Iran’s military involvement in Syria and Iraq and assistance to Hezbollah are among the Islamic Republic’s “unique achievements”, according to Chief Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari.
“The Islamic Republic has organized a 100,000-strong people’s force in Syria fighting the Islamic State (IS), Al-Nusra Front and other opponents of Bashar al-Assad,” Jafari told Soroush, a biweekly state-run magazine. He added that an equal force was organized in Iraq.
In tandem with its own military personnel in Syria, the Islamic Republic has recruited citizens of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries to serve in military units, including in the Liwa Fatemiyoun (Fatemiyoun Division), a division made up mainly of Hazara refugees living in Iran, and the Liwa Zainebiyoun (Followers of Zainab Brigade) composed of Pakistani immigrants.
Jafari said Iran had a responsibility to “share experience” with national forces in Syria and Iraq, insisting Iran’s presence in those countries is at the request of Damascus and Baghdad.
Washington has repeatedly condemned Iran’s military interventions in the region, including in Iraq and Syria, as “destructive,” asserting that such operations were one of the reasons that President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Two days ago, the State Department’s special representative on Iran, Brian Hook, once again warned Tehran against its involvement in Iraq and Syria.
“Since 1979 they have sought to undermine various states, and they want to replace their national identity with a sectarian identity,” Hook told Alhurra television March 15, adding that this has created a lot of instability in the Middle East and contributed to much violence and bloodshed.
Meanwhile, EU leaders have also said that despite their opposition to Washington’s decision to leave the nuclear deal, they also believe the Islamic Republic is playing a destructive role in the region.
Gen. Jafari went on to boast about Iran’s part in arming the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon, claiming, “Lebanon’s Hezbollah enjoys rockets with a range that covers the whole Israeli-occupied territories.”
The U.S. and the UK have added the Lebanese Hezbollah to their list of terrorist groups, while the EU has also listed Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization.
In the meantime, Israel has warned that it will never allow the Islamic Republic to build a corridor between Tehran and Beirut by cementing its military presence in Syria. Iranian military targets inside Syria have been hit by Israel hundreds of times already, Tel Aviv says.