Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of Raqqa after capturing territory in neighbouring Iraq.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KNESSET)
The US’s deadly strike on the al-Qaida-linked Khorasan group leader Mohsin al-Fadhli shone a spotlight on Iran’s nefarious activities in Syria and Iraq.
According to the SITE monitoring service on Sunday, a jihadi’s Twitter feed confirmed Fadhli’s death. This is the same Fadhli who oversaw Iran’s al-Qaida- based network and received protection from Iran’s regime as part of a clandestine agreement between Tehran and the Sunni terrorist entity.
While Obama’s coalition with European and Arab countries to battle the Sunni terrorist organization Islamic State has largely dominated the headlines and policy debates, Iran’s Shi’ite proxies have replicated the same form of barbarism as the Islamic State.
In a Skype interview with The Jerusalem Post
, Phillip Smyth, a leading researcher on Iranian proxies affiliated with the University of Maryland, said there are more than 50 Shi’ite groups operating in Iraq. By his estimate, Iran and its militias are responsible for the murders of at least 100 US service personnel and as many as 1,000 American soldiers since 2003, Smyth noted in his September Foreign Policy article “All the Ayatollah’s Men” that Iranian- affiliated or inspired Shi’ite organizations mirror the ghastly tactics of Islamic State. He wrote of “armed men posing with severed heads, massacres of mosque-goers during Friday prayers, massive reliance on transnational jihadists.”
Human rights groups accused the Shi’ite militias in coordination with the Iraqi state of the massacre of at least 255 Sunni prisoners in six Iraqi towns and villages in the month beginning June 9.
Smyth cited the “summary executions” of five American soldiers in Karbala, Iraq, in January 2007, in which Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and a top Hezbollah operative are believed by US officials to have carried out the terrorist attack.
The senior Hezbollah commander Ali Musa Daqduq was captured in March 2007 by US forces. Iraq’s pro-Iranian government released him in 2012 over the vehement opposition of the Obama administration.
Critics slammed the Obama administration at the time for failing to both block the release of Daqduq and prosecute him for terrorism.
Daqduq is back with Hezbollah – Iran’s strategic partner – in Lebanon.
All of this helps to explain why Robert Caruso, a US former Defense Department official and expert on Iran’s military operations, argues against “strategically, politically and operationally cooperating with Iran.”
Julie Lenarz, the executive director of the London-based Human Security Centre, told the Post, “The Islamic State is mainly a product of the brutal war in Syria and Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah has been a crucial lifeline for the Assad regime. To suggest cooperating with them would mean joining forces with the very same actor that is partly responsible for the rise of Islamic State in the first place. Iran is part of the problem and not the solution in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism.”
Lenarz warned about Western cooperation with Iran and its militias, saying “Instead of Sunni extremism we would just be looking at Shi’ite extremism.
Consider the brutal persecution of Christians and Kurds in Iran or the promise to annihilate Jews, and it becomes crystal clear that Iran and Hezbollah pose just as much of a threat to the region’s minorities as Sunni terrorist groups such as Islamic State.”
The destabilizing role of Iran in the heart of the Middle East was echoed in US commentaries.
Writing on the Fox News website, Gary Schmitt and David Adesnik, from the Washington- based American Enterprise Institute, argued “Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime left many in Syria with a choice between a grisly death and submission to the Islamic State. And in Baghdad, Iranian influence encouraged the very sectarianism stoked by former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and, in turn, made many Iraqi Sunnis open to siding with ISIS.”
Taken together, the mainstreaming of Assad’s regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran compounds the widening bloodbath in the Middle East.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on European affairs for The Jerusalem Post and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.