After having studied the Iran regime, from its genesis to present time, from the Khomeinist revolution of 1979, the alliance with Assad, the launching of Hezbollah, the hostages crises of the 1980s, the proxy wars with Israel, the rise of its nuclear project, and the militias’ control of four Arab countries over the past decade, my conclusion at this point is that Tehran’s rulers are winning — at least so far.
From my first book on Iran’s strategies published in Beirut 1987, to my multiple academic journal articles and op-eds warning Washington, D.C., about the new axis starting in 1992, to many years of briefings to Congress and seminars to defense national security agencies, before and since 9/11, I have spent 41 years following the evolution of the regime, its geopolitics and the revolts by its populations.
The journey of the “Islamic Republic” is easily summarized:
Following an extraordinarily sustained line of decades-long confrontation with the U.S., Israel and many Arab countries, Tehran was able to survive the Cold War, the unipolar world of the 1990s, the post 9/11 era, the Arab Spring, and the time following U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to Iraq. It has strengthened its military and intelligence capabilities at home, widened its territorial expansion in the region via militias, and (as importantly) acquired significant influence in the West, thanks to the attraction exerted by the Iran Deal.
How did Iran’s ruling elite manage to survive almost half a century despite its economic failures, financial troubles and all amidst popular discontent? Why is Iran winning — and how, and can this be reversed?
Since its inception, the Ayatollahs' regime relied mainly on terrorizing its own population and striking at its enemies in the region via the militias it controls.
Inside the country, the regime uses the “Revolutionary Guard” known as the Pasdaran to repress all opposition. Since the early 1980s through today, thousands of Iranians have been jailed, tortured and killed by regime security. Outside its borders, assassinations, kidnappings and threats have targeted not only Iranian opposition, but also politicians and journalists opposed to Iran’s allies (such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hashd in Iraq).
Iran has also killed hundreds of Americans, from U.S. Marines and hostages in Lebanon to American military in Iraq. Keeping the whole security apparatus on terror lists is a must. Removing the terror status of the IRCG as part of the Iran negotiations would be a strategic mistake. Doing so would give victory to the Mullahs.
The Pasdaran, particularly the Quds force, have organized powerful militias to dominate Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Hezbollah threatens Israel and takes part in other wars in the region. Hashd controls Iraq and menaces the Kurds.
Assad militias and armed forces brutalize the populations. And the Houthis wreak havoc in Yemen, firing ballistic missiles on Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Removing the Houthis from U.S. terror list in 2021 was a strategic mistake.
Washington has changed direction on Iran multiple times since 9/11, and Tehran took advantage of the back and forth.
The Bush administration placed the regime in the “axis of evil” in 2002, leveled terror sanctions on Hezbollah, Hamas. The Obama administration reversed course, engaged Ayatollah Khamenei as of June 2009, froze the confrontation with the regime, allowed its militias to penetrate Iraq as of 2010, and convinced allies to sign the JCPOA in 2015, granting Tehran $150 billion, with which the regime bought weapons, missiles, funded the regional militias, and obtained political influence. That was highly dangerous.
The Trump administration reversed policy again, stood up to Iran in the region, withdrew from the deal, backed the Arab Coalition, signed the Abraham Accords, and pushed back against the militias and the Quds force. The U.S. was weakening Iran’s power in the region.
Four years later, the Biden administration reversed U.S. policy yet again, going back to the Obama platform, and is heading once again toward the JCPOA. America’s standing with its allies in the Middle East is shaken.
Perhaps one of the most serious consequences of the empowering of Tehran since 2009, peaking in 2015, has been the enabling of the regime to exert influence not only in the region, but in Europe and in the United States, thanks to the financing of the regime.
Its propaganda arm has penetrated the Arab world and the West alike, aided by the Iran Deal financial attraction.
Abandonment of Iranians
Of all these victories scored by Iran, perhaps the most salient one has been the abandonment of its people by the U.S. and Europe. Instead of banking on its youth, women and minorities, current Western policy relies on an imaginary rationalization of the regime’s behavior, thanks to the “Deal’s business.”
Unfortunately, the opposite is happening. The Islamic republic is using the deal to grow stronger and weaken real U.S. interests.
Iran is winning for now, and will continue to do so until America finds a better alternative to funding Iran’s rulers’ policies.
Dr. Walid Phares, is a Newsmax foreign policy analyst – beginning in April of 2022. Since 2009, he has served as co-secretary of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group. He has also served as a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump in 2016 and was a national security adviser (in 2011) to now-Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Ariz. Dr. Phares is a noted author, professor and Mideast expert, as well as a former Fox News and MSNBC contributor. Read Dr. Walid Phares' Reports — More Here.
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