The most interesting Iranian person in the world right now isn’t sitting in Vienna to talk about the nuclear agreement, and isn’t dishing out quirky or alarming quotes from Tehran. He is probably on a plane, flying to and from Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad etc…helping to increase Tehran’s military and political influence.
Meet Qassam Suleimani, commander of the IRGC’s „external“ operations units, better known as the Qods Force. A former CIA chief, John Maguire calls him, „the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today„. Or you can call him by his nickname: Keiser Soze.
Suleimani in Iran
On the outside, he leads a „regular life“. He is 57 years old. He wakes up every day at 4:00 and goes to sleep early at 21:30. He has five children. He takes his wife on some of his many „business“ trips. He suffers from back aches. He never raises his voice (in fact he is silent most of the time) but is gifted with an „understated charisma that makes people pay attention to him.
He is also a decorated war hero from the Iran-Iraq war and is connected all the way up to the Supreme Leader Khamenei himself who has referred to Suleimani as “a living martyr of the revolution.”
Rumours have it that Suleimani recently attempted a coup against Rouhani which was blocked at the last moment by Khamenei himself.“
Running the War in Damascus
In Syria, Suleimani has worked as the liaison between the leaders in Tehran, the Hezbollah chiefs and Bashar al-Assad for the past 3 years. He has built up Assad’s army from the inside after once exclaiming „The Syrian army is useless! Give me one brigade of the Basij, and I would conquer the whole country“.
He works in Damascus from a fortified nondescript building together with a large array of officers: Syrian military commanders, a Hezbollah commander, a coordinator of Iraqi Shiite militias and a close comrade of his, the Basij former deputy commander Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani.
Once Suleimani got settled in, an immediate sharp increase in Iranian supply flights into the Damascus airport carrying weapons and ammunition was noticed. Thousands of Quds operatives suddenly turned up within the Syrian army and in Assad’s special security service.
Working Behind the Scenes in Baghdad
But, as the ISIS crisis got into Iraq, Suleimani flew out repeatedly to Baghdad. The Guardian says – „Experts agree that it is hard to overestimate Suleimani’s role in Iraq. „At times of crisis Suleimani is the supreme puppeteer…He is everywhere and he’s nowhere. Suleimani is doing in Baghdad what he did in Damascus“ – this time with Maliki instead of Assad.
Under his guidance, Tehran began by supplying Maliki with weapons and militia men as well as flying out drones and jet fighters into Iraq. Judging from Suleimani’s experience in Damascus, one can only expect Suleiman to set up a similar force in Baghdad as well.
In any case, it would be worthwhile to keep an eye out on him at all times…trouble is never far away from him.
Source: Iran 24/07
On May 31, two senior U.S. officials detailed Iran’s growing role in extremist activities worldwide. Tehran was directly or indirectly involved in the planning of attacks in Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa in 2012, said the officials. The following are excerpts from the background briefing.
We believe this is an alarming trend. It’s borne out by the facts and it merits closer inspection as we evaluate the landscape of terrorist activity globally. Add to this, of course, is the deepening commitment both Iran and Hezbollah have made to fight and kill on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria. That involvement, of course, is hardening the conflict and threatening to spread the violence across the region.
This is a joint publication by AEI’s Critical Threats Project and the Institute for the Study of War.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has conducted an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power as long as possible while setting conditions to retain its ability to use Syrian territory and assets to pursue its regional interests should Assad fall.
The Iranian security and intelligence services are advising and assisting the Syrian military in order to preserve Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power. These efforts have evolved into an expeditionary training mission using Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Forces, Quds Force, intelligence services, and law enforcement forces. The deployment of IRGC Ground Forces to conflict abroad is a notable expansion of Iran’s willingness and ability to project military force beyond its borders.
Iran has been providing essential military supplies to Assad, primarily by air. Opposition gains in Syria have interdicted many ground resupply routes between Baghdad and Damascus, and the relative paucity of Iranian port-visits in Syria suggests that Iran’s sea-lanes to Syria are more symbolic than practical. The air line of communication between Iran and Syria is thus a key vulnerability for Iranian strategy in Syria. Iran would not be able to maintain its current level of support to Assad if this air route were interdicted through a no-fly zone or rebel capture of Syrian airfields.
Iran is also assisting pro-government shabiha militias, partly to hedge against Assad’s fall or the contraction of the regime into Damascus and a coastal Alawite enclave. These militias will become even more dependent on Tehran in such a scenario, allowing Iran to maintain some ability to operate in and project force from Syria.
Lebanese Hezbollah began to take on a more direct combat role in Syria as the Assad regime began losing control over Syrian territory in 2012. Hezbollah has supported Assad with a robust, well-trained force whose involvement in the conflict aligns with Iranian strategic interests as Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged on April 30 in Tehran. Hezbollah’s commitment is not without limitations, however, because Nasrallah must carefully calibrate his support to Assad with his domestic responsibilities in order to avoid alienating his core constituency in Lebanon.
Iraqi Shi‘a militants are also fighting in Syria in support of Assad. Their presence became overt in 2012 with the formation of the Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, a pro-government militia that is a conglomerate of Syrian and foreign Shi‘a fighters, including members of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraq-based Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Kata’ib Hezbollah. Like other paramilitary forces operating in Syria, these militants escalated their involvement as the conflict descended into civil war. The open participation of Iraqi Shi‘a militants in Syria is an alarming indicator of the expansion of sectarian conflict throughout the region.
The Syrian conflict has already constrained Iran’s influence in the Levant, and the fall of the Assad regime would further reduce Tehran’s ability to project power. Iran’s hedging strategy aims to ensure, however, that it can continue to pursue its vital interests if and when the regime collapses, using parts of Syria as a base as long as the Syrian opposition fails to establish full control over all of Syrian territory.
Analysts are positively comparing the political resolve shown by Bulgarian officials – who yesterday announced that they had discovered links between Hezbollah and the July 2012 bombing of a tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria – with recent Argentinean moves that have been criticized for papering over Iran-backed terrorism. Buenos Aires has recently established a joint “truth commission” with Tehran that is charged with investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in the capital city, and which has been criticized as a pretext for covering up the widely assumed Iranian orchestration of the attack. The State Department has expressed pointed “skepticism” regarding the Argentinean decision. When asked about Bulgaria in a Tuesday briefing, in contrast, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nulandemphasized the “extremely professional investigation done by the Government of Bulgaria” and expressed hope that the “clear evidence of Hezbollah operation on European soil” would galvanize the E.U. toward formally designating the group a terrorist entity. The Burgas bombing killed a Bulgarian and five Israelis.
The visit of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Egypt, the first by an Iranian leader since Cairo and Tehran broke off relations in 1980, has not entirely succeeded in conveying a sense of rapprochement between the two long-time rivals. Over the course of the trip, Egyptian officials have publicly condemned Iran for interfering in the internal affairs of neighboring countries, a charge increasingly heard from Arab states. Egyptian officials have not been reticent to complicate state visits with accusations aimed at Iran and its allies. In August, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi visited Tehran in order to participate in a summit for the Nonaligned Movement, and publicly slammed Iran there as well.
Israeli outlets from across the political spectrum are criticizing Turkey over what Israeli officials are describing asAnkara’s „brazen hypocrisy“ in lashing out against Israel on a variety of issues. Analysts and pundits have expressed surprise that Turkey, a country described as having “ethnically cleansed the northern part of Cyprus and illegally settled 200,000 Turks in that territory,” would attempt to declare that Israel was a “pariah” for construction in the West Bank. Meanwhile, official Turkish criticism of Israel’s reported cross-border strikes on Syrian advanced weapons, which included insinuations that Israel should be attacked in response, sits uneasily with regular cross-border raids carried out by Turkish troops against Kurdish groups in Iraq. Turkey’s status as the world’s leader in imprisoning journalists has also been pointed to as in tension with Ankara’s diplomatic posture.
by GARETH SMYTH
Does Hassan Nasrallah really want a „strong state“ in Lebanon?
Hassan Nasrallah chose June 1 and the commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the death of Ruhollah Khomeini, organized by the Iranian embassy, to drop a surprise.Out of the blue, Hezbollah’s general secretary called for a „constituent assembly“ to create a „strong state“ in Lebanon.
Making a revolution was one thing, said Nasrallah, but to build a strong state, as Ayatollah Khomeini had done in Iran, was a far greater challenge. A new, presumably elected, constituent assembly would give Lebanon fresh national purpose, suggested Nasrallah, and overcome its sectarian divisions.
For many Lebanese, the idea of a strong state is attractive, given the chaos and frustration resulting from the country’s lack of social and political cohesion. „What we need is a benevolent dictator,“ one friend in Ras Beirut told me. „Otherwise it’s more chaos, more electricity cuts, worse political tension, and even higher prices.“
Regional tensions between Shiites and Sunnis, now linked into the conflict in neighboring Syria, have added fear to insecurity. With clashes between Sunnis and Allawis in Tripoli, with the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shia pilgrims in Syria, older Lebanese feel parallels to the run-up to the outbreak of civil war in 1975. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags