How an Earthquake Collapsed the Border between Iran’s Syrian and Iraqi Operations

Feb. 28 2023

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Tehran has been managing a network of militias inside Iraq, which in 2014 were formally organized into the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). As the Islamic Republic has tightened its grip on Baghdad, these militias—responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops, countless massacres of Iraqis, and the suppression of protests in 2020—have come to play a role in the Iraqi government and often work alongside the country’s military. The recent earthquake along the Turkish-Syrian border, explains Erik Yavorsky, has now enabled them to team-up with their fellow Iranian proxies in Syria:

Previously, if PMF forces were in Syria, they were doing so without legal orders from Iraq’s commander-in-chief, as required by Iraqi constitution, the chain of command, and the military code of discipline. The earthquake has opened up a significant opportunity for the PMF to work openly in Syria and for Iran to transport weapons to Syria and Lebanon inside aid convoys.

The PMF, which is led by the U.S.-designated human-rights abuser Falah al-Fayyadh and the U.S.-designated terrorist Abdul Aziz al-Muhammadawi (Abu Fadak), quickly established a humanitarian-aid campaign for Syria. . . . The assistance operations are undertaken by Abu Fadak, who was dispatched to Syria to . . . oversee the aid effort. On the Iraqi side of the border, the convoys are facilitated by Qasem Muslih, the PMF’s head of operations in Anbar, who in 2021 was arrested by Iraqi officials in connection to the 2020 murder of an activist. . . . On February 16, . . . Falah al-Fayyadh, met with Bashar al-Assad, [a loyal ally of Iran], in person.

While some rank-and-file PMF members undoubtedly have genuine empathy for the Syrian population and are delivering aid of real value, the [pro-Iranian] leadership of the PMF—comprising U.S.-designated human-rights abusers and terrorists—and their Iranian partners are likely to use the earthquake to improve substantially their cross-border coordination with Assad and Lebanese Hizballah, and to legitimize themselves inside Iraq.

The result is the further advancement of Iran’s plan to create a contiguous sphere of influence that stretches westward to the Mediterranean, and abuts Israel’s northern border. In practical terms, Iraq-Syria coordination makes it easer for Tehran to position advanced weaponry aimed at the Jewish state in Syria and Lebanon.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israeli Security, Syria

The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship