How Iran’s Military Strategy against IS may Backfire

By Fazel Hawramy for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

“Today Iran stands at the forefront of the battle and confrontation with the project of the Islamic caliphate, in a way that it funds more than 90 … armed militia groups in Islamic cities,” the narrator proclaimed in a newly released Islamic State (IS) video in which Shiite-majority Iran is portrayed as the source of division in the Muslim world.

In the 37-minute clip published in late March, titled “Persian Land, From Yesterday to Today,” Iranian IS members list what they see as crimes against Sunnis committed by the Islamic Republic and call on their brethren to take up arms against Tehran, saying, “Our war has started against the Persians. … I call in particular on the Sunnis in Iran to prepare for this war … and we are behind you.”

Despite Iran’s important role in degrading IS, the terrorist group has not been able to carry out any attacks inside the Islamic Republic, unlike much of the rest of the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic has been under constant domestic and foreign threats.

As a result, it has developed a sophisticated intelligence and surveillance network that has effectively dealt with internal threats. In terms of external threats, Iran prefers to fight them in neighboring countries and has in those endeavors managed to prop up and support various proxies including Shiite, Sunni and secular groups across the region. Perhaps the most potent aspect of this strategy to deal with external threats has been the streamlining of the Iranian decision-making process.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, who was pushing the White House for a military response to IS advances in Iraq in the summer of 2014, must have envied Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s Quds Force, who was on the front line in Jalawla in Diyala province deploying Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) advisers and heavy artillery to stop IS at that time.

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