According to the Iranian officials, over 1,000 of their soldiers have been killed in Syrian conflict. Up until this report was published the Iranians admitted the presence of "military advisers" only.

Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, has been present in Syrian conflict to support the Assad regime since late 2011. According to the experts their losses  so far amount to almost 2,000 fighters killed and many more injured.

PMU, Popular Mobilization Units   is an Iraqi and Iranian financed and trained group composed of some 40 primarely Shia militias but there is also some Christian, Sunni and other minority participation. The militant organization was formed by uniting the existing Iraqi militias under one umbrella in June of 2014. The group has repeatedly been accused of human rights violations and atrocities against Sunni civilians.

In September of 2014, the Zaidi-Shiite Houthi minority took over the control of Yemen’s capital Sanaa. At this time they are  being supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran, who have provided the Houthi rebels  with arms, training, and money.  Yemen is just another flashpoint in the ongoing proxy war waged between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia over regional power and influence. 



Iran's Grand Ambitions

Not even a couple weeks into the newly elected U.S. administration's tenure did the rouge Iranian regime reminded everyone that despite the never ending political soap opera that America has become, the world is still a dangerous place and ignoring it's ills can have very dire consequences.

Just to send a reality check to the White House on January the 29th the Iranians conducted a ballistic missile test in apparent violation of UN resolution 2231. Effective July 20th, 2015 this resolution prohibits Iran from conducting the tests designed to deliver the nuclear warheads for eight years. Iranian regime is reading it differently and is vigorously contesting the criticism and claims that Iran is using the ballistic missile technology for purely "defensive purposes".

They are referring back to the language of the nuclear deal signed with the Obama administration and other world powers, which is a different document from the UN resolution. Iranians have been masters in playing a game of chicken with their nuclear program for years, and anybody who thought that they will actually keep their part of the bargain needs to wake up and reevaluate their views.

Secretary Kerry Shakes Hands With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Nuclear Agreement

Secretary Kerry with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Nuclear Agreement.  U.S. Department of State Photo Gallery.

The tested missile flew about 600 miles before disintegrating, but the message to the new U.S. administration was sent and the first punch was thrown. In response the U. S. Treasury Department placed new sanctions on Iran while the White House announced that it was putting Iran "on notice".

Of course the Iranians relish on any confrontation with the United States. Iranian officials were almost competing with each other as to who can come up with with more defiant response to Americans. To summarize their ranting messages, Iran is not afraid of wolf like Trump administration, does not need anyone's permission to carry out their activities and will continue with ballistic missile tests as needed.

On February 10, Iranians celebrated the 38th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Every year since 1979, thousands of Iranians around the country march to commemorate that event by singing revolutionary songs, yelling "death to devil triangle", meaning U.S., Britain and Israel, or just plain "death to America". The event usually ends with the traditional burning of the American flags and fiery speeches that are aimed for domestic political consumption and play for the benefit of the ruling Ayatollah regime.

This year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani personally urged his supporters to rally and "show their unbreakable ties with Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic". The Western media somehow made the event to be an anti Trump rally, but Iranians would have been demonstrated on this day regardless of who the president of the United States was. That is how the regime keeps the revolutionary fire burning.

Trump administration has already been criticized for applying mild sanctions to Iran. The critics of the President demand that we should be very stern with Russians while keeping the Iran nuclear deal afloat at any cost. How is escalating the tensions with second largest nuclear power like Russia and being soft on one of the biggest sponsors of terrorism like Iran benefit the national security of the United States?

It does not! The above strategy is aimed at fighting the Trump administration not our overseas adversaries. That is the problem with the current political climate in U.S. Trump's detractors are so blinded by their pathological hatred for the current president that their view of the world affairs if shaped through the narrow prism of local politics. Anything that hurts Trump is good and anything that helps him becomes a subject to the mass hysteria.

That is a very dangerous state of affairs. Country is so polarized that any rational thinking is presently out of the window. Even the right strategy by the Trump administration against Iran will be criticized domestically and any military confrontation with mullahs has a strong possibility to create an anti Vietnam war like backlash from the left.

Iranians are not stupid. They understand the political dynamics in U.S. very well and no doubt will use it to their advantage. Trump will be portrayed as a warmonger and an Islamophob, the magic words that will get a lot of play domestically. It will become Iran's "Trump Card" if any military confrontation takes place.

You can be rest assured that we will not see much support on Iran policy of the European Union, most of whose members loathe Donald Trump. Their biggest priority today is to handle the influx of millions of migrants and refugees while maintaining the political correctness and fight off the Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. One would think that defeating the obvious threat named the Islamic State would also be one of the priorities, but it does not seem to be the case based on the modest effort EU has exhibited so far.

The fact that Iran is fully invested in the survival of the Assad regime in Syria both financially and militarily is not going to move a needle towards the support of the U.S. policy. Even the fact that by aiding the Assad regime Iran is just as responsible for the refugee crisis afflicting Europe as Islamic State is will not change their short sighted view of the world. Ever since the nuclear deal with Iran was signed and Obama administration sends billions of dollars in cash to Iranians, the European countries are beating each other to the punch in order to win some business from the mullahs.

Does anybody really think that EU bureaucrats will go along with Brexit supporting, NATO criticizing, repeatedly screaming "America First" U.S. president? Not a chance. They will gladly take the Iranian blood money just as millions of Syrian refugees are seeking safe zones all over the Middle East and Europe.

When it comes to Syrian civil war, Vladimir Putin and the Russian air force get most of the credit for lifting a comatose Assad regime out of the ashes of inevitable defeat. But in reality it is Iran who is the the driving force behind the nightmare that it Syria today.

Back in July of 2015, despite the international travel ban imposed on him by UN Resolution 1747, the Iranians delegated the head of the special unit of the Revolutionary Guard called the Quds Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani, to Moscow. His goal was to convince Vladimir Putin that coming to the rescue of the flailing Syrian regime is Russia's national interest priority.

The preliminary talks between the Russian and Iranian officials have already taken place earlier as did a formal request from the Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad asking Russians for a military assistance. Soleimani's visit finalized a deal and began a process of military planning.

Soleimani did not have to do a lot of convincing as Russia had been a major backer of the Syrian regime since the days of the Cold War. Besides having a strong incentive in retaining an unimpeded access to the Syrian naval base in Tartus, the demise of the Assad regime would have meant the diminishing influence of Russia in the wider Middle East. That influence has been steadily disappearing since the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Soleimani's Quds Force has gained a lot of notoriety in the region as the expansionist arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His role is to spread Iranian influence wherever opportunity presents itself through the clandestine military actions and support of the loyal terrorist proxies. He is a very powerful man in Iran, so much so that he reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The Quds Force has been responsible for the deaths of many U.S. servicemen in Iraq, where they operate without any restrictions from the local authorities. Suleimani himself has been designated by U.S. as a terrorist and still is under the travel ban. However it does not deter him from showing up in Iraq, Syria and other places whenever he finds it necessary, including two more trips to Russia the most recent one in February of 2017.

During the 1915 rally commemorating 36th anniversary of the Iranian revolution Soleimani declaired to anyone willing to hear that: “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.” He made those remarks just as Iran was negotiating a nuclear deal with UN Security Council and European Union. Obviously none of the above were listening or just pretended that it somehow does not concern them.

The Gulf States were listening, took notice and since have exhibited an even stronger commitment to the proxy war that is currently raging between them and Iranians and also involving the carousel of multiple allies with shifting loyalties and changing priorities.

Only a few months later the Western powers under U.S. leadership signed a nuclear agree with Tehran that will yield them a nuclear capability in not so distant future. Iranians possess one important quality, patience. They wore the West down into signing a really lousy deal that barring a miracle will make this world a very dangerous place. They signed a deal knowing full well that the unity their opponents enjoyed while maintaining the crippling sanctions on them can no longer be replicated. If you thought the Iranians were aggressive and unapologetic in their goal to export the Islamic Revolution Shia style throughout the the region, wait till they are in the possession of the nukes.

So now Iranians boldly test the ballistic missiles without worrying too much about their critics. On March 4th, 2017 Iran successfully tested a Russian made S-300 surface-to-air missile system. This advanced system was delivered by the Russians a year earlier year in a $800 million dollar deal that was originally made in 2010. It was just another case of the negative side effect of the nuclear agreement as up until it was ratified in October of 2015, the UN Security Council sanctions prohibited the sales of such advanced weapons to Iran. Once the nuclear deal was completed those restrictions were no longer in play and Russia had a green light to complete the delivery.

Iran is absolutely obsessed with Israel. There is hardly a day passes by without a commentary from the Iranian officials about the "Zionist entity" and it's inevitable demise. In March of 2016 they tested two ballistic missiles with 870 mile range, easily capable of reaching Israeli cities. Just to make sure that their message was fully understood, they wrote "Israel must be wiped out" on the missiles in Hebrew.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the IDF Naval Base in Eilat following the interception of an Iranian ship carrying weapons

IDF Naval Base in Eilat following the interception of an Iranian ship carrying weapons. Courtesy of Israel's National Photo Collection. Photo by Haim Zack.

Destruction of the Jewish state and the liberation of Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam, has been one of the pillars of the Iran's ideology ever since Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. Iranian mullahs believe that they have a "permission from God to annihilate Israel" as quoted by Mojtaba Zolnoor, the top deputy to the Supreme Leader, couple of years ago.

The current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself went on Twitter to post his version of the "final solution" in the form of an infographic titled "9 Questions About Elimination of Israel". The Grand Ayatollah and his advisers must have spent a lot of hours devising this masterpiece in which he explains in detail why and how the Jewish State must meet its end.

Within Iranian theocracy there is a strong belief in a divine role they must play in advancing the role of the Shia Islam around the Middle East. They already are playing that role in Syria and Yemen, where they are engaged in the proxy war with the Saudi Kingdom with the long term hopes of playing a much bigger role in the management of the Mecca and Medina. They believe that at this time in history, freeing Jerusalem from the Jews would be more doable and certainly much more popular.

Right along with an unacceptable outcome of the Saudi domination of Syria, one of the main reasons for active Iranian participation in the bloody Syrian war is to retain their military presence at the Israeli border at the Golan Heights and uninterrupted support of their Shia ally and Israel's sworn enemy, the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Just few weeks ago Bibi Netanyahu publicly commented on Iranian ambitions noting that "Iran is attempting to base itself permanently in Syria either through a military presence on the ground or a naval presence and also through a gradual attempt to open a front against us on the Golan Heights."

As if to affirm Natenyahu's point, couple of days ago, the spokesman for Iraqi Shia militia called Harakat al-Nujaba, trained and financed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, made an announcement at press conference in Iran regarding the creation of "Golan Liberation Brigade". The spokesmen, Mr Seyed Hashem Moussavi, also added that "This is a trained army with specific plans. If the government of Syria requests, we and our allies are ready to take action to liberate Golan. We will not permit Arab and Islamic countries in the region to remain in the grasps of the occupiers.”

But the first thing is first. Iran's priority at this time is to complete their mission in Syria as without a decisive victory on that front achieving their other goals is going to be very challenging. To their credit Iranians are all in as far as Syria is conserved. Right after the Syrian rebels evacuated the Eastern Aleppo, the above mention Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was spotted taking a winner's walking tour of the recaptured territory with Syrian army commanders.

He certainly had a reason to be proud of the role Iran has played in saving the Assad regime. They are the ones who convinced Vladimir Putin to bring in the Russian air force to bomb the rebels into the submission. They are the ones who brought in seasoned Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and thousands of ruthless Shia militiamen from Iraq who made their name by committing atrocities against the Sunni civilians in the Anbar province. They are the ones who brought in the young Afghans who are fighting in Syria in exchange for Iranian citizenships for their families. The rumor is that Soleimani is directing all these forces from the heavily fortified command post in Damascus. However he is doing it his efforts so far have been pretty successful.

Russian President Putin, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Meet to Discuss about SyriaRussian President Putin and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Meet In Iran to discuss Syrian Conflict,  Source Khamenei.Ir  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

In Iran the conquest of Aleppo was seen as a monumental event with far reaching consequences for the rest of the region. In his interview to the Iranian media, a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard, General Hossein Salami, summarized the future of Iranian foreign policy when he said the following: "It is now time for the Islamic conquests. After liberation of Aleppo, Bahrain's hopes will be realized and Yemen will be happy with the defeat of enemies of Islam... and the people of Mosul will taste the victory".

What is striking about this quote is that general is talking about the victory and conquest over other Muslims, albeit of Sunni persuasion. He was gleeful in his diatribe just as the world watched Shia militias rob the fleeing civilians of their meager possessions and kill the ones who offered any resistance. His Soldiers of God were firing on beat down, hungry and freezing people who went through months of unrelenting bombardment by Assad and Putin forces. If Iranian leaders take joy from those types of atrocities then they should not be talking about moral superiority over Daesh (ISIS) to whom they refer to as "takfiri" which means an apostate or unbeliever.

Iraqi Shia militias such as Badr Brigades and Kataib Hezbollah are not part of the Iraqi army and officially supposed to report to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The reality is that these groups just like a Lebanese Hezbollah are financed and trained by the Iranians and represent the alternative army within their own country.

They are not a monolithic group and sometimes have a divergent agendas, but a thing that unites them is the fact that they all answer to their bosses in Tehran and not so much to Iraqi officials. One could argue that the existence of those militias is one of the main reasons for the emergence of the Islamic state. The Iraqi advocacy groups have been reporting for years that mistreatment of Sunni civilians by the Shia militias is driving many residents into the supporting and even joining the ranks of ISIS.

Not too long ago the Human Right Watch was quoted that: "Abusive militias and their commanders acting with impunity undermine the campaign against ISIS and put all civilians at the greater risk." They also stated that "reining in militias and holding accountable those responsible for crimes remains an urgent policy."

Unfortunately with the victory in Aleppo and near victory in Mosul nobody is paying too much mind as to what these militias are up to. They are currently part of the multinational coalition fighting to displace the Islamic State and conceivably moving around right along with the Iraqi army units and the U.S. forces. This unnatural alliance will not last very long. As soon as Mosul and other Sunni areas are free of ISIS, the militias will turn on Americans or anybody else the Iranian regime considers as a threat to their interests. It happened before and very likely will happen again.

Jaffar al-Hussaini, the spokesmen for Kataib Hezbollah, expressed those exact sentiments just recently when he talked about the American role in Iraq: "We look at America as our first enemy, the source of all evil on the Earth. American interests in Iraq are within our sights and our firing range. If they act foolishly, their interests will be wiped out."

He could not have been any clearer about Iran's intentions. Whether we like it or not, with the exception of the Kurdish controlled areas, Iran is a dominant player in Iraq and will continue to be such for a foreseeable future. The only opposition to their control of predominantly Sunni areas of Iraq is not going to come from the West but rather other regional Sunni powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

It should be pretty obvious to anyone following the events in the Middle East about Iran's true intentions for the region. It's a deadly combination of imperial ambition and religious supremacy. The Iranian proxies such as Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militias or Huthi rebels in Yemen are not just the regular mercenaries. They are fighting for the advancement of their brand of Islam, which for centuries has played a second hand role to their Sunni counterparts. Iranians employ a very simple formula, get control or strongly influence as much geographical territory as you can and then spread some wealth around promoting your religious philosophy. Look at the tremendous success their arch enemy, the Saudis, accomplished with their oil money in their quest to spread Wahhabism around the world. Iranians seem to have watched and learned from it.

For now the mullahs are content with gradual expansionism by utilizing a help of their proxies as well as partnership with Russia, a superpower who is their military ally in Syria and their protector in the UN. In addition, Russians are providing them with most sophisticated nuclear power and missile technology. Within 12 to 15 years, Iran's obligations to the nuclear deal with expire, they will be free to produce a nuclear arsenal in order to protect the current and the future gains. Sounds like a great plan by the Iranian regime. The only question is how the rest of the world will act during the same period of time in order to prevent it from happening.