Iran: debunking the myths and fallacies
This week, Iran’s state-owned Persian news outlets put significant emphasis on comments made by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. He made a series of statements that are not only blatantly absurd but, more importantly, demonstrate his party’s shift from being pragmatic and “moderate” into a hard-line faction that is prioritizing the revolutionary ideals of the Islamic Republic rather than the economic interests of the nation.
To begin with, Zarif intriguingly admitted for the first time that his government evades sanctions. In fact, he boasted about Iran’s skill in sanctions evasion and highlighted the regime’s willingness to help its allies — which include militias, terror groups, state actors and proxies — to similarly skirt international sanctions. He bragged: “If there is an art we have perfected in Iran and can teach to others for a price, it is the art of evading sanctions.”
The Iranian regime resorts to a variety of methods to bypass sanctions and access the global financial system, including using front and shell companies, smuggling, illicit trade and fraudulent business practices.
In addition, and similar to Iran’s hardliners, the foreign minister accused and lashed out at the West and regional powers, blaming them for being the underlying causes of regional instability.
“I think actions speak much louder than words; what is happening in our region, now people are witnessing the source of instability in region, be it in Yemen, be it elsewhere...it’s the wrong policies that are being followed, not only by Saudi Arabia but by its allies in the West who have given it a blank check to continue to make these very dangerous escalations in the region,” he said.
Zarif failed to mention how his government’s sectarian policies, military adventurism and expansionist policies are, in fact, the major causes of conflicts and tensions in the region. In Iraq, the Iranian regime continues to intervene through various strategies, ranging from influencing elections through the use of money, to dispatching troops and transferring arms and missiles to militias.
Lately, according to British security officials, Iran has been deploying hit squads in Iraq — under the instructions of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force — to silence individuals or groups that oppose the Iranian regime’s policies and interventions in Iraq’s internal affairs. For example, Shawki Al-Haddad and Adel Shaker El-Tamimi, who was a supporter of former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, were among the victims of these Quds Force hit squads.
Lately, according to British security officials, Iran has been deploying hit squads in Iraq — under the instructions of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force — to silence individuals or groups that oppose the Iranian regime’s policies and interventions in Iraq’s internal affairs.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Iran consistently attempts to dictate Iraq’s foreign policy. This heightened meddling led to Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi calling on Tehran to stop interfering in his country’s internal affairs.
“Iran does not have the right to meddle in Iraqi affairs and I hope that (Iraq’s) relations with Saudi Arabia will be strategic,” he said.
In Syria, Iran is spending between $15 billion and $20 billion a year to keep Assad’s regime in power and to build permanent military bases. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) continues to build a coalition of Shiite forces and militias in Syria that have committed crimes against humanity, some of the members of which came from countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon. These militias advance Iran’s interests and are turning into the bedrock of Syria’s sociopolitical and socioeconomic infrastructures.
Regarding the Yemeni conflict and Tehran’s support for the Houthis, Iran’s foreign minister strongly denied any involvement, saying: “We have never provided weapons to Houthis…they have enough weapons, they don’t need weapons from Iran.”
It is inconceivable to argue that the Houthis could have obtained the military capabilities and advanced weapons they possess without the assistance of the IRGC and the Quds Force. Several ballistic missiles that were fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi militias were reportedly designed by Iran. Furthermore, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, previously confirmed that the Houthi missiles were manufactured by Iran.
Zarif should listen to his own government’s generals, who frequently admit assisting the Houthis. The deputy commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, Esmail Ghani, boasted that: “Those defending Yemen have been trained under the flag of the Islamic Republic.” Statements by the UN and US, as well as reports by intelligence agencies, have also asserted that Iran is involved in providing arms to the Houthis.
Tehran has also been increasing its efforts to ship advanced weaponry to its militias and proxies, such as Hezbollah, that can turn unguided rockets into precision-guided missiles. Iran’s terror and militant groups across the region are among the key reasons for the ongoing tensions, conflicts and instability.
Iran’s foreign minister did utter one statement that was surprisingly accurate.
“It is obvious that we are facing pressure by the US sanctions but will that lead to a change in policy? I can assure you it won’t,” he said.
Indeed, since its establishment, the Islamic Republic has been repeatedly caught red-handed and sanctioned for violating international laws and several UN resolutions. But the theocratic establishment in Tehran has not altered its revolutionary ideology and extremist principles, which were set by the regime’s founding fathers in 1979.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh