Iran’s Tasnim news had an interesting article discussing concerns about US President Joe Biden’s next moves in the Middle East.
Iran has been watching the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and is hopeful that it might also withdraw elsewhere. However, veteran analysts in Iran appear to think that the US will not continue the withdrawal and will instead find reasons to stay in Iraq, Syria and other places.
Iran is deeply interested in how Biden views Syria and the US military presence in Iraq.
“They are targeting Syrian and Iraqi forces on the border between the two countries under the pretext of [those forces] threatening US troops. There is no doubt that there is no connection between these aggressions and the fight against terrorism,” Tasnim says.
The analyst argues that the groups targeted by the US were fighting “terrorism.” This is because Iran’s regime claims that pro-Iran militias in Iraq and Iran are fighting jihadist groups. The conspiracies put forward by pro-Iran commentators generally claim the US backs “terrorists” against Iran and that the US only pretends to fight groups like ISIS.
“Anyone who really seeks the truth knows very well that it is the United States that spreads terrorism and relies on terrorist groups to justify its military presence in the region and its occupation of Iraq and Syria.” This is, of course, nonsense. The US left Iraq in 2011 and only returned in 2014 at the invitation of Baghdad to help fight ISIS.
US air power and special forces were key to defeating ISIS and it was not Iran that defeated ISIS in Raqqa, but the US-backed SDF. Iran helped defeat ISIS, but its claims that the US helped “terrorists” is not accurate.
Iran is aware that the US is focusing more on China these days bit it still wonders what the US will do in the Middle East. “In this regard, it can be said that from the behavior of the United States in the region, it can be concluded that the country is planning a new strategy to influence the region: The ambiguous decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, ambiguous statements about military withdrawal from Iraq, vague and fruitless demands to end the Yemeni war, and finally the ambiguous request to resolve the Syrian issue in accordance with Resolution 2254 without bypassing the legitimate Syrian government, include contradictory behavior.”
Iran’s analyst says the US cannot be trusted to really withdraw troops. “Why are the Americans willing to evacuate the strategic Middle East region, which plays an important global role, and hand it over to Russia, America’s most powerful rival?”
This is a good question and many who were concerned about the former US administration’s rush to withdraw, wondered if it would empower Russia.
Iran thinks the US is seeking to avoid military conflicts. This would reduce the chance that the US would strengthen its presence. The US goal now is to “establish close ties with the armies of US-affiliated countries and control their decisions and actions so that their armies are a substitute for US policies in the Middle East,” the analyst argues.
He points to Lebanon as an example. Under the guise of humanitarian goals, the US will aim to create a “rift between the army and the Lebanese resistance [Hezbollah], so that over time the Lebanese army will be under direct US control, and the Zionist regime will be able to achieve its goals in Lebanon more easily in a possible future war with Hezbollah.”
This conspiracy theory is likely representative of Iran’s view of US discussions about Lebanon and means that any US role there, even throwing money at the Lebanese army, will be viewed with suspicion.
Tasnim notes that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah has referred to this “American conspiracy… Nasrallah assured that these US-Zionist conspiracies would not be successful and that the army and Hezbollah would not fall into the trap of Washington.”
Next, the article looks at recent attacks by pro-Iran groups on US forces in Syria. This occurred after the US ordered bombing of pro-Iran groups in Albukamal in response to drone attacks. This indicates more attacks may follow. The author argues that the US wants to prevent stability in the region. “The United States needs to prevent instability in the region and create chaos in order to consolidate its occupation of the Middle East, this requires the presence of terrorist groups in the Middle East… We should not expect the United States to decide to stop supporting ISIS or other terrorist groups or to pressure Turkey to end its support for terrorism; It is also not possible to cut off US support for the ‘democratic’ militias in Syria.”
This is a reference to the US support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group that grew out of Kurdish groups fighting ISIS in 2015 which the US partnered with. The US administration under Trump also sought closer work with Turkey and Turkish-backed extremists in Idlib.
On this aspect the Iranian analyst is correct. The former US administration did seek to support extremists, backed by Turkey. Washington wrongly thought those groups would fight the Assad regime and Iran, but instead Turkey used them to ethnically-cleanse Kurds in Afrin and other places.
The conclusion of the analyst is that the US is not leaving the region. “Contrary to popular belief,” he argues that the US is not leaving. “Some experts believe that recent US actions, such as the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan or the withdrawal of US anti-missile systems from several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, mean Washington’s military withdrawal from the Middle East. Do not accept this idea.”
In fact, the article claims the US lacks a comprehensive strategy for the region at this stage. “What is certain, however, is the escalation of the confrontation between the American occupying forces and the resistance [pro-Iran] groups in Iraq in the context of countering the national decision of this country to expel the Americans.
The Americans are also trying to prevent the strengthening of Syrian-Iraqi relations on the axis of resistance.” The analyst believes that the US is concerned about Iraq’s close relations with Iran and Iran using Iraq to support Palestinians groups and strike at Israel.
What are the US options? Tasnim’s explanation is that the US could engage in a new war in the region but this would be costly. It notes that Iranian-backed “resistance” forced the US to leave Iraq in 2011. “The second option is for Washington to decide to retreat for fear of engaging in a costly war, which would mean the collapse of US credibility. In the end, it can be said that if the United States chooses either of these two options, it means defeat for it, and also the consequences of this defeat will befall the Zionist occupiers and the compromising Arab regimes whose existence depends on American support.”
In short, Iran thinks the US faces a checkmate scenario either way. However, the article reveals that Iran is concerned about its lack of understanding of the Biden administration’s current policy.
Iran’s regime has closely studied the US policy mindset and US role in the region and despite the conspiracies Iran puts forward as explaining the US role, it tends to understand some of what underpins US decision making.