Soft Western Approach Allowing Iran’s Regional Proxies to Talk Tough
At a time when the regime in Iran needs to maintain a low profile to get through the presidential election turmoil and prevent any harsh action by the new US administration, Tehran is leaving the dirty work to its proxy militias.
“The reappearance of Imam Mahdi will mark the completion of the Shiite project. Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Hezbollah in Lebanon, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and the Houthis are working hard to make the ground fertile for Imam Mahdi,” said Qais al-Khazali, commander of the Iran-backed Shiite militia group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, at a ceremony recently held in Iraq.
The reference made by Khazali was to the belief of Shiite Muslims that Imam Mahdi — the last of the 12 Shiite imams who is said to have disappeared back in the 9th century — is set to return with a mission to establish justice among all mankind.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq is known among Iraq’s Shiite militias for its violent nature and has long enjoyed Iranian aid Reports indicate Khazali also said, “We’ll continue to work toward our project of a Shiite full moon, not a Shiite crescent as our enemies say.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah was the first to use the term “Shiite crescent,” then referring to Iran’s control over Lebanon through Hezbollah, Syria via the regime of Bashar Assad, and Iraq by the rise to power of a Shiite government in Baghdad with close links to Tehran. A “Shiite full moon,” however, is the term Khazali is using now.
This is thanks to mainly a strategic mistake by the George W. Bush administration to launch the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and incomplete policies through the remainder of Bush’s tenure until 2009, and a highly flawed appeasement approach adopted by the Obama administration that after eight years led the entire region to the edge of the cliff.
Iran and its conglomerate of proxy militias are seeking to establish complete sultanate over the entire Middle East. In this case, Khazali has a very obvious background as the Asaib Ahl al-Haq commander. This group splintered from Muqtada Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi and came under special cultivation by Iran’s IRGC extraterritorial branch — the Quds Force commanded by the notorious Qassem Suleimani.
Experts believe Asaib and Khazli were behind the murder of five US soldiers kidnapped in 2007 from a joint Iraqi-American Operations Center in the southern Shiite city of Karbala.
US forces went to arrest him and Khazali spent years behind bars in Camp Cropper where the American held high-value detainees. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, known for his very close relations with Iran and even dubbed as a Tehran puppet, Khazali was released from custody.
Hundreds, and maybe even thousands, of American soldiers were killed or wounded by Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The group is also responsible for launching an even more vicious killing spree on the innocent Iraqi people, especially the Sunni minority.
The rise of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) in 2014 provided new grounds for Asaib Ahl al-Haq to relaunch its crusade, this time under the framework of the Hashid al-Sha’bi, or the Popular Mobilization Unit. The Iran-blessed PMU is considered to be an extension of the Iraqi Army and receives billions annually from Baghdad.
Amnesty International voiced very specific concerns over Iran’s vast support for the PMU, including the Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
“Iran remains a major military sponsor of the PMU militias — particularly those with close links to Iranian military and religious figures, such as the Badr Organization, ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Hizbullah Brigades — all of which stand accused of serious human rights violations. These ongoing supplies are in breach of a 2015 UN resolution barring arms exports from Iran without prior approval from the UN Security Council,” according to a report issued by the globally-renowned human rights organization in January.
In its backing of Assad’s carnage, Iran has expanded the crescent by recruiting Shiite fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan as foot soldiers and cannon fodder to maintain the regime in power in Damascus. Iran’s mullahs have also unleashed a deadly war in Yemen through their support for the Houthis, threatening Saudi Arabia’s southern border, and continue to wreak havoc in Bahrain via ongoing provocative meddling.
Iran has benefited from Western negligence for far too long. The correct means to bring this campaign to an end is a firm policy vis-a-vis Tehran starting with the designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. The IRGC is the main entity behind Iran’s regional meddling policy and ballistic missile drive. Such a measure would signal a significant shift in the right direction, both against the mullahs and favoring all nations of the Middle East, as well as, most importantly, the Iranian people.