Illusions of Victory

As an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps general proclaimed that ‘good news will be heard from Syria soon,’ the IRGC also proclaimed itself victorious over what it described as a “cell” of the Islamic State, or ISIS, that had allegedly taken root within western Iran.  IRGC Colonel Mohammad Kalantari informed Iran’s Mizan news agency of the IRGC effort, though he refused to elaborate on just exactly what part of western Iran ISIS had supposedly infiltrated.  Kalantari said that those arrested by Iran “were militarily prepared” and were captured with “guns and bandoleers.”  However, he did not explain the cell’s activities, so that even Iranian outlet Press TV speculated that no attack may have been imminent, and that the cell may have been “just organizing militants for terror activities in Iraq.”

The claims appeared to give some weight to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s offer to share intelligence with the French government that would help them in their retaliation against ISIS for the Paris attacks.  Rohani spoke with French President Francois Hollande by telephone, having postponed his trip to Europe that was originally supposed to have been underway already.

Iran’s president agreed with the French claim that a globally united effort against ISIS was necessary, a strategy very much in Iran’s regional interests as we have reported here at IranTruth.  This week Iam Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, gave a written statement that harmonizes with our own analysis.

France has long resisted going harder against ISIS in Syria for fear of undermining or eliminating a principal rival of its longtime enemy, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But on Monday, Hollande made it clear that the Paris attacks had forced French officials to reassess their priorities — and accept that Russia, a longtime ally of Assad, may have an important role to play.

“The lack of Syrian fighters on the ground that look like acceptable partners is as true today as it was before the France bombings,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider in an email on Saturday. “And there won’t be enough support for [Western] troops to get it done alone.”

“This puts Russia — and Iran — in a stronger position,” Bremmer added. “And the French are much more likely to take the lead in working with them than the Americans, especially now.”

Vladimir Putin has been pushing the same line since his address at the United Nations earlier this autumn, wherein he called for an alliance of states against non-state actors — to include those suffering under oppressive regimes, as Freedom House pointed out in its analysis of speeches given by Russian and Chinese leaders at the UN.

The Russians are enjoying a moment of extraordinary success in the wake of the Paris attacks, as the French government is newly open to partnering with them and the United States has left itself in a weak position both militarily and in terms of how it has framed the conflict.  “[T]he Russians are pushing up against a door left open by the Obama administration, which has from day one been framing its efforts in Syria as a battle against [Sunni] ISIS so as to not upset [Shia] Iran,” said Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in a recent interview with Business Insider.  The Obama administration has put itself into such a weak position that American military commanders are having to rely on Iranian-led Shi’a militias in Iraq in order to carry out even our limited military objectives.

Conducting a movement from a sower of chaos to the unification of a new Middle Eastern order under its leadership is the current phase of Iran’s strategic ambitions.  While Iran continues to back terrorists, and has recently stepped up its cyberattacks on the West as a demonstration of its potential capacity to retaliate against Western interference, Iran is projecting itself to France as the final guarantor of order in the northern Middle East, from the borders of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean.  The deal they are offering is victory over ISIS in return for Western concession of their regional rule.