Iran: With A Lot Of Help From My Enemies

Now that the sanctions are being lifted the government can allocate more resources to the many wars and insurgencies the country is involved in. Iran proclaims that all this mayhem is merely fellow Shia trying to defend themselves from Sunni aggression. In many cases this is true but over the centuries Iran has always extracted a high price for such protection. The Iraqi Shia are feeling that pressure, with local pro-Iran Shia militia leaders making it very clear that their main loyalty is to Iran, not the Iraqi government. In Syria the Shia minority, which has ruled (as the Assad dictatorship) since the 1970s has been threatened by a Sunni rebellion since 2011. Iran has been key in keeping the Assads going since then and now believes victory is in sight.

As in the past the more numerous Sunni Arabs have self-destructed. Iran points out that ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and all the other Islamic terrorist rebels in Syria are the result of the Saudis and other Gulf oil states generous supporting Islamic radicals worldwide for decades. Iran is able to keep these Sunni terrorists out of Iran and the West has managed to contain them as well. So the Sunni Islamic terrorists mainly kill other Sunnis in Moslem countries, as well as a lot of Shia. This gives Iran a legitimate excuse to get involved in nations where there are significant Shia minorities and having provided this aid for so long Iran has become the indisputable leader of the Shia world.

While Iran is technically part of the international anti-ISIL coalition it often uses rather than attacks ISIL because this group of Sunni radicals is more of a threat to Sunnis than to Shia. You can see this in Syria where ISIL is less concerned about overthrowing the Assads and more into expanding the “caliphate” they have created out of eastern Syria and western Iraq since 2014. So while the Arabs and the Americans bomb ISIL Iran and their ally Russia concentrate on the other Sunni rebels (most of them Islamic terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda). ISIL have been at war with these other Sunni Islamic terrorists for two years now and the pro-Assad forces will step aside to allow the Sunni fanatics to kill each other and then go after the winner. ISIL and many other Sunnis Islamic terrorists were aware of this early on and had worked out some informal, and quite fragile, alliances. Everyone knew this was temporary because once the Assads were gone the victorious Sunni Islamic terrorist groups, who believe democracy is heresy, would fight it out for supremacy.

Iran exploits that mentality (which is less common among Shia) and, along with Russia, says they are in Syria to fight Islamic terrorists but in reality leave ISIL alone and concentrate on rebel groups that are the biggest threat to the Assads. Meanwhile it is to Iran’s advantage that ISIL hold the attention of the West and the Arabs. Iran is fighting ISEL, but mainly in Iraq, where Sunni Islamic terrorists have long focused their attacks on Shia civilians. Since the Shia are a majority in Iraq Iran becomes even more popular there as Iran backed militias and other military assistance plays a crucial role in driving ISIL (and eventually all Sunni Islamic terrorists) out of the country. Iranians speak openly (especially inside of Iran) of how well they have exploited their enemies and duped into fight for Iran instead of against Iran.

Iranian media (and the government) is less interested in publicizing how the Gulf Arabs, led by Saudi Arabia have driven the price of oil so low, and kept it there, that Iran has been greatly weakened. This is a defeat the Iranians are quietly seeking a solution for. The Saudis say their oil price war is directed at American frackers but savvy Iranians (especially those with kin in America) know that is a lie or a delusion on the part of the Saudis. The American oil industry has proved itself very resilient and innovative since the Americans invented the oil business in the 19th century. The frackers, as expected, shut down much of their production as it got unprofitable but are hibernating, not dying. Iranians believe they are the real target of the Saudi oil price campaign because low oil prices, which went from a 2014 peak of $120 a barrel (159 liters) to less than $40 now, keeps Iran weak. At the same time the math indicates that the Saudis cannot keep it up for more than another five or ten years. At that point the Saudis run out of cash reserves and borrowing ability. The Saudis are betting that Iran will crack first while the Iranians believe they can outlast the Saudis. Place your bets. Inside Saudi Arabia the media openly boasts of this particular victory over the hated Iranians.

The Takeover In Iraq

In Iraq the government has become less insistent about not needing foreign troops in Iraq. This is because of the increasingly aggressive and autonomous behavior of the Iran-backed Shia militias that are assisting the army in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). The Shia militias are also taking control of territory in urban and rural areas, displacing the police and local government. Now the Iraq government sees the American troops as saviors. At the end of 2015 there were several thousand American troops already in Iraq and more (most of them Special Forces) on the way. The government has apparently made it clear to Iran (which is very hostile to U.S. forces in Iraq) that some American troops are essential. The presence of American troops also makes it less likely that Iran will attempt anything too ambitious (like invading or backing a takeover by Shia militias) and everyone knows that. Most Iraqis are more concerned with Iranian meddling than anything the Americans might do. At the same time Iraqis are wary of the other Gulf Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia. For example the Saudi ambassador to Iraq suggested that the Iran backed Shia militias in Iraq should stand aside and let the Iraqi Army deal with ISIL. That comment was widely condemned by Iraqi Shia clerics and politicians. The Shia politicians running Iraq have to move carefully because Iran, Saudi Arabia and America are making demands, often contrary ones, on Iraq.

Meanwhile Iran has been so successful in Iraq that Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the head of the Iran backed Shia militias in Iraq has said publicly that if Iran ordered him to overthrow the Iraqi government he would do so. This confirms what Iraqi leaders have long feared. The Shia militias are supposed to be under the control of the Iraqi government, if only because the militia members are paid by the government. Yet the Shia militias often refuse orders from the government and are demanding more money while refusing to account for how they spend it. Abu Mahdi al Muhandis is also very vocal about his belief that ISIL is the invention of the United States and secretly supported by the Americans as a way to weaken Islam.

Nuclear Mysteries

Even as the July 2015 treaty was being signed there was mounting evidence that Iran was already working to continue its nuclear weapons research program. Before and after July 2015 there were satellite photos available showing work performed at the underground nuclear facilities at a military base (Parchin) that was long suspected of housing a nuclear research facility. For a long time Iran never let UN (IAEA) inspectors near inspect this base. Yet recent satellite photos showed Iran “cleaning up” evidence that nuclear weapons research was going on there. One condition of the July 14 treaty was to let IAEA visit Parchin before the end of 2015. The facilities IAEA wanted to inspect were all destroyed or modified and much material removed before the inspectors finally arrived. Meanwhile there were new underground facilities being built that the inspectors were not allowed near.

Full article: Iran: With A Lot Of Help From My Enemies (Strategy Page)

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