The Iranian regime publicized a missile strike against purported ISIS targets in eastern Syria over the weekend. It proclaimed the attack was in response to the terror attacks in Tehran at the mullah’s regime’s Parliament building and the shrine of the founder of the mullah’s regime in Iran, which left 18 dead.
Reuters reported that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps units launched mid-range ground-to-ground missiles from western Iran into the Deir al Zour region of eastern Syria, killing a “large number” of terrorists and destroying their equipment and weapons, it said.
The missiles targeted the “headquarters and gathering centers of Takfiri terrorists supporting and building car bombs”, it said.
Reuters could not independently verify the report.
The attack, if true, would be one of the few times the Iranian regime has publicized a direct action against ISIS military units in the Syrian conflict. In past military actions, Iran had deliberately targeted non-ISIS targets such as Syrian rebel units backed by the U.S. or civilian targets in rebel-controlled areas.
Many analysts and news organizations have noted how Iranian regime forces and Shiite militias backed by mullahs in Iran have often fought rebel forces trying to overthrow the Assad regime and not specifically gone after ISIS groups.
A recent National Geographic documentary examined how ISIS rose to power and it noted Iranian regime’s deliberate efforts to avoid fighting ISIS early on in favor of preserving Assad’s grip on power.
Only after ISIS served its larger purpose in diverting the attention of the rest of the world from the bloody Syrian conflict was Iran prepared to engage ISIS on a broader scale; namely to gain territory to secure its foothold in Syria and Iraq.
As Shiite militias, working in concert with Iranian troops, begin to take over key border crossings between Iraq, Syria and Iran, the Iranian regime’s long-range plans of building a Shiite-controlled sphere of influence around it are beginning to take shape.
The growing influence of these Shiite militias aiming to stay permanently in Syria are increasingly being scrutinized by news media and what their impact may mean for future instability in the region.
The Guardian’s Martin Chulov looked at the Syrian town of Ba’aj which was formerly held by ISIS, but was recently liberated by Iranian-backed Shiite militias that now appear to be bunkering down for good.
Ba’aj is now a foundation point of an Iranian plan to secure ground routes across Iraq and Syria and into Lebanon, cementing its influence over lands its proxies have conquered, Chulov wrote.
“From Mosul to Ba’aj, thank you Suleimani,” read one message painted on the town roundabout in tribute to the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, who helped lead units of the Popular Mobilization Front (PMF) as they swept through Ba’aj toward the Syrian border. Flags of various Shia units were planted like poppies.
“We are not leaving Ba’aj,” said one senior PMF member. “This will be our main base in the area.”
That afternoon, semi-trailers carrying blast walls trundled through the town toward a government building in the center.
The transformation of Ba’aj, from an out-of-bounds haven for Isis leaders to a focal point for Iranian regime’s efforts to change the regional dynamic, is taking place rapidly, even before hundreds of booby-trapped homes have been cleared.
Since then, Iranian backed forces, led by Suleimani, have massed on both sides of the border near the Damascus-Baghdad highway, leading to at least three clashes with US forces and their Syrian opposition proxies near the town of Tanf.
The overarching plans of the mullahs remains consolidating its hold throughout the Middle East and that means keeping crucial allies such as Assad in place and maintaining control over friendly governments such as Iraq and Lebanon.
It also means continuing to deflect attention away from its regional ambitions by pointing the finger at the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and even ISIS to blame them for regional instability instead of focusing on the Iranian regime.
Top mullah Ali Khamenei in an act to try to cover up its regime’s fear of recent economic sanctions, kept up the verbal barrage aiming his ire at the Trump administration as the U.S. Senate passed legislation implementing new economic sanctions on the Iranian regime for its support of terrorism and its ballistic missile program.
Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials have ramped up their criticism of the United States in recent weeks after Trump went on an official visit last month to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main regional rival, according to Reuters.
During that visit, Trump singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups. He has also criticized the nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers, including the United States, that led to the lifting of most sanctions against Iran, in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Trump has said Washington would review the deal but stopped short of pledging to scrap it.
Khamenei in an attempt to give morals to its forces, said in his speech on Sunday that any efforts to destabilize the Islamic Republic would not succeed.
“In the past 38 years, when has there been a time when you haven’t wanted to change the Islamic system?” Khamenei said, according to Fars News. “Your head has hit the rock each time and always will.”
Khamenei’s attacks also hint at renewed efforts by the mullahs regime to target and go after Iranian dissidents using the excuse of the ISIS attacks as cover; claiming that suspected militants being arrested or killed as being part of ISIS may in fact just be part of long-standing Iranian opposition groups the regime has tried to diminish.
The largest gathering of Iranian dissident groups is scheduled to hold its annual meeting in Paris later this month and should prove to be a powerful show of support for the ongoing dissident movement.