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Tell the truth about Iran’s bloodletting in Syria

Iranian Revolutionary Guards members are pictured during Friday prayers in Tehran May 26, 2006 [File photo / Reuters]
Iranian Revolutionary Guards members are pictured during Friday prayers in Tehran May 26, 2006 [File photo / Reuters]

The scenes emerging from Aleppo are beyond words. In the face of such horrors words ring hollow and pretentious. Such tragedies do deserve a moment of reflection, particularly upon one’s own privilege, role and responsibility. As an Iranian I cannot comment upon what is taking place in Syria without first and foremost speaking on the actions of the regime in Tehran.

I am neither a citizen of Iran and have lived in exile as a refugee for the majority of my life, yet I believe it is my responsibility and indeed the responsibility of all Iranians to speak out against Iran’s genocidal policy in Syria, and expose the culpability of this regime for the destruction of the Syrian nation.

Much of the world’s attention has been focused on Russian intervention in Syria, and the Kremlin’s wanton bombardment, particularly over the last two years. No doubt Russia has had a hand in horrific war crimes and in tilting the balance in favour of the Assad regime. Yet the Iranian regime has not only played a decisive role in the survival of Al-Assad, but it has served as surrogate for policies of murder and a culture of extremism and horror which is now the reality of this war.

It was after all, Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Qods Force, who travelled to Moscow before Russia began its extensive bombing campaign in Syria. Now, as Aleppo burns, reports emerge that Iran has repeatedly undermined the ceasefire deal. It is no surprise then that many have suggested that Iranian commanders are effectively in charge of the Syrian regime’s troops on the ground.

Certainly, other interested parties remain on the ground and in the region, but more than any other state actor Iran has effectively occupied Syria, and should be held accountable for its actions. Unfortunately, the Iran deal, and misguided policies ensured that this never took place. A simple look at the last five years paints a persuasive picture as to Iran’s culpability with regard to the conflict in Syria.

In 2011, at the onset of the Syrian uprising, Iran reportedly provided the Assad regime with sophisticated surveillance equipment and weapons, going so far as to send its own personnel to suppress the popular uprising. Iran had just quelled its own nationwide protests in 2009 and was eager to share the blueprint on how to stamp out dissent. This of course did not stop the uprising in Syria from spreading and eventually becoming an armed conflict.

It was Iran which came to Al-Assad’s aid in the summer of 2012 when it appeared that the dictatorship was all but finished. Tehran reportedly spent some $14 billion in military and economic aid to Syria in 2012 alone. Iran was so desperate to save Al-Assad that it not only began to deploy members of the IRGC, but it was willing to sacrifice the legitimacy that Hezbollah had built over the previous decade and effectively used them as mercenary militias to prop up the decimated Syrian army.

2013 proved to be a crucial turning point in the conflict. Iran doubled down in their support for Assad, sending a “first contingent” of 4,000 troops to aid government forces. Iran would be forced to acknowledge the deaths of a number of generals and high ranking officials over the course of the year. Yet Iran’s intervention proved crucial in turning the tide of the conflict, as the Economist observed; “The new-found efficiency of Mr Assad’s men may owe a lot to his Iranian advisers.”

By 2014, Iran further escalated its support for the regime in the form of weapons and manpower. According to a senior IRGC official, “Revolutionary Guards directed the fighting on the instructions of the Quds Force commanders”, effectively blurring the line as to who was actually directing ground operations in Syria. By 2015 Iran had reportedly spent $35 billion in total aid to Assad. By the end of the year, Iran reportedly had at least 7,000 IRGC members on the ground, and had recruited 20,000 Afghans, Pakistanis and other mercenaries to join the fighting.

After all of these acts of aggression, there remain those who attempt to ignore, downplay or even justify the actions of the Iranian regime. As if they were anything more than predatory policies of a despotic regime. One need only look at their policies in Iraq, Yemen, and inside Iran to understand the true nature of this regime.

Perhaps words need to be said in the correct way. Despite the shameful stance of the regime in Tehran, there are those inside Iran who have the dignity and courage to speak the truth, even in the face of danger.

At Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, a defiant student gave a fiery speech focused on what he referred to as the historical responsibility of young Iranians. This included not only a sharp critique of the ruling establishment’s injustices, but a scathing indictment of Iran’s murderous policy in Syria. Speaking to a crowded room he stated:

“I believe history will condemn us because we have been silent about Syria and the terrible genocide that’s taking place.” Addressing Member of Parliament Ali Motaheri who was in attendance he asked, “As a representative of the people I ask you, are we on the right side in Syria? 500,000 people have been killed. It is easy to cite a number, but an entire generation are being wiped out…We are surely guilty when confronted by the tears of Syrian children.”

As the world watches with indifference as Aleppo burns and skirts the issue of responsibility, this young man had the audacity to stand up to the dictatorship in his own country and speak the truth that we are all seemingly so afraid to recognise.

Iranians everywhere should condemn this regime and call on the international community to hold Iran accountable for its crimes.

ArticleEurope & RussiaIranMiddle EastOpinionRussiaSyria
  • virgile

    A propaganda piece directly from the ‘Iranian Resistance’ sect.

    • hanley alexander

      Virgil and Teevee: If you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger!

      • virgile

        The messenger’s vicious manipulation of the information tells a lot about him

  • teevee

    Being an attorney from a 4th rate law school in CA., has taught Mr. Yazdanpanah the use of one thing and one thing only and that is the art of lying. I have a question for you sir. When the region from Africa to China is burning to the ground, when the likes of Saudi and other oily sheikdoms are throwing 100s if not 1000s of Billions of dollars in weapons and Jihadi mercenary terrorists, when women are being ganged raped in Libya in the middle of the street in broad day light, when bombs are ripping through streets of Turkey on daily basis, when hundreds of headless bodies are discovered all over Iraq and Syria regularly at this time of chaos and murder, in Iran not even a firecracker is going off. Did you ask yourself why? As you call yourself an Iranian these facts mean nothing to you. Your task is to blow the horns for you traitorous clan. Not only you’re not a good lawyer but also you’re a terrible liar. You fail to study the issues in the case and immediately jump to a defense that is in reality indefensible. To you, the US, Israel and other powers have every right to protect their interests anywhere, promote regime change wreak havoc death and destruction at anytime but Iran has no right to defend her interests. Why? The fact that your clan of Mujahedeen sided with Saddam Hussain the butcher of Baghdad against Iran during the war, the fact that your terrorists killed Iranian soldiers, women and children has not been lost to Iranians. No matter how hard and loud you shout your lies it will never ever diminish the collective memory of the Iranian nation from your betrayal of the country. So in conclusion, don’t ever call your self Iranian ‘refugee or otherwise’ again, you lost that privilege when you sided with Saddam against Iran, regardless of who or what is in power in Iran. Ask Maryam Rajavi she has a long history and expertise in betraying her husbands and her people.

    • neluroman

      teevee, your moral relativism is very, very low, at least that is my impress from reading your post. In other words you appear to try to justify a wrong, ” … Saudi and other oily sheikdoms are throwing 100s if not 1000s of Billions of dollars in weapons and Jihadi mercenary terrorists,” by the means of another one, aka the “revenge” that Shia military but especially Shia militia ( the infamous, Shabiba Militia) are taking right now in Mosul and not only. Can a wrong be justified by another wrong? Yes, according to your rhetoric, which is mainly axed on examples from history to excuse the present. That the Shia regime in Iran is hand in hand with the Shia regime in Syria is not a surprise for anyone- it is part of a global Shia revolution so dear to the Great Ayatollah. That this “friendship” is detrimental to the Syrian people is more than obvious in the fact that not at least one Syrian refugee, even if they are in millions, has so far found a home in Iran. In other words Iran can bomb and bomb Syria but the task of hosting Syrian refugees must be with Germany and other European countries, many of which have never dropped a bomb on Syria. Is that correct, teevee? So in conclusion, the Iranian youths have never forgot the betraying of Mullahs’ regime which, in the wake of the Iranian revolution, put to death their former allies, the Iranian left-wing, with more than 100.000 young Iranian leftists paying the price of being so naive to believe that the Great Ayatollah’s regime would be more progressive, more human than the regime of the Shah.Of course, the collective memory of Iranian nation is very strong, so that the Iranian people will never, forget or forgive, among other wrongdoings that strongly affected them in the last years, who killed Neda Agha Soltan, the icon of “Green Revolution”.Therefore the young Iranians know very well that their regime has no limits when its interest is at stake, or when is about bringing the “values” of Shia Revolution to other people. .

      • teevee

        Obviously you missed the point of my comments. I am not defending or advocating the government of Iran. As an Iranian that fought against Saddam and the MEK terrorists in the 1980s, I am pointing out that Iran has a right to secure it’s interests where ever that maybe, just like US, UK or whoever. Now if you want to discuss the government of Iran or it’s internal issues that’s a whole different discussion. As far as what’s happening in Mosul or in Syria we can go around and around for days. What you call a global Shia revolution is contradictory in by itself. To have a revolution you are revolting against something or someone that you feel has done you wrong. So by that logic the Shia have been wronged. Now about Mosul, Syria and Yemen you can say Iran has done this and the other and I can say Saudi regime, the Turks, US/Israel, NATO and the rest of the other side is responsible for this and that. It means nothing. End of the day there is a extremely violent proxy war to the death going on in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The Wahhabi thru their ISIS and AQ franchises have more blood on their hands than anyone else by a large margin. If you don’t agree that’s you business. But if your argument is that ISIS and AQ are benevolent movements for the Syrians and Iraqi citizens and these Wahhabi groups should not be destroyed, then I really don’t have anything else to talk to you about.

        • Eli D

          Say’s he’s not here to defend Iran, then he proceeds to defend Iran. I also liked the part in his first comment where he ignored every single fact or reference in the article (there are quite a few) and talked about the authors law school. Great stuff.

        • neluroman

          Teevee, I am not that sure I missed the point, but if you say so, let me make the things clearer. I don’t say that all these Wahhabi groups shouldn’t be destroyed, I say only that taking out one terrorist at the cost of ten civilians is not how modern war should be fought. Your stance on this issue was as if something from past would be a valid excuse for something from present- and that is what generally is called “flawed moral relativism” . “Global Shia Revolution” is not something contradictory in any sense, but an ideology that has been pushed forward throughout the Middle East by the Shia leaders since 1979, the year when Iranian Shia Revolution broke out. This year, 1979, was a pivotal year in the Muslim world, as Shia revolution put forward an ideology of clerical rule and its message became universal. Shia cleric Ayatollah Khomeini used this Iranian revolution as an opportunity to implement his vison for an Islamic government ruled by Shia imams, as ” guardians of faith”, first in Middle East then in the rest of the world. This concept is strongly opposed by Sunnis scholars who tend to differentiate between political leadership and religious conduct. Therefore, to win over the wider Arab public each side has sought to sharpen the differencies between Sunnis and Shiites effectively bringing them at a boiling point. To make things worse Shia religious scholars have started mocking and cursing the first three caliphs and Aisha (Muhammad’s most loved wife) and calling Sunnis, ” takfiris” – a very pejorative term. Sunnis leaders replied calling Shiits, ” rafidha” (rejecters of the faith).This cycle of demonization has been exacerbated throughout the Muslim world prompting some Sunni terrorist organization to become even more radical (ex, ISIS a branch of al-Quaeda is more radical than its parent organization). And these ” cub organisations” of Sunni Islam largely represented themselves as defenders of Arab Sunnism resisting Persian (Shia) hordes attacking Sunnis both in Iraq as in Syria. And now you, teevee, come and say that what Iran is doing now in Syria and Iraq is no more than ” defending its national interest” , as if Shia and Iran would be some kind of interchangeable terms. Good try, teevee, except it didn’t work.

    • Abdulrahman

      So, you start by accusing the writer of lying, but then you make such absurd exaggerated claims like, “when the likes of Saudi and other oily sheikdoms are throwing 100s if not 1000s of Billions of dollars in weapons and Jihadi mercenary terrorists,”!

      Also, if you wish to argue about ” in Iran not even a firecracker is going off.” lol there are other more safe countries in the Middle East, such as the Arabian Gulf states 😉

      Where in the article did he say “the US, Israel and other powers have every right to protect their interests anywhere, promote regime change wreak havoc death and destruction at anytime”? More lies from you!

      But it’s good that you followed that with, “Iran has no right to defend her interests.” meaning you acknowledge that Iran has been doing the same, only more crudely!

      By the way, for the past 10 years or so, I’ve always been at odds with family and friends who would make general negative statements about Iran and Shia’a in general. I believed the treatment of the shia’a in Gulf Arab countries (especially Saudia and Bahrian) is wrong and not justified at all. I’ve often dismissed claims of Shia’a militia systematic killing of Sunnis in Iraq and said that Sunni extremists in Iraq have done so much worse to Shia’a. I had nothing but respect for Hezbullah as well as for Iran. Suffice it to say, having seen what Iran and Hezbullah have done Syria to civilians who’s only crime is that they’re Sunnis has made me change most of my views. Think about this!

  • johngilbert

    Assad in the last year has had the upper hand in Syria mostly due to the following three main factors: 1) The release of billions of dollars to Iran from the nuclear deal which has allowed Iran to fully pay for the Russia air force being in Syria in the last year as well as greatly increasing the number of Iranian and Shiite militias in Syria. 2) The sole focus of fighting and defeating ISIS/ISIL by the West has resulted in Assad and his allies being able to be free to concentrate more on mostly focusing on fighting the Syrian opposition since someone else is mostly taking care of ISIS/ISIL for them. 3) The stance against supplying the Syrian opposition with better weapons such as anti-aircraft missiles and manpads in order to deal with Assad’s and his allies’ military helicopters and aircraft. These aforementioned three reasons are mostly why Assad currently has the upper hand within the last year. Also, it is too bad that many requests for the bombing, in order to to make it impassible, of the Ithriya-Khanasser road to west Aleppo, which was the only road used by Assad and his allies, fell of deaf ears and resulted in the fall of east Aleppo since Assad and his allies had no qualms about completely cutting off the Castello road that east Aleppo depended much on for the same reason.

  • Matt House

    The article here ignores the fact that Syrians need to have their say and only they should decide Assad stays or goes. Why is he ignoring the role of ‘Benghazi Affair’ and American supply of arms and mercenary extremists through Turkey and financed by the ‘Friends of Syria’ idiots. Is the Libyan fiasco not a reminder of the regime change ‘Color Revolution’ agenda US has repeated time and again since the Kosovo trick worked so well? Georgia, Ukraine, Egypt, Libya, the failed attempt in Turkey when Erdoghan stopped being a lap dog. Is he ignorant of all this history? How about the 150 previous ones from Latin America to Iranherself in 53 to Indonesia, Philippines. And back again through Sudan, Ghana and Namibia? Is he that uneducated to at least acknowledge the disgrace that is the Saud monarchy and their cronies in the mini states of the unfortunate Arabs? What in the world has convinced him that Iran is now so powerful to run rings around the US as they stand around all innocent and too caring of the local population to act? Is he convinced the US pilots are that incompetent that they keep dropping off supplies for ISIS or bombing Syrian and Iraqi forces when they are not ‘accidentally’ bombing a hospital or ten? How is he blind to the collateral damage that is fuelling recruitment for ISIS with every drone strike? Yemen?!! Look I get it Iran not that good a regime but come on a little bit of perspective would not go amiss here. Or the customer is always right, they pay and he writes what they ask him to write. I refuse to believe someone can be so superficial and fact free in his opinion. Iranian in exile is no excuse.

  • This article was written by an Iranian-American journalist, how interesting. Many Iranians living in the West despise the Islamic Republic, and perhaps rightly so. But they should also try to have a more objective worldview in complex geopolitical issues such as these; there are many different factors at play, and similarly many different parties at fault.