Hamid Azimi is the Communications Director for the Iranian American Community of Northern California. Azimi has been actively promoting Human Rights and democratic change in Iran, exposing and combating the Iranian Ayatollahs’ Islamic Fundamentalism. His writings and interviews have been covered by many California based news outlets as well as major national news agencies
From 2003 onwards, the Iranian regime’s influence has spread rapidly across the Middle East. The regime’s foreign policy is ambitious and seeks to expand Iranian influence in order to preserve power and fulfill ideological goals. Regime officials have admitted on record that Iran is fighting across the Middle East so that it doesn’t have to fight at home. While this aggressive, interventionist policy may be suitable for the regime, it is certainly damaging to the subjects of its meddlings and undermines global efforts towards peace and stability in the region.
Iran’s role has been particularly destructive in Syria. The civil war, which began when Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a violent crackdown on protesters during the Arab spring, has so far claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people. Half of the Syria’s population has been displaced. Throughout the course of the civil war, Iran has interfered by enabling Assad to remain in power despite the use of chemical weapons by him. Iran has not only sent arms to Syria but also provided fighters. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Quds Force and thousands of fighters from Iran-backed Hezbollah are helping the brutal Syrian army fight against rebels and consolidate power. Apart from this, there are several other groups of Shiite militias that operate in Syria. Recently, an Israeli strike killed a group of Hezbollah fighters along with a general of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps once again confirming Iran’s presence in the region.
Iran’s meddling has led to an escalation in sectarian tensions and violence. The regime has an overtly sectarian agenda. It is the primary reason why it remains at odds with most Arab countries, which are wary of Iran’s activities in the Middle East. Regime officials have been boasting about Iran’s reach saying that Tehran controls four capitals; Baghdad, Sana’a, Beirut and of course, Damascus. Iran-backed militias have been killing Sunnis in hundreds in certain provinces of Iraq. These killings have only made ISIS appear more desirable to Sunnis who may have never joined the fighting. This is happening at time when an international coalition is trying to counter ISIS and Iran’s activities will ensure that all efforts go in vain.
Reactionary Sunni groups such as ISIS would not have emerged if not for Iran’s role in the region. Currently, IRGC and Hezbollah fighters along with Syrian forces are preparing to launch an offensive on the southern front.
Unless Iran withdraws support from Syria, peace will not come. The cycle of violence which, has engulfed both Iraq and Syria, will not be broken as long as the international community fails to ensure Iran’s eviction from other countries. The regime’s objectives are at odds with the interests of the West and the local populations. Arab countries will not tolerate Iran’s interference, even its presence during any regional talks on the issue.