In April of this year, an analysis published by the London-based IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, a leading security analysis agency, found that 43 percent of ISIS’ battles between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, were fought against the Syrian military and its allies. Comparatively, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly accounted for a mere 17 percent of the action against ISIS.
In other words, according to the report, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies are the most heavily engaged troops battling ISIS. Following recent offensives against ISIS in Deir ez-Zor, this trend seems likely to continue until ISIS eventually collapses.
Donald Trump’s national security advisor General H.R. McMaster previously estimated that 80 percent of Assad’s forces were “Iranian proxies.” Whatever the exact figure is, it is unlikely to be a trivial percentage. Iranian proxy forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria have been doing a great deal of the fighting against ISIS to date. As a result, people like former secretary of state and alleged war criminal Henry Kissinger have warned against defeating ISIS, cautioning that Iran would emerge as the main benefactor.
None of this is a secret to the corporate media, as Foreign Policy explained:
“Since 2014, Iranian-backed Shiite militias have filled much of the vacuum left by the collapse of the Iraqi army. As part of a broader umbrella militia organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), they have played a central role in the war against the Islamic State, which is why the United States has generally been content to appease and placate them. But for too long, Washington has turned a blind eye to the way these militias threaten Iraq’s stability, by engaging in sectarian atrocities, participating in the deaths of thousands of Americans (and Iraqis), and infiltrating the Iraqi political system.” [emphasis added]
Further, if it could be established beyond a reasonable doubt that Iran is supporting the Houthi rebels battling the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, that would mean Iran is also sponsoring another group currently embroiled in a surge for power against ISIS, which has been thriving amid the chaos that has engulfed the country. So far, there has been little substantive evidence to bolster the claim that Iran is heavily backing rebels in Yemen. However, if the charges against Iran are true, Iran’s proxies can be seen to be battling ISIS in almost every theatre in the Middle East.
In light of all this, how is the United States planning to reward Iran for its integral role in defeating ISIS?
Donald Trump launched a scathing attack on Iran last Friday and decided to decertify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump did this knowing Iran has been compliant with the JCPOA since he took office. It has been affirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
During his tirade, Trump also took it upon himself to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as “the Iranian supreme leader’s corrupt personal terror force” and slap further sanctions on the entity. The potential for the IRGC to strike back against U.S. forces in the Middle East has been heightened.
The U.S. has also offered a total of $12 million in rewards for the capture of two senior officials of Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy operating in Syria and Lebanon. Hezbollah, in particular, is one of the groups listed above as playing a crucial part in destroying ISIS as it fights alongside the Syrian army — yet the U.S. continues to insist on its status as a terror group. One cannot ignore Hezbollah’s own list of various human rights abuses, but the fact remains that the group is primarily opposed to the same Sunni-dominated terror groups the U.S. claims to be opposed to.
By focusing on these Iranian forces operating in Iraq and Syria, where the U.S. is also present, very few commentators are talking about the fact that in the days to come we may witness a full-on confrontation between the United States and Iran’s proxy forces in the region. If this does occur, it will only lead to more violence and bloodshed and delay any hope for the conclusion of the respective wars in Iraq and Syria.
Of course, the case could be made that Iran’s predominantly Shia forces’ lust for committing atrocities of their own is reason enough for the U.S. to oppose their expansion. But the fact remains that these groups have defeated ISIS on America’s behalf, and the way that Donald Trump and his cohorts have decided to reward Iran is by essentially paving a warpath leading directly towards the Islamic Republic.