Iran Stumbles

Nearly four decades of unbridled violence in the Middle East, especially recently in Syria and Iraq, has shown that as long as the regime in Iran and its proxies in the regime are not evicted, any political or even military solution aimed at establishing peace, security, and stability in this corner of the globe is doomed to fail.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its special-ops unit known as the Quds Force under the command of Qassem Suleimani, along with Iran-backed militants with various names and identities in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, are seeking anything but the interests of the aggrieved people and Muslims of the Middle East. The destructive and inhumane nature and ambitions seen in Iran’s mullahs and their proxy forces has become crystal clear for all Muslims across the region, Sunnis and Shiites alike, and this has led to the formation of a formidable front against fundamentalism and Islamic extremism throughout the Middle East. 

A brief look at the actions taken by the Iranian regime and its associated forces in the so-called war against ISIS in Iraq’s restive al-Anbar and Diyala provinces reveals that Tehran is seeking no objective other than massacring people in these areas and expanding its sphere of influence in Iraq, all in the absence of a firm Western strategy in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism in the region.  Moreover, this sheds light on the Iranian regime’s failures in the face of its internal and international crises. Involving Tehran and having it participate in resolving Middle East issues is no solution for the region.  In fact, the regime itself is the main element behind warmongering and the spread of terrorism and fundamentalism.

To retake the city of Fallujah in al-Anbar, the anti-ISIS coalition forces and Iraqi troops had a joint plan to use recently trained tribes and launch their operations in this sensitive Sunni heartland.  According to this plan the “Popular Mobilization Forces” (PMF) were to only play a backup role and not be present in the frontlines. The PMF is an umbrella group of Iran-backed Shiite militias, led by Hadi al-Ameri, a former Iraqi minister with ties to the Iranian regime and the Quds Force. Reasons for not directly involving the PMF were obvious and the battle against ISIS in Tikrit showed that Quds Force-affiliated groups pursue a “scorched-land strategy,” “revenge in Sunni areas” and “provoking sectarianism” in order to change the population fabric. While government forces were carrying out the initial stages of this plan, the PMF launched its operation under the command of al-Ameri and began closing in on Fallujah from the western flank. They were seeking to gain control of downtown Fallujah to portray their militias as Iraq’s main and victorious force in al-Anbar.

Their plan to advance was not only inadequate considering the war conditions in al-Anbar, but it also provided for a huge death-trap for Badr forces under al-Ameri’s command. The large number of casualties disrupted all al-Anbar operations planning and postponed the entire campaign. 

This resulted in the PMF being stopped at the gates of Fallujah -- literally mirroring the scenes of Tikrit -- and suffering enormous casualties. Despite the fact that in the past few months they were boasting of “Beheading the snake,” the incompetence shown by their commanders led only to heavy casualties and numerous officers and militants being killed.

Seeking preemptive measures, these Iran-backed forces disrupted all plans focused on using tribal and government forces. Shiite militants hastily began surrounding Fallujah with Qassem Suleimani, Hadi al-Ameri, and his deputy Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes present at the scene to take over Fallujah. Their forces surrounded the city from four different axes and Badr militants led by al-Ameri were assigned to advance in the Saqlaviya axes.

The 4th and 5th brigades of the Badr Corps -- recalling their forces from Tikrit and Diyala -- actually thought they could easily enter Saqlaviya and take the initiative in their favor.

These two brigades lost their most prominent commanders on the verge of entering Saqlaviya.  Abu Montazer al-Mohamaddawi, Abu Habib al-Sakir, and Abu Sarhan al-Sabihawi were the main elements of the Badr Corps. They are known for their roles in the massacre and killings of locals in Iraq’s Diyala and Salahaddin provinces. These commanders played direct roles in the organized sectarian killings in Diyala, aimed at changing the local society’s fabric and also settling the scores with the innocent people of Tikrit under the pretext of their supporting ISIS.

The loss of these senior militant commander and major casualties suffered by the Badr forces devastated Hadi al-Ameri, and one can say the backbone of the Badr Corps was broken in Saqlaviya after such setbacks. Many of the Badr forces were seen insulting and using vulgar language towards their commanders, resulting in new dissent amongst their ranks and files. From then on, waves and waves of artillery barrages and missiles rained down on the region’s deprived people and tribes. These horrific indiscriminate attacks, carried out directly and with the support of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force stationed in the Nazem Ab Tharthar region, lacked any military value and were merely payback attacks against locals.

What is worth noting is that the high number of casualties suffered by the militants in these recent battles shows the PMF is losing its influence and effectiveness on the battlefield, and it truly cannot seize any serious ground without significant support provided by government and coalition forces.

Also noteworthy is that the Iranian regime hosted a major funeral ceremony for Abu Montazer al-Mohamaddawi as the Badr Corps operations officer, and this event was held in southern Tehran’s Shahr-e Ray district. Senior officials such as Qassem Suleimani, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Iran’s paramilitary Bassij commander Mohammad Reza Naghdi were seen participating in this event. News coverage of the deaths of militant commanders, even by the media in Iran, reveals the significant role these men played in the crackdown and killings of innocent people, and how the Iranian regime pursues its military and strategic policies. 

The international community and freedom-loving people in the Middle East are rightfully seeking to uproot any and all types of terrorism and fundamentalism, from ISIS to its Godfather, being Iran. The mullahs sitting on the throne in Tehran have been imposing ISIS-like atrocities on the people of Iran and the region for decades now. Involving this cancer tumor as a solution is truly ironic and once again the people of Iran and Iraq have to pay the price of mistakes made by the West. The only solution for the entire region is regime change in Iran and evicting this regime from the entire Middle East. As we saw the regime giving in to demands made by the West in the nuclear talks, it proved to the Iranian people that the mullahs are at their weakest point and on the verge of overthrow.  For people across the globe, and especially Western politicians, it is now essential to focus on establishing peace and security through a real solution: regime change in Iran and supporting the Iranian people and resistance for a long-overdue democratic shift.

Heshmat Alavi is a political activist and supporter for regime change in Iran. He writes on Iran and the Middle East.

He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi