17th Aug, 2012 –

Iran believes that the Syrian regime is not killing its citizens quickly enough, so it has been busy establishing militias to accelerate the carnage.

We saw a similar pattern in Iraq during the worst of the violence, where Iran established a number of sectarian militias – notably Jaysh al-Mahdi – to murder political opponents; drive explosive-packed vehicles into marketplaces full of women and children; and settle Iran’s political scores.

This is an indication that the violence in Syria will get even uglier. In the eyes of the Syrian and Iranian leadership, such militias are an advantage because they are unaccountable. These armed groups can murder dozens of civilians and the politicians can deny all knowledge and responsibility.

Iran has described the Syrian regime as part of a vital alliance which it will not allow to be broken. Here we see Iran’s leaders rolling up their sleeves and demonstrating by their actions their willingness to defend this alliance – getting their hands covered in Syrian blood in the process.

Because this militia, “Jaysh al-Sha’b”, is made up of Shias and Alawis, Iran is further contributing to the sectarian hatred and communal violence – helping to fuel enmities and a cycle of vengeance which will be with us for generations.

This is in addition to the substantial training, assistance, financing and provision of weapons which is provided directly by Iran to the Syrian regime. According to senior US military figures, Iran has begun establishing such militias at a time when the regular Syrian military is suffering from severe problems with morale, resupply and combat fatigue. Iran sees its ally begin to topple and is stepping in directly to shore up the Butchers of Damascus.

We should not be surprised by Iran’s actions in Syria. It has pursued very similar policies in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere: Anywhere where it sees an opportunity to pursue its aggressive expansionist aims at the expense of the Arab world. Even in Gulf states like Kuwait, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Iranian espionage networks are well known to be active, looking for further opportunities to spread chaos, disunity and instability.

Meanwhile, the Arab world has been blissfully sleeping. Our leaders smile and shake those blood-soaked Iranian hands at international summits; and while we talk about Muslim unity and solidarity, our Iranian interlocutors agree with our words and do the exact opposite.

Because of our carelessness and inattentiveness over recent years, nations like Iraq and Lebanon are firmly within Iran’s stranglehold, and Syria’s people now struggle bravely to free themselves.

Syria’s struggle is just as much against Iranian hegemonic aspirations as it is against President Bashar al-Asad. Let’s not stand idly by.

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