Written by Ryan Mauro
When an enemy gives insight into his strategic thinking, it pays to listen. A Hezbollah member of Lebanon’s parliament, retired Brigadier-General Walid Sakariya, predicts that Israel will be destroyed by a “Shiite crescent” in a war with hundreds of thousands of deaths. This war, he says, can only commence once two things happen: Iraq is absorbed into Iran’s bloc after a U.S. withdrawal and the Syrian regime is saved.
Sakariya says that Iraq is blocking plans to destroy Israel by acting as a “buffer zone.” Once U.S. forces completely leave, Iraq will fall to the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis, permitting Iranian forces to march through its territory. A “Shiite crescent” is created, bringing together over 100 million people in a war against Israel, he explains. He recognizes the high cost of such a conflict, and predicts “hundreds of thousands” of “martyrs” and the use of nuclear weapons by Israel. To Sakariya, the prize of destroying Israel is worth that price. The war hasn’t started only because Iran’s bloc anticipates more permissible conditions.
However, Sakariya concedes that the plan to destroy Israel requires preserving Syria as a member of the “confrontation” bloc and adding Iraq. Iran has undoubtedly made achieving these objectives its top priority.
“If Syria, as a confrontation country, fails, America and the Zionist enterprise will be victorious,” he said.
The Iranian regime quickly dispatched the Revolutionary Guards to Syria to help the Assad regime cope with the uprising against it. Joint commander centers were built in Homs and in Damascus International Airport. Iran is spending $23 million to build a Revolutionary Guards base at an airport in Latakia by the end of 2012. It will be able to host planes that can deliver up to 40 tons of weapons each. Defected Syrian soldiers claim that Iran and Hezbollah are behind the executions of disloyal troops, and Iranian snipers are active on the ground.
Iran’s proxies are working hard to force a complete withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from Iraq in order to open up the opportunities mentioned by Sakariya. In June, the number of U.S. casualties spiked to the highest monthly level since 2008. The U.S. blamed the attacks on Iran, and top officials publicly warned of reprisals. Three Iranian proxies were responsible: Kaitab Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and the Promised Day Brigade, a group that split from the Mehdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, who is also pledging to renew his jihad if U.S. forces stay.
Moqtada al-Sadr fled to Iran when the surge began. There, he earned the title of Grand Ayatollah. The Iranians clearly want to use him to lead the Iraqi Shiites. In April, he threatened to “escalate military resistance” if U.S. forces stay past the end of the year, and one of his aides said, “We are all time bombs and detonators at the hands of Moqtada al-Sadr.” He recently declared that any non-combat U.S. soldier in Iraq will be considered a legitimate target. “Whoever stays in Iraq will be treated as an unjust invader and should be opposed with military resistance,” his online statement reads.
There are strong obstacles standing in the way of Sakariya’s vision. The Iranians are undoubtedly employing every method and every technology they can to save the Assad regime in Syria, yet the protests continue to grow. Defectors claim that many more soldiers are deserting than is being reported. One defector said that 4,000 soldiers defected in Damascus alone, and hundreds of others have been imprisoned for refusing to shoot civilians. A Syrian opposition site claims that over 22,000 soldiers, including 7,000 officers have been jailed for disobeying orders.
In Iraq, Iran has been forced to downscale its proxy warfare. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that there has been a “dramatic reduction” of Iranian-backed attacks in recent weeks because of joint U.S.-Iraqi operations. The Iraqi government seems certain to authorize an extension of the U.S. military’s stay, with the U.S. offering to keep 8,500 to 10,000 troops in the country.
The Iraqi political environment is also unfavorable to Iran. Over 40 percent of Iraqi Shiites view Iran’s influence negatively, and only 18 percent view it positively. In the last elections in March 2010, the cross-sectarian bloc led by Iyad Allawi, a pro-American, secular Shiite, came in first place. The bloc of Prime Minister al-Maliki, who authorized offensives against Iranian proxies, came in a close second. The parties most closely aligned with Iran were defeated in a landslide.
Hezbollah MP Sakariya has done the West a favor by outlining the ambitions of the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis for the region, and identifying the linchpins of its strategy. If the fall of the Assad regime and the continued presence of the U.S. military in Iraq is what the axis is fighting against, then that is exactly what we must fight for.