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A Dangerous Alliance

By Hossein Abedini

Hossein Abedini is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. He was seriously injured during an assassination attempt on March 14, 1990 in Istanbul, Turkey by agents sent by Tehran.Iran has become the center of global crisis in 2015, one that has been reminiscent from its policies from 2014, and its relations with other countries. Looking at Iran from a pedestal, one situated in world politics, its coalition with Syria and Iraq has been one under the greatest scrutiny. This involvement in neighboring conflicts is not new for Iran. For example, its current Defense Minister Hussain Dehghan served in Lebanon during the 1975-89 civil war, where he had a pivotal role in the creation of the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The current Iranian regime is also under a similar spotlight, one where it is greatly criticized for interfering both financially and militarily in the war consuming both Syria and Iraq. This support is not limited to financial aid and supplying weapons, but according to reports numerous experts and advisors from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)are also active on the ground in these countries. One of the most prominent and contentious issues that was upfront at the global platform was that Iran had not only fostered, but also trained and funded thousands of fighters from Shia militias in Iraq.

Iran’s involvement in the wars being fought in Syria and Iraq can be seen as a one having pendulous influence, one that is both a necessary and detrimental for the regime itself. Even though Iran is suffering financially and economically,the survival of the ruling elite still depends on the strategic relations that the regime has with both of these countries. In return, these coalitionshave secured both geographical and political protectionfor the regime. It is thus clear that the main beneficiary of these coalitions is not Iran, as a nation, but only the current oppressive regime.

Indeed, Syria has a strategic importance for the mullahs in Iran to a point that Mullah Mehdi Taeb, a clergy among Khamenei’s inner circle and the head of the so-called “Ammar Headquarters” of IRGC admitted on Feb 2013that,“If the enemy seeks to take over Syria or Khuzestan (Iran’s oil rich southern province), Syria would be our priority. If Syria is lost, we won’t be able to hold Tehran”. For Iran, Syria is ultimately a gateway for holding the country together.

Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Iranian regime’s Supreme National Security Council articulated Iraq’s importance in the eyes of the clerics,where during the funeral procession for Hamid Taghavi, one of the most senior commanders of the IRGC who was killed in Iraq in late December, he stated that, “Taghavi was able to make a difference among Iraqi forces and was made a martyr and a commander of the founders of the Iraqi Association in the fight against ISIL.” He added “If Hamid Taghavi had not died in Sammara, he would have died in Sistan and Baluchistan, Azerbaijan, Yazd, or Shiraz instead.”

Shamkhani’s remarks were in response to the question as to why should Iran get engaged in other countries. His response hence highlighted the importance of the coalition with Iraq, where by describing the link between Taghavi and Sammara, he made it very clear that if Taghavi and his colleagues did not died in the war in the Iraqi city of Sammara, they would lose their life in Iran instead.

The reality isthat this war and both interventions in Iraq or Syria have never been in the interest of the people of Iran, because it is only the oppressive regime ruling Iran that benefits from it. This ‘budding friendship’ has also taken a toll on Iran’s domestic affairs, where financial priority has been given to international expenditures, rather than the wellbeing of the Iranians themselves.

There has been an increase in the IRGC budget for the coming Iranian year for up to 50 percent, even with the decrease in oil prices, a primary source of revenues for Iran. Rouhaniproposed increasing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ budget to 174 trillion rials ($6.5 billion) from 115 trillion rials, according to figures published by Tasnim, the state run news agency. This budget actually constitutes 62 percent of the total budget for Iran’s armed forces. Total defense expenditure, including for the regular army and Basij paramilitary force, will increase 33 percent this year to about 282 trillion rials, which reflects Iran’s increased commitment to meddle in Iraq and aid Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria this year.

As Mrs Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian oppositionrecently indicated, it is high time for a new policy on Iran. This would mean that any offer of diplomacy or trade relations must be contingent upon an end to executions and torture in Iran as well as an end to the regime’s meddling in the region.

Hossein Abedini is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. He was seriously injured during an assassination attempt on March 14, 1990 in Istanbul, Turkey by agents sent by Tehran.