ANALYSIS: Iran continues its entrenchment in both Syria and Iraq

Missiles given to Iraq by Iran can hit both Tel Aviv and Riyadh.

Yochanan Visser ,

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards

Iran is once again lying about its belligerent activities in Syria and Iraq, where the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is carving out a new corridor from the Iranian border in Iraq’s Nineveh Province all the way up to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights. In addition it is now further building up its forces.

On Thursday last week, Reuters reported that Iran is building up a ballistic missile force in Iraq.

The Iranian-backed umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq were given short and medium-range ballistic missiles over the past few months.

The missiles have the capability to reach Tel Aviv in Israel, but could also be used in Iran’s covert war against Saudi Arabia, under constant attack by the Iranian-backed Shiite Ansar Allah (Houthi) militia in Yemen.

Reuters furthermore reported, citing an unnamed senior Iranian official, that Hashd al-Shaabi is now in the possession of “Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles” which have “ranges of between 200 and 700 kilometers.”

If the missiles were to be deployed in southern or western Iraq, both Tel Aviv and the Saudi capital Riyadh would be within striking distance, according to The National.

The Iranians are also training Hashd al-Shaabi militias in manufacturing their own missiles on Iraqi soil.

Factories to develop missiles in Iraq are located in Al Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, Jurf Al Sakhar, north of Karbala, and in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the division which was established to expand the Islamic Revolution beyond the borders of Iran, is reportedly overseeing the program according to other Iranian sources.

Western sources told Reuters that the deployment of Iranian missiles in Iraq was meant to send a warning to both Israel and the United States, who are now cooperating against Iran’s creeping entrenchment in Syria and Iraq.

“It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base,” one of the anonymous sources said.

His observation was confirmed by an Iraqi official who said “It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh (ISIS) militants, but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in a regional conflict.”

“We can’t restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because, simply, the firing button is not in our hands. It’s the Iranians who control the push button,” the Iraqi official added.

Iranian media later reported that both the Islamist regime in Tehran and the Iraqi government had dismissed the Reuters report as ‘fake news’.

Ahmad Mahjub, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, wrote in a statement that the Iraqi government was “surprised” by Reuters’ “claim” and “emphasized that all Iraqi organizations and institutions are bound and committed to the implementation of article seven of the constitution of the country,” according to the state-controlled IRNA news agency.

Mahjub added that according to article seven of Iraq’s constitution, “the use of Iraqi soil as a base or platform to attack and endanger the security of any other country is prohibited.“

The Iranian spokesman, furthermore, claimed that Reuters is constantly spreading “fake news” about Iran.

On Sunday, Reuters shot back and clarified that it had obtained the information from Iranian, Iraqi, and Western sources and distributed the report from its newsroom in Dubai.

The news about the deployment of Iranian missiles in Iraq came after President Trump’s National Security adviser John Bolton, who was in Israel two weeks ago, reportedly made a deal with the Israeli government.

Under the deal, Israel and the United States agreed to cooperate militarily in order to stop Iran from building up its forces in Syria and Iraq and to counter the Iranian missile threat to Israel.

The United States and Israel will provide each other with cover for their operations against the Quds Force and its Shiite allies in both countries.

Shortly after Bolton’s visit, unknown warplanes bombed a Kata’ib Hezbollah convoy on the highway which connects Baghdad and the Syrian capital Damascus.

The assault on Kata’ib Hezbollah followed an Israel strike on a villa close to the town of al-Bukamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border which housed members of the Quds Force and Kata’ib Hezbollah on June 18,th killing 52 people.

Apparently, the strikes didn’t prevent Iran from deepening its involvement in the Syrian and Iraqi fray.

Last week Amir Hatami, the Iranian Minister of Defense arrived in Damascus where he signed a pact with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to continue and even expand the Iranian military involvement in Syria.

Under the deal, Syria and Iran agreed to respond to every American or Israeli attack on the Quds Force and its proxies in Syria by launching missiles or drones which would attack IDF positions on the Golan Heights and US bases east of the Euphrates River in Syria.

In this case, too, Qassem Soleimani is the Iranian commander responsible for executing the military pact.

The deal also allows Iran to build three missile bases in western and northern Syria which will be protected by the Russian S-400 missile defense shield.

On August 30th ImageSat International reported Iran was building a missile facility near Baniyas in northern Syria and said Tehran was “a major contributor to the Syrian missile project.”

The US military is now deploying more forces on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday that the Americans had sent a 150 vehicle-long convoy with military logistic equipment to northeastern Syria and have built a number of new bases in the region controlled by its ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces, over the past year.

At the same time, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to prevent Iraq from becoming a new Iranian proxy-state after the parliamentary elections in May by holding consultations with a number of Kurdish and Iraqi leaders.