Iran’s Spy Commander Promises To ‘Surprise The World’
A top Iranian general promised developments in Syria “will surprise the world” as thousands of Iran-backed troops have been deployed to uphold the regime.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, expressed the evolving nature of Iran’s involvement in Syria while visiting the northwest region of Latakia in late May, home to the Alawite sect of President Bashar Assad.
Soleimani was quoted by Iran’s official news agency, IRNA. But the agency claimed it “takes no responsibility for the information,” reports Agence France Presse.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 Iranian or Iraqi fighters are reportedly moving to defend Damascus and Latakia. A combat brigade team of 1,500 fighters from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will make up the core of the force.
Observers should take Soleimani’s claim seriously, says Matthew McInnis, an expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fighters typically take an advisory role to local forces where Iran seeks to exert military control. But as war in Syria has intensified, endangering Iranian ally Bashar Assad, Iran has been pushed into a difficult position.
“He has to do it,” McInnis told The Daily Caller News Foundation, referencing Soleimani’s increasingly limited options for keeping the Assad regime intact. Iranian fighters could become directly involved in combat, specifically around Damascus and in the northwest.
This could lead to a “battle-hardened IRGC,” breaking the psychological barrier from an advisory position to combat. “Once they’ve done that, it’s going to be easier for them to think about boots on the ground in other areas of the region,” said McInnis.
Although the Obama administration doesn’t have a strategy for dealing with the Syrian conflict, should Iran increase its presence on the ground, McInnis expects the U.S. to become more hesitant about directly engaging.
Al-Qaida and Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, are battling on Syrian soil, leading some foreign policy doves to say America should just allow its enemies to fight it out. But with no presence, the U.S. lacks control over how the conflict will evolve.
“It’s also a laboratory for new things to emerge that we may not like,” said McInnis.
Iran spends $6 billion annually to support the Syrian regime, but its military capabilities could soon benefit from the impending nuclear agreement.
If a deal is reached by the June 30 deadline, Iran agreeing to constrain its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, an estimated $150 billion in frozen funds could become available.
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