IranReview- Q: Recent advances by the resistance front – including Damascus, Tehran and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement – in Syria have increased the possibility of putting an end to the civil war in Syria with the government of President Bashar Assad emerging as the final victor. Can further empowerment of this front lead to serious security concerns for the Zionist regime? What reactions Tel Aviv is possible to show to this new situation?
A: New achievements in the battlefield across the region, particularly in Syria and Iraq and especially the failure of terrorism in achieving its goals following liberation of city of Al-Bukamal, have practically caused the structure of Daesh’s military forces and self-proclaimed government to collapse. This development has been considered as a turning point in what has so far happened in Syria. At the same time, we witnessed a tripartite meeting among heads of state from Iran, Russia and Turkey in the Russian port city of Sochi, which in my opinion, this meeting was also a turning point from the viewpoint of political developments. Of course, cooperation among Iran, Russia and Turkey in managing military developments on the ground in Syria has been an effective and useful cooperation and has had good results, including serious fight against terrorism and restoration of calm to Syria and region. These developments are requisites for any kind of discourse and effort aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict in Syria.
On the whole, a glance at the present trend of developments shows that the Zionist regime will naturally have concerns in this regard. This is especially true under conditions when Syria is moving toward calm and stability and the highest achievements in this regards belong to the party that is known to have been fighting terrorism and has been responsible for restoring calm and tranquility to the region. Most experts believe that the Zionist regime is willing to see controlled crises in its periphery. Subsequently, these developments, which are in the offing, are not in line with the Zionist regime’s approach to its neighboring countries. In other words, the current trend in Syria is toward restoration of calm and stability, but the Zionist regime is not willing to see this and does not agree with restoration of that sort of stability and calm that it has no role in its establishment, because Tel Aviv considers such stability as a threat to itself.
It is possible that after annihilation of the old form of Daesh, we would see an effort by the Zionist regime and the United States to change application of Daesh or take new measures to ensure continuation of instability and unrest in Syria in order to achieve two goals. The first goal is to prevent progress of the common project pursued by the resistance front and Russia in the region with the second goal being to buy time for themselves in order to orchestrate developments that would be in line with their own goals. The Zionist regime and the United States currently lack a solid strategy toward the crisis in Syria.
This is because their primary plans for stoking crisis and gaining desirable results from those crises have hit a stonewall and, therefore, these plans have failed to give them enough time to immediately come up with a substitute strategy. As a result, they are merely trying to buy more time. Of course, due to the type of interaction that Russia has with other actors and international partners, Russians are doing their best to consider a role for Americans and Israelis in management of regional developments and have been trying to change them form a party to the conflict to a partner. In their effort, Russians have been somehow successful with regard to Americans and have been able to initiate a common discourse with them. However, Russians are still far from those desirable conditions, which would help they turn the United States from an adversary into a partner to efforts made to establish stability and security in the region. The Zionist regime, however, due to its nature, does not agree with the current course of developments and it seems that no effort aimed at making this regime move toward establishment of stability in the region would bear fruit.
One reason for the very existence of the Zionist regime is the rule of weak and inefficient regimes in the region, which lack necessary defensive and military power. On the other hand, such regimes have been already involved in crises whose final goal is to distract attention from the main issue in the region, which is the issue of Palestine and the Zionist regime’s acts of aggression and occupationism. Another problematic approach taken by the Zionist regime is its effort to create small ethnic groups and countries under ethnic and racial labels. This approach is pursued by this regime in parallel to its main approach, which is to create unrest and instability in the region.
Q: We have seen many comments emerged during past months and weeks about what they call “Iran’s land corridor” from Iraq and Syria to southern Lebanon and also about increased military presence of Iran and Hezbollah along the borders of the occupied Golan. In your opinion, what kind of reactions such comments may cause on the part of the Zionist regime?
A: The issue of a land corridor, or the connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and other members of the resistance front through land, lacks a strong logic and I consider it as only an excuse. In fact, what is currently going on in this region is a chain of geopolitical changes and this issue is a major cause of concern for the Zionist regime. At the present time, it is easy to procure weapons in the world and a good example to the point was how such groups as Daesh or resistance groups that fight terrorists and Takfiris managed to procure weapons. When you look at Houthi fighters in Yemen, you see that they are under total blockade by Saudi Arabia, so that, it is not possible to send food and medicine for people in that country, but Houthis are still resisting the most savage attacks by the Saudi-led coalition against this impoverished nation with the least amount of provisions.
The important issue here is the formation of new resistance groups with their own independent identity. Physical presence in such fronts is not of high importance or even necessary for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran does not seek to be physically present in any of these countries, and basically speaking, such presence has no place in the military and defensive doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran does not follow an approach similar to that of the colonialist powers, which tried to boost their influence in other countries through military presence in those countries. The influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran is more of a spiritual nature. If governments based on the will of nations came to office in these countries, it would pave the way for the Islamic Republic of Iran to meet its common interests with these countries and this is an issue, which would threaten the interests of the Zionist regime.
The interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran are met through failure of projects that aimed to bring down the government and change the regime in Syria and also through continued rule of the country on the basis of the will of the Syrian people. This is a goal pursued by Iran, which has been always looking for a political solution since a long time ago and form the beginning of the crisis in Syria. Therefore, presence or absence of Iranian soldiers in Syria will not lead to a major change in this regard. This is why the Zionist regime resorts to unfounded excuses such as Iran’s physical presence or a land link between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the resistance front in order to show its concern about the main issue, which is the ongoing geopolitical changes in the region that have started in Yemen and will finally include Bahrain, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Syria and finally Palestine.
I believe that after the fall of Daesh, we will witness continuation of hostile policies of the Zionist regime. The signs of such policies that antagonize Iran have been seen since the election of the US President Donald Trump as exemplified by his effort to put an end to the nuclear deal with Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Thereafter, these policies continued through promotion of Iranophobia and also through a project that sought to “securitize” the region and was initiated by the Trump’s administration and the Zionist regime as well as the allies and proxies of the United States in the region.
Q: It seems that a joint plan has been put into gear against the Lebanese Hezbollah movement by the United States, Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition as well as the Zionist regime of Israel. Assuming this to be true, what is your opinion about the future outlook of security situation in Lebanon and the entire region?
A: In my opinion, designing such plans by the triangular alliance of the United States, Saudi Arabia and the Zionist regime is the sign of their passivity in the face of victories gained by the resistance front, including Hezbollah, in regional developments, especially the eradication of Daesh terrorist group. Therefore, this triangle is actually reacting to these achievements and is trying to mount pressure on Hezbollah, the resistance front and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their final goal is to cover up their own weaknesses and also to get the resistance front preoccupied with less important issues.
There was a time when Saudis tried to denounce the “resistance” trait of this front and strip it of this title. However, at the present time, a large part of people in Lebanon emphasis the necessity of resistance. At the present time and unlike the past, the equation of resistance – people – army has been accepted by the Lebanese government as a necessity and this state of affairs should continue in the future as well. Various governments in Lebanon have seen how Hezbollah has been able to do away with active threats that were in the offing or had been posed to Lebanon’s borders. At the same time, they have witnessed how the Lebanese army has been successful in its cooperation with the resistance front to repel many threats that were posed to identity and existence of various Lebanese groups. These evidence shows that the clock is ticking in favor of the resistance and this is why Saudi Arabia summoned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is an influential personality in Lebanon’s developments, to Riyadh in order to prevent him from being part of these achievements.
Through cooperation with Hezbollah and other groups that are in line with the resistance front, Saad Hariri paved the way for determination of Lebanon’s prime minister and president and this measure brought calm to Lebanon. In turn, tranquility in Lebanon allowed Hezbollah and the resistance front to focus on issues outside Lebanon and deal with more serious risks that threatened Lebanon outside its borders. As a result, Hezbollah considered Hariri and his government as a party to these achievements, but this was not desirable for Saudi Arabia. Therefore, by summoning Hariri to Saudi Arabia, the government in Riyadh tried to remind him that his move was not in line with Saudi Arabia’s goal. Basically, creating a stable environment in Lebanon has never been a goal for Saudis and this is why they forced Saad Hariri to tender his resignation. In my opinion, if with regard to the future outlook of Lebanon, we assume that Saudi Arabia, the Zionist regime and the United States are antagonizing and countering the resistance front, we must expect a new period of tension in Lebanon. It is possible that Saad Hariri will accept to form a new cabinet. In this case, Saudi Arabia is sure to take more obstructionist measures and their unsuitable demands may practically prevent formation of a new government in Lebanon, which will subsequently lead to an institutional void in that country.
Alternatively, Saad Hariri may basically not accept to form a new government. In this case, the process started by Riyadh will continue through leveling new accusations against Hezbollah and demanding this movement to disarm, which in turn, will intensify turbulence in the political atmosphere both outside and inside Lebanon. It is not clear whether all political actors in Lebanon are ready for this turbulence, or whether it is possible to unilaterally impose those scenarios, which cause tension, on other actors that seek stability and calm in Lebanon. On the whole, as an expert who is present in Lebanon and is familiar with this country, I feel that the current conditions in Lebanon are totally different from the past and domestic conditions in this country do now allow for such unilateral scenarios to be implemented. Unlike past years, Lebanon is now endowed with resistance and steadfastness and smart management of crises, and the Zionist regime can no more implement is various scenarios in this country in a unilateral manner. At the present time, the balance of power, political conditions, and the balance of political forces in Lebanon have given birth to very complicated conditions, which practically prevent implementation of unilateral scenarios in this country.
Q: How possible, do you think, is the breakout of a new war between the Zionist regime and Hezbollah and what could be the consequences of such a conflict? What parties would join the coalition that would take shape to support this war?
A: At the present time, conditions are such that the Zionist regime is in serious trouble and the resistance front has brought under its control a vast geographical expanse. There was a time when geographically speaking, the resistance front was limited to a few kilometers along the southern borders of Lebanon, but due to strategic mistakes made by the Zionist regime and the United States with regard to the crisis in Syria, now its domain spans the entire area of this country. In addition, Hezbollah and the resistance front have gained a valuable experience during the civil war in Syria, where they fought complex battles, which were a combination of classic and guerilla warfare. Apart from its costs for the resistance front, this war has helped the resistance front and Hezbollah to play a role totally different from their role during the 33-day war in Lebanon.
At the present time, Hezbollah’s activities are no more restricted to Lebanon, and due to requests made on Hezbollah to expand its activities, this group has turned into an actor, whose domain goes far beyond Lebanon’s borders. Some analysts even believe that at the present time, Hezbollah has turned into an effective and responsible factor in the political arrangements in the Middle East. At the present time, Hezbollah, as a responsible actor against terrorism that threatens the entire world, is fighting against terrorism on behalf of the whole world and is defending the entire world, including Europe and the Arab world.
Of course, the Zionist regime seeks annihilation of Hezbollah and the resistance front, but the reality that has been imposed on this regime is that Tel Aviv is not able to do away with this phenomenon. When answering the question as to whether the Zionist regime is able to start another adventurism against Hezbollah, I must say that it is very difficult for the Zionist regime to make any decision to take such a step. At the present time, voices can be heard within the Zionist regime that are against such adventurism.
Now, in view of the heavy defeat that the Zionist regime’s army suffered at the hands of Hezbollah in its war in 2006, the question is how Tel Aviv can start a new war that would not end in a similar defeat? If officials of the Zionist regime want to make a wise decision, they will never enter such a war against Hezbollah again. On the other hand, Hezbollah has to a large extent achieved its goal, which is to develop deterrence power, and the Zionist regime is no more able to freely embark on any form of attack and act of aggression in any point of Lebanon. To answer another part of your question, I must say that without a doubt, Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries of the Persian Gulf will welcome a military attack by the Zionist regime against Hezbollah and will offer their political and financial support for it as well.
Therefore, in case of such a war, we will certainly witness a long line of Arab countries that will support the Zionist regime’s military operations against Hezbollah in a way stronger than what they did in 2006. This is why an official in the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a while ago that it is no surprise that officials in Saudi Arabia say in Arabic exactly the same thing that Israeli officials say in Hebrew.
Q: What is your opinion about Russia’s position and what would be Moscow’s stance in case of possible escalation of tensions?
A: I believe that the position that Russians will take in the face of any tension in the region will serve as a deterrent factor. The Russians’ plan is to advance successfully in the region and this success has been owed to their strategic cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This cooperation meets strategic needs of the two countries and has been highly successful so far.
As a result of this cooperation, Russians have once again returned to international arena and the Middle East as a global power. Russians have managed to successfully implement those projects that they undertook to carry out, including fighting against terrorism, in cooperation with Hezbollah. For this reason, Russia is sure to prevent any tensions that would fall outside its plan and challenge it. It is certain that a military conflict between the Zionist regime and Hezbollah would be against that plan and Russians are sure to prevent it. However, if such a disadvantageous war takes place, Russians will certainly deal with it with a high sense of responsibility and will prevent disruption of the balance that has come about in the region and is beneficial to Moscow as well.
Q: Do you believe that if such a war breaks out, Iran will get directly involved in it?
A: There is no doubt that the Islamic Republic of Iran will defend Hezbollah movement. The main reason behind the birth of the resistance front was to fight against occupationist policies of the Zionist regime. Therefore, if the Zionist regime makes such a miscalculation, it would be the best opportunity for the resistance front to achieve its goals. Therefore, if a new war is imposed on Hezbollah, the resistance front will resume its fight from where it had left off at the end of the 33-day war. Israelis exactly know what this means. For this reason, one of the responsibilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to support the oppressed nations of the world and those groups that seek to have their rights realized. This issue has been proclaimed equivocally and by the highest official in the Islamic Republic establishment, that is, the Supreme Leader of Iran.
Without a doubt, the start of a new war is not desirable for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran is now in good conditions in the region and the resistance front has the upper hand in the fight against terrorism. As a result, Iran does not welcome more tensions in the region just in the same way that further conflict is not desirable for the implementation of Russia’s plans and is not in line with its regional goals.
Q: What options are available to the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to thwart plans implemented by the triangle of the United States, the Zionist regime and Saudi Arabia? What is your opinion about Europe’s position in this regard?
A: Establishment of stability and calm is a priority for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran wants any plans, which are implemented in the region, to serve regional stability and security. There is no doubt that stability and tranquility in the region are requisites if Iran is to meet its interests. Therefore, any form of instability harms us first of all, and it is Iran, which must pay its cost. There is no doubt that our security is tied to stability and security in the region and vice versa. Therefore, Iran’s main approach is to prevent any new tensions in the region and help settle old tensions through political solutions, so that, the region will experience stability and calm. There is also no doubt that crisis in the region does not meet the interests of European countries either and they have emphasized this point in negotiations with Iran.
The position taken and the new approach adopted by European countries after Trump announced his strategy towards the JCPOA, and their firm support for the nuclear deal with Iran has been unique. Perhaps, such a wide gap has never been seen during past years between approaches adopted by Americans and Europeans with regard to any issue. This means that Europeans are aware that stability in the region will benefit them as well. In this way, we have found a common ground and bilateral strategic viewpoint with Europeans, which perhaps can be described as the early stage of achieving a common strategic viewpoint with European countries. If this common strategic ground is managed correctly, it may lead to constructive and good results.
Europe can be a good partner for us for the establishment of stability and security in the region. The role played by Russia has also proved that we can count on this country’s approach for establishing stability in the region and the Islamic Republic of Iran can serve as a connecting link between Russia and the European Union. On the other hand, regional cooperation, including among Iran, Turkey and Egypt, can play a positive role in restoring stability and facilitating management of regional crises. I believe that at the present time, the region is going through a fluid and transitional stage and, in other words, is undergoing a strategic molting.
Mohammad Reza Rauf Sheibani
Interviewer: Ramin Nadimi
Expert in Defense and Military Affairs