The spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces, Brig. Gen. Abolfazi Shekarchi, said on the occasion of The Sacred Defense Week, commemorating the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War, that Iran is willing to contribute its vast experience to its allies in the “resistance front” and even sends advisers to them. However, he added that Iran does not intend to intervene in the internal affairs of countries in the region and has no military presence there.
In this context, and as part of Iran’s preparations to start exporting arms after the expiration of the arms embargo on October 18, 2020, the spokesman said that during a recent visit of the Iranian army chief of staff to Syria, the Damascus regime requested to reinforce its air-defense systems. Shekarchi claimed that there is no Iranian military presence in Syria, and as per the Syrian government’s request, there are only Iranian advisers there.
The spokesman added that in addition to Syria, Iran also provides military advice to Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, which are part of the “resistance front.” He said that “any country that opposes the Zionist regime and the bloodthirsty United States will receive assistance from Iran. In view of the economic problems in Iran, this does not mean that we will provide it for free, and it is possible that Iran will receive payment for its assistance.”
He further stated that Iran provides “defense technology” to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who absorb it and produce various types of weapons indigenously and “with great talent: missiles, drones, and other weapons including systems in the field of electronic warfare.”
He denied that Iran provides missiles to Houthi rebels, insisting that Iran “is only passing on experience and knowledge.”
The Iranian spokesman talked about relations between the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian army (Artesh)—a sensitive issue in Iran that is usually not exposed—and said that there was no difference between the two main military forces in Iran, and that if there were such a difference, “we would have lost in the Iraq-Iran war … There are blood ties between the two of them.”
According to Shekarchi, various opposition parties, influenced by the United States, try to create a rift between the two military bodies, but the army is endowed with the same revolutionary characteristics as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In practice, the IRGC, on which the regime rests, has a bigger budget and uses more advanced weapons. The IRGC also operates Iran’s missile array and is responsible for the ongoing security in the Persian Gulf and much of Iran’s internal security.
Meanwhile, the president of the United States issued an Executive Order designed to prevent Iran from resuming arms sales upon the expiration of the arms embargo under U.N. Resolution 2231. The order includes many Iranian companies, entities and individuals related to Iran’s defense industries and nuclear program.
On September 21the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued new sanctions imposed on the Shahid Haj Ali Movahed Research Center, which has ties with North Korea for missile development. This week, it was reported that Iran and North Korea had renewed cooperation on missile development.
Earlier and 30 days since the United States enacted the “snapback” clause in Resolution 2231, the U.S. administration announced that it would re-enforce international sanctions on Iran imposed prior to the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal and urged other countries to do so.
The move is part of the U.S. effort to prevent the arms embargo on Iran from expiring on October 18, which would mean legitimizing Iranian arms sales to “resistance front” countries in the region and even to Venezuela and other countries. For Iran, this will be the first significant achievement as a result of the signing of the nuclear agreement. Until now, Iran has failed to secure any economic gain from the agreement, and its economic situation continues to deteriorate.
Iran watches the U.S.-European rift with approval
Iran has expressed great satisfaction with the growing disconnect between Europe and the United States due to the almost complete lack of support within the ranks of the U.N. Security Council for the U.S. position on retaining the arms embargo, as well as the reinstatement of international sanctions on Iran. In this context, foreign ministers of Germany, Britain and France (EU3) also issued a joint statement declaring, among other things, “that the United States ceased to be a partner in the nuclear agreement after it withdrew from it in May 2018.”
As a result, the E.U. claimed that the U.S. request to enact the “snapback” mechanism and all possible actions resulting thereof has no legal significance. These countries have declared that they continue to adhere to the authority and integrity of the Security Council and remain committed to UNSC Resolution 2231 that adopted the nuclear agreement of 2015. “We have worked tirelessly to maintain the nuclear agreement, and we are still committed to doing so,” they stated.
At the September 20 government session, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the “ongoing and unsuccessful attempts” by the United States to re-impose international sanctions on Iran at the U.N. Security Council and through new international coalitions.
Rouhani declared that “the American maximum pressure policy has reached its end,” because of “Iranian diplomacy, Iran’s unfaltering position and the Supreme Leader’s instructions.”
For now, Iran is focusing its efforts on the international diplomatic scene. It draws considerable encouragement from the international solidarity from China and Russia and especially from the European countries that are partners in the nuclear agreement. Iran notes Europe’s weak response to the execution of wrestler Navid Afkari, the continued blatant violation of human rights in Iran, as well as Iran’s stand against Bahrain’s and the UAE’s signing of normalization agreements with Israel.
Iran also moderated its subversive activities against American interests in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. It appears that Iran seeks to survive the window of time before the upcoming U.S. election without giving President Donald Trump the option of taking actions against it to score points during the race. This, despite threats made from time to time by the commander of the Revolutionary Guards to avenge the assassination of Qassim Soleimani, commander of the Al-Quds Force, and the recent remarks by Foreign Minister Javid Zarif at the Council on Foreign Relations that Tehran had not yet closed the account with the United States over Soleimani’s assassination.
At the same time, Iran believes that the United States’ weakened standing on the international scene is apparent in recent moves in the Security Council and the widening rift with Europe—events that will hurt Trump’s chances for reelection. Iran is also encouraged by Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s comments that he intends to return to the framework of nuclear agreements and re-examine the issue of sanctions.
Meanwhile, Iran continues to advance its nuclear program, violating the nuclear agreement and positioning itself in anticipation of U.S. election results.
IDF Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Alcyon Risk Advisors.
This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.