Iranian Revolutionary Guard raises spectre of broader Middle East conflict if U.S. attacks Syria

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Earlier this year, British journalist Robert Fisk told the Georgia Straight that the war in Syria was really about Iran.

      Fisk, who has covered the Middle East for three decades, was on his way to Vancouver for a speaking engagement.

      “I believe that much of the support given to the rebels to overthrow Bashar al-Assad is an attempt to destroy Iran’s only Arab ally,” he said.

      Fisk dismissed any suggestion that Iraq, which is also controlled by a Shia-led government, was on par with Syria as an Iranian ally.

      He maintained that Iraqis, after shedding so much blood in a civil war, do not want to be governed from Tehran. He also cited religious differences between Shia scholars in Iraq and Iran. 

      Given the good relations between Syria and Iran, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Jafari, is threatening retribution on a wider scale if the U.S. attacks its ally.

      You can read Jafari's comments here

      Moreover, Iranian parliamentarians have travelled to Syria and Lebanon to "condemn the use of chemical weapons by terrorist groups", according to Agence France Presse.

      The U.S. says it has proof that the government of Bashar al-Assad, and not the rebels, used poison gas on its citizens. Today, President Barack Obama said that he will seek congressional approval to attack Syria for doing this.

      Syria is a relatively small country of 20 million, so it's easy to see why Obama might think that a U.S. strike won't have broader ramifications. 

      Iran, on the other hand, is home to 75 million people and borders the Persian Gulf, which narrows into the Strait of Hormuz at its eastern point.

      According to the University of Tulsa's Roger J. Stern, the United States spent an incredible $8 trillion protecting the strait, which links the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman, between 1976 and 2007. This is despite the fact that less than 10 percent of all oil travelling through the Strait of Hormuz makes it to the United States.

      If Iran cuts off this oil choke point, it will have broader ramifications for the global economy. This will no doubt become an issue for some U.S. legislators when it comes time to debate the proposed attack on Syria, particularly if the stock markets are in a freefall.

      Iran has threatened to stop oil shipments through the strait in the past.

      Keep in mind that the Carter Doctrine, proclaimed by then-president Jimmy Carter in 1980, calls upon the U.S. to use military force—"if necessary"—to protect national interests in the Persian Gulf.

      Expect some debate over whether 10 percent of the U.S. oil supply is, in fact, a national interest worth protecting. Another U.S. concern is the government of Saudi Arabia, which is a bitter enemy of Iran. Israel, a major U.S. ally, has huge issues with Hezbollah, the Shia movement in neighbouring Lebanon that is on extremely good terms with the Iranians and the Assad regime.

      Iran is economically on its knees right now, and it has just elected its most moderate presidential candidate, Hassan Rouhani, to rule the country. That would suggest there won't be a broader war.

      But the wild card is the Revolutionary Guard, which is the ideological force of more than 100,000 defending the Islamic revolution and permeating the national economy. Its leaders have suffered the fallout from western sanctions against Iran in response to its nuclear program. Forbes recently reported that the U.S. is intent on destroying the currency, the Iranian rial.

      The Revolutionary Guard's loyalty is to the supreme religious leader, Ayotollah Ali Khameini. According to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, the elected president has little influence over this military force.

      It's one of many complicated aspects to this story.

      To get a better sense of the relationships in the Middle East, check out the diagram above, which was transmitted over The Big Pharoah's Twitter account.

      It reveals that the U.S. and al-Qaeda have become unlikely allies in the fight against Assad.




      Aug 31, 2013 at 7:38pm

      Robert Fisk is a cultural imperialist who treats Middle Eastern seculars like they're second class citizens because HE thinks his 'intellect' towers over everyone else. He has a MASSIVE ideological chip on his shoulder and he is one of THE least reliable people where Iran or any part of the Mid East is concerned.

      James G

      Aug 31, 2013 at 7:59pm

      (Disclaimer: I have sympathy for people in crisis everywhere and support all efforts to end tyranny. That being said, I am not one of those who would participate in a felafel run to the jihadis in Gaza. Far too much of the left looks upon the Middle East and excuses way too much. The USSR and the entire Soviet block had their rigid dictatorships overturned without any resort to terror as a method. Grandfathering in the right of Palestinians to use terror because we were once all allied during the Cold War has helped no-one, leastways the Palestinians themselves. Yes, Israel is a tough adversary. The Soviets weren't?)

      In Iran, I remember my support for the actions that overthrew the Shah but then saw what developed and it sickens me to this day. So, when I saw the attempt to subvert the Arab Spring in Egypt and use it to stealthily introduce an Islamic Republic, I was cheered by how the military apprehended an insurrection there.

      Speaking of the Muslim Brotherhood, it was they who were chased from Syria by Hafez al Assad in 1982. Now they are contained in Egypt but what is the situation in Syria?

      Bashir Assad is certainly a tyrant and the world would be better without his ilk but that was said of Saddam Hussein too. There was never a possibility of rebel victory without foreign intervention. The rebels always knew this, as they knew the nature of the multi-ethnic nation and that the regime had made sure of blood on many hands to ensure they knew that defeat meant death. They knew but did not care because the use of women and children as human shields came naturally to them. They are principally made up of Al-Queda and supporters.

      So, President Obama says he is sure the regime and not the rebels deployed the chemical weapons? Just as the regime was on the cusp of an outright victory, it defied the express command of America? I dismiss this claim. I for one do not trust Al-Queda.

      In the midst of civil war people suffer extreme hardship and this can lead them to change sides. How is anyone to know for sure who used these prohibited weapons? Perhaps an official who turned or maybe just the rebels themselves? We don't know and neither does the American intelligence community. Even if they're not lying this time, they can't know.

      You rightly point out that this is all about Iran.
      Lay off the trigger,Obama, there has been enough death!


      Sep 1, 2013 at 12:59am

      Sheesh ... forget the oil straw man. The US arms industry is by far the largest in the world: around 41% compared to all other countries - China is second at around 8%. They have to sell and use these weapons, therefore, they need wars. Also their massive ego, and I include Obama and the Dems. here, have to show their citizens that they can and will pummel weaker 'threats' with their sacred, democratic muscle. Actually Americans are really pitiful - their only real industry left is killing. (Remember the excitement during 'Shock & Awe' on televised US media during the Iraq war. Americans seemed spellbound at their power, the colourful explosions and completely unable to identify with the unseen horror of the thousands on the ground who were being ripped apart)Those who marched with the evil Bush masks during the trumped up Iraq war who are not now protesting Obama in his trumped up Syria war are the worst hypocrites. Yes, Obama cuts a fine figure of a man, but he has blood lust just like past presidents. Look up Kill List tuesdays, where Obama and a select few play judge, jury and executioner with drone strikes across the world and Obama, worse than Bush, has become the'drone warrior in chief'' and come up with a new way of counting the civilians killed: all males in the area who are killed are deemed 'militants'. (As far as chemical weapons go, it is unknown which side used them in Syria. What is know is that the US supported and helped supply chemical weapons to Iraq to use against Iran. They were also used by Israel in Gaza and Lebanon) As a Canadian, any PM who is willing to distance us from the US, has my vote. Mulcair probably would follow France's US lap dog stance. Trudeau, who knows. Harper at least hasn't come out as pathetically as Britain, France and Australia have, but still is too cozy with our murderous neighbour. I have hopes for Trudeau - please don't follow Obama who is so slick and enamored by Hollywood that he actually announced foreign policy on the Leno's tonight show - a new low for sure. Get serious Trudeau and we'll bet serious about you.

      BIG WIG

      Sep 1, 2013 at 4:22am

      Reportedly the British have 3 of their newest mine sweepers in the Persian gulf .Straits of Hormuz is a world concern and a blockade there will not just mean the US is involved .The US will probably back their allies .The USSR economy fell apart because marxist economics are a dead end and The marxist lenninist plan likewise . The Islamists do not have to compete with the West economically or build Jeffersonian democracy . All they have to do is to have faith . Religous zealotry is a tough nut . Do not expect Islamism to fall apart or an islamist Gorbachev.I hear you James when You say the left excuses too much .These female hating countries are rotten and an affront to females everywhere . Do not expect the left to hear you .


      Sep 1, 2013 at 9:59am

      The most successful revolutions happen without outside intervention. Yes, it's tough to hear how civilians are bearing the brunt of the war between political factions. But the Middle East is best left to sort out these problems on their own. No sense in starting WWIII.


      Sep 3, 2013 at 10:21am

      Dear US Government;

      The writing is on the walls. You are clearly on a multi-decade long mission. Americans can see this. Do us a favor though, just get it over with. Stop walking on eggshells and do what you are going to do. You have made it clear to the American People that our opinions mean nothing and that we are clearly too stupid to have an understanding of what it is that you are doing, so just bomb whoever you want and get it over with. That way my kids don't have to live in the sadness and sorrow that I live in while I watch you trot around the world stomping on whoever gets in your way.

      Just get it over with.