Iranian Imperialism: How the Nuclear Deal aids Iran's Expansionist Policies
With the lifting of sanctions against its nuclear program, Iran is on the precipice of acquiring close to $150 billion in frozen assets that, after money used for domestic regime expenditures, will then be used to fund Iranian militant proxies in the region and maybe even beyond.
Even with sanctions, Iran has been able to shape an asymmetrical expansionist campaign in the Middle East in order to spread its influence. In a recent report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, experts detailed what these effects will most likely be, with the resulting research pointing to a boost in Iranian proxy and militant groups in the region.
One way Iran will tip the balance is by using money to influence politics in Iraq by funding the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), which are all U.S.-designated terrorist groups with direct ties to Iran’s Quds Force, because it is expected that these PMU commanders will run for the upcoming Iraqi provincial elections and parliamentary elections in 2017 and 2018, respectively. As the report states, an influx of money would “trigger an unprecedented intensification of influence buying in Iraq.” While Iraq is already in major turmoil because of ISIS, this will upset U.S. efforts for democratization and moderation in the Iraqi government thus expanding Iran’s imperialism to its once former nemesis.
Throughout the Syrian civil war, Iran has helped fund and maintain Assad’s regime and will now be able to increase its funding to Syria on a higher level. Iran will provide military power through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which already the pro-Assad militias, as well as sending an infusion of cash to its Hizb’allah fighters who are also on the ground fighting the rebels. Ultimately Syria and Assad will come to rely on Iran and in doing so Iran will expand its hegemonic reach in the region.
As mentioned, Iran’s main military proxy Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, stands to gain a large infusion of money, as well as the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. These Iranian military operatives were created for the purpose of infiltrating other countries in the Middle East to foster extremism by exploiting local grievances, encouraging sectarianism, and spreading the perverse Iranian slander of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism to those the recruit. These proxy groups, most notably Hizb’allah, have proven successful and have helped subvert regional conflicts and even cause turmoil. Iranian incitement has proven very affective and with more funds it will be able to subvert power in the region by funneling money into its Quds Force to create, foster, and grow Shiite militants in order to extend its power.
While the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was initially apprehensive of nuclear deal with Iran, they have now made a statement in favor of the deal. However, in an online interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Kissel, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot said that it is clear the Gulf States are really not in favor of the deal and that the statement of support is in name only. The Gulf fears Iranian expansionism and would like to see the United States bomb Iranian nuclear facilities when a bomb is developed. The GCC does not want to publicly oppose the deal because they see Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu as alienating himself with his persistent criticism of the deal and they would like to be stay on the administration’s “good side.” The Gulf States are not naïve, though, and will take steps towards protecting their own interests, but what does that entail? Well, they too will most likely enter the nuclear arms race! So while Obama and his team have tried to stop the proliferation of nuclear arms in the region with Iran, the countries in the Middle East will start taking measures in order to ensure their survival and defense against nuclear weapons. They will also ramp up their support of forces they think will block Iranian expansionism, which means making a common cause with Sunni extremists against Iran like ISIS.
The purpose of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is to stop Iran from attaining a nuclear bomb, but its many flaws will inevitably allow Iran to produce a nuclear bomb ten years from now, and along the way it will continue to slander the U.S. and spread extremism, radicalism, and sectarianism in the region. We are about to enter a new Middle East reality that will have extremists and radicals fighting each other on another level that we cannot imagine, but will soon be our reality.