions. Indeed, last September China and Iran undertook join naval maneuvers, signaling an historic expansion of China’s military access to the Persian Gulf.
The exchange of military and technical know-how among these various entities may present a serious challenge to Western powers. And through Iran, it is possible that much of that military know-how and production will end up in the hands of terrorists and Islamist groups. Worse still, because the United States still counts Iraq as an ally even though it is now largely controlled by Iran, a pathway appears to be open for Western military hardware to make its way into the hands of adversaries of the West.
Case in point, The Tower reported on Wednesday that video had emerged showing an Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militia in possession of American military vehicles including an M1 Abrams tank. The militia, known as the Hezbollah Brigades, is a US designated foreign terrorist organization known to have been involved in the killing of Americans in Iraq, and it is one of dozens of Shiite militias operating in the country under the direction or with the financing of Tehran.
Critics of the Obama administration’s approach to dealing with Tehran, prominent among them the National Council of Resistance of Iran, allege that the US is currently neglecting the threat of these Shiite groups at its own peril while remaining myopically focused on Sunni militants such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Relevant to this latter conflict, WND reported on Thursday that there were some signs that the US may be cooperating with another Iran-backed Shiite force, the Yemeni Houthi, in hopes that doing so will prevent the US from losing Yemen as a foothold in its fight against the Sunni militant group.
However, as WND notes, the potential loss of that foothold is directly attributable to the rise of the Houthi, who have ousted the existing, US-friendly government from power, thus inviting Sunni reprisals against the emerging Shiite rebellion. The Pentagon denies that there is any formal intelligence sharing agreement between the US and the Houthi, but representatives of both the Pentagon and the Defense Department have intimated that certain lines of communication are open to the Shiite militants while US counterterrorism efforts against AQAP go on as usual.
These trilateral relations between Western, Sunni, and Shiite powers arguably parallel the situations in Syria and Iraq as well, where a rising tide of Iranian Shiite influence has been virtually ignored by the West because that influence has contributed to the fight against ISIL, even though it has also contributed to recruitment and radicalization by that and other Sunni militant groups.
Critics of the Obama administration’s policies also suggest that by thus ignoring the growing Iranian influence in Syria, the US is also effectively ignoring the potential emergence of new clandestine pathways to a nuclear weapon for the Iranian regime. What’s more, FrontPage Mag warns that the renewed nuclear activities in Syria ought to be doubly concerning to Western powers because the ongoing conflicts there point to the potential for nuclear materials from that site to be delivered into the hands of Shiite terrorists or to be captured by Sunni terrorists, both of which could pose equivalent dangers.