Iranian proxies carving a land corridor to Mediterranean, report claims
By Rudaw 1 hour ago – 9 Oct 2016 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iranian-backed Shiite militia proxies in Iraq are making headway in creating a land corridor extending from the Iranian border toward Syria and eventually the Mediterranean Sea, a media report has claimed.
“After 12 years of conflict in Iraq and an even more savage conflict in Syria, Iran is now closer than ever to securing a land corridor that will anchor it in the region – and potentially transform the Islamic Republic’s presence on Arab lands,” wrote The Guardian’s Middle Eastern correspondent Martin Chulov on Saturday. Chulov cites a European official knowledgeable on the issue who explained that this ultimate goal is a matter of both pride and pragmatism for Tehran.
“They will be able to move people and supplies between the Mediterranean and Tehran whenever they want,” the official said, “and they will do so along safe routes that are secured by their people or their proxies.”
The report claims the corridor extends from the Iranian border through the Iraqi province of Diyala; its latest addition is the town of Shargat, recently recaptured from Islamic State (ISIS) militants by Iraqi forces backed by Shiite militias who are supported by Iran.
Westward of Iraq the report claims that the Iranian routes run through Syrian Kurdish territory, where there are still small enclaves controlled by the Syrian regime, toward the Aleppo region. If Iranian proxies get a solid foothold in that region they can move further into Syrian territory through Homs before eventually reaching their final destination, the Syrian port city of Latakia – a safe haven for its ally the Syrian regime.
“Turkey has been especially opposed, fearful of what such a development means for Iran’s relationship with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ party), the restive Kurds in its midst, on whom much of the plan hinges,” the report noted. This complex plan is, the report said, being coordinated by security and government officials in Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus and overseen by the famous Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Qassem Soleimani who oversees operations by Iranian backed proxies in both Iraq and Syria.
Soleimani has visited Iranian-backed forces in both Syria and Iraq on several occasions since the conflicts began. The report adds that the plan “relies heavily on a support of a range of allies, who are not necessarily aware of the entirety of the project but have a developed vested interest in securing separate legs.”
In August, a commander of the Revolutionary Guards leading Iranian forces in Syria, General Mohammed Ali Falaki, claimed that Iran was building militia groups in Iraq and Syria with many Afghan recruits. Iran “created the Shia liberation army in Syria under the leadership of Qassem Soleimani,” Falaki told Mashregh News, a media outlet close to the Revolutionary Guards.
“This army now fights on three fronts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen,” Gen. Falaki said. www.mesop.de