Ignoring Iran’s militias could lead to a full-scale regional war

ByMohammed Alsulami

Considering rising discontent inside Iran, indicators show that the regime is on the verge of collapse. Therefore, militias loyal to the regime are expected to reshuffle, change loyalty and save themselves. Since the victory of the Iranian revolution and the mullahs’ ascent to power, the face of the region has changed. It has drifted into violence, sectarian conflicts, and terrorism. There has been an inclination towards destruction. After less than two years, Iran established the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, and it was only one year before the group was active in carrying out armed operations inside and outside Lebanon. Several terrorist attacks in Lebanon and Kuwait at the time were directly or indirectly linked to Tehran and its newborn arm in Lebanon’s Southern suburbs.
Within a few years, the scope of Iranian terrorist operations and the number of Iranian proxies increased, including the so-called Hezbollah Hijaz, whose main task was to target Saudi security. With the advent of the 1990s, the Iranian regime expanded the geographic scope of its terrorist operations, carrying out operations in Germany, Austria, France, and Argentina as well as targeting the Khobar Towers in Eastern Saudi Arabia. The most dangerous phase in the history of Iran’s belligerency in the region came after the American invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the regime there. The US demilitarized Iraq, destroyed the pillars of the Iraqi state and handed the collapsed state to an archenemy. During the deadly eight-year Iran-Iraq war, Iran was unable to achieve this end. So, it jumped at the opportunity when it became available.
In 1998 Khamenei appointed Qassem Suleimani as the Commander of the Quds Force, the external arm of the Revolutionary Guards, with its mission lying outside Iranian borders. In 2011, Suleimani was placed on the US sanctions list, but he was soon temporarily removed from the list according to the statements of a former CIA official, who cited Washington’s need for Tehran. But this temporary removal continues to this date, as a result Suleimani has been moving freely between Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon without being stopped. With the rise in crises and conflicts in the Middle East, along with an increase in the number of the Iran-liked militias, the former US administration gave direct instructions to its intelligence and military agencies not to harass or engage with Iranian militias. The rationale behind this was that the IRGC and its affiliates could easily harm US interests around the world.
It seems that this rationale still dominates the security and political mentality of Washington and Europe as well. Tehran realized this and expanded its operations until the situation reached the level at which it is now in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. The question that requires answering is whether such a rationale is accurate or not? In my opinion, targeting Iranian elements in the region may provoke an Iranian reaction. And it will often be limited. And Iran will not carry out attacks that threaten maritime navigation or the transportation of oil, nor will it target vital sites in the region. It will not carry out such attacks, as it knows the world will turn against it, giving a case for more ferocious attacks on Tehran, especially considering the current atmosphere in the region.
But what about the Iranian militias deployed in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen? Personally, I think that these militias will not do any real work to defend Iran because they are well aware that the price they will pay will be high and perhaps existential, and that Tehran will not act to defend them. It is therefore not excluded that these militias will seek to dissolve themselves and integrate themselves into domestic communities or return to their homes, especially the Afghan and Pakistani militias. As public anger grows because of deteriorating living conditions, this is a big indicator of the imminent collapse of the regime, so the militias are expected to save themselves by disconnecting themselves from the regime.
All this requires an initial step that could be seen by some people as symbolic, but in fact, it is decisive. This step is listing the IRGC and its affiliated militias as terror organizations, with the name of the anti-ISIS international coalition being changed to an anti-terror coalition. Without this measure, the danger will expand and things will get out of control. Moreover, this situation could ignite a regional war whose consequences and the scope of its operations shall be unknown. Perhaps a small portion of suffering now will be better than the pain of delaying the solution to tomorrow. So will the world realize the importance of moving swiftly to solve the crisis?

Translated Material: Watan SA


Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah

Mohammed Alsulami
Mohammed Alsulami
Head of Rasanah: International Institute for Iranian Studies