The November terrorist attacks in Paris left 130 innocent people killed and many more injured. As law enforcement agencies continue their manhunt for the perpetrators’ network, France has stepped up attacks on ISIS in Syria, and every effort is being made to crush the Islamic extremists potentially plotting future deadly attacks.
Syria has been the hub for ISIS growth, which benefitted from the sectarian violence in Iraq to expand its breeding grounds. From a geopolitical perspective, however, a key player-- keeping Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in power, thereby exacerbating the crisis in Syria, and fueling the sectarian violence in Iraq-- is undisputedly the theocracy ruling Iran.
At least 5,000 Iranian revolutionary guards are currently active in Syria. Thousands more from Hezbollah, Iraqi militias, as well as Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries have joined them.
The IRGC is mostly fighting the Free Syrian Army and Jaish al-Fatah and its associate forces; it is not even present in regions where they could come into contact with ISIS.
The solution to ISIS does not lie solely in increased security measures, enhanced manpower and resources, and better intelligence. Rather, it requires, a fundamental policy shift aimed at drying up the Islamic fundamentalists’ resources and recruiting grounds.
The infamous Quds Force Commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani has dispatched his top lieutenants to Syria, including his deputy, Brig. General Esmail Qa’ani, who recently commanded the IRGC forces in a battle in Aleppo. He replaced General Hossein Hamedani, who was killed there in October. In addition, other senior commanders in Syria include Brig. Gen. Qassem Rostami, former commander of IRGC’s Khatam Base and Oil Minister under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now the commander of logistics of the war in Syria; Brig. General Ahmad Madani, the commander of IRGC in the northern front in Syria and currently stationed in the Aleppo region. A total of 16 IRGC Brigadiers General have been killed in Syria so far.
Therefore, the solution to ISIS does not lie solely in increased security measures, enhanced manpower and resources, and better intelligence. Rather, it requires, a fundamental policy shift aimed at drying up the Islamic fundamentalists’ resources and recruiting grounds.
Let’s remember that this new brand of extremism, which merged backward ideas with terrorism, emerged when the mullahs seized power in Iran in 1979. Ever since, Iran’s clerics have institutionalized this sinister phenomenon, which has evolved into a pillar of their rule. The first macro hostage-takings, suicide operations, and street bombings in the west under the cloak of Islam, occurred subsequent to the ayatollahs’ rise to power. Utilizing the power of a state, Iran’s clerics lent Islamic fundamentalism an unprecedented scope, legitimizing their vicious conduct under the banner of Islam while mentoring and inspiring other like-minded extremists.
Simply put, the regime ruling Iran is the Shia version of this menace, and ISIS is the Sunni version. Tehran is the godfather, with a much longer record and, as a state, with deeper pockets, both in terms of resources and political leverage.
As Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, underscored after the Paris attack, fundamentalism in the name of Islam - whether under the banner of Shia and velayat-e faqih or under the banner of Sunni and ISIS – has nothing to do with Islam. This ominous phenomenon, wherever it might be, is the enemy of peace and humanity.
Prior to the Paris attacks, French President Francois Hollande, during a visit to Athens on October 23, 2015, said, “Bashar al-Assad is not the solution, he is the problem.” After 300,000 killings and the displacement of millions of people, Assad must go. An end to Assad would also significantly diminish Tehran’s ability to support Hezbollah in Lebanon, and another major blow to the Iranian regime’s regional influence.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of "The Iran Threat" (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org, and is on twitter @A_Jafarzadeh.