Tehran’s mission accomplished!

The strikes were limited and did not challenge the military superiority of the Assad regime.
Sunday 22/04/2018
Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami (C) attending a meeting with Iraqi, Russian and Syrian officials in Baghdad, on April 19. (Iranian Defence Ministry)
Geostrategic game. Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami (C) attending a meeting with Iraqi, Russian and Syrian officials in Baghdad, on April 19. (Iranian Defence Ministry)

US President Donald Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” tweet about the coordinated US, British and French military operation against targets in Syria was criticised and ridiculed in the United States and abroad but there is some truth in it. A mission is nearly accomplished in Syria but it is that of Iran.

The day after the Western strikes on Syria, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed regime officials and envoys of Islamic countries. It was mab’ath, the day the Prophet Mohammad received his first revelation, and Khamenei began by attempting to link the divine revelation to Iran’s military presence in Syria.

The Muslim ummah, he said, needed to believe in “the message of mab’ath, which is monotheism. When we believe in it, we will not tolerate injustice and (we will) defend the meek. This is why the Islamic Republic is present wherever there are meek people in need of support.”

Khamenei, however, did not mention Syria’s meekest people — the civilian casualties of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.

“Defending the meek” is enshrined in Article 154 of the Iranian Constitution and provides the legal foundation of Tehran’s attempts to export its revolution.

The actual definition of “defending the meek,” however, is subject to the whims of Iran’s rulers. Khamenei assured his audience that Iran’s obligation to defend the meek did not equal Iranian expansionism.

“Iran’s presence in Syria and in West Asia (is) to assist ‘the resistance,’ which was against injustice,” he said. “The front of resistance has, thanks to the assistance provided it and because of the bravery of Syrian forces, managed to prevail in the fight against terrorists created by the United States, the West and their mercenaries such as Saudi [Arabia].”

Going on to denounce the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and France as “criminals,” Khamenei spelled out the moral of the story: “Experience teaches us that retreat invites further aggression and resistance forces them to retreat.” He ended with the hope that the “nations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, innocent Palestine, Myanmar and the people of Kashmir will force their enemies to retreat in the not so distant future.”

Iranian President Hassan Rohani made many of the same points as the supreme leader in his public address the same day.

It was hard to escape the notion that both men were perfectly happy with the outcome of the air raids in Syria and why ever not? The strikes were limited, with hardly any casualties and did not challenge the military superiority of the Assad regime and of his allies in Tehran and Moscow.

Tehran is closer than ever to achieving its mission in Syria. It has an overland corridor that connects to its allied Lebanese Hezbollah on the shores of the Mediterranean. It has opened a low-intensity front on the Syria/Israel border to deter Israeli air raids.

Trump may try to present himself as the protector of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s defenceless civilian victims but the realities on the ground show it is Iran that may soon be saying “mission accomplished.”

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