“Iran doesn’t want to harm Israel and has no interest in military action against it. All of these statements you see are fabrications. Iran has six million Jews living there, why would it want to attack Israel?” …
This isn’t the typical line of conversation if any, that you would expect to have during the early hours of Sunday morning however this is the situation I found myself in on my way back home sitting in disbelief over the quite frankly bizarre statements of my Iranian Uber driver.
Unfortunately this disbelief was quickly cemented as yet again we see the Iranian regime parading its latest Russian made military hardware on the streets of Tehran. The delivery of the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile capable of targeting aircraft and ballistic missiles threatens to upset the military balance and disrupt Israel’s qualitative military edge in region, as sanctions relief has provided Iran with the capability to spend enormous amounts on the modernisation of its military.
What is key to note though is that whilst we have become accustomed to these so called ‘rogue nations’ displaying their military prowess, what has also become familiar is the rhetoric accompanying such events, as was the case during this parade where President Hassan Rouhani heroically declared that Iran shall “defend Muslim nations from terrorism and Zionism”.
Despite claiming that Iran’s purchase of its newest military toys was purely for defensive purposes, the transparent hypocrisy is evident as this is the third time in recent months that Iran has actively provoked and singled out Israel during one of its military performances. The first of these happening last November as Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard staged seizing Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque from Israel and the second being a missile test with “Israel must be wiped out’ reportedly written on the side of the rockets.
Not only is this military parade a skewed attempt of Rouhani to banner Muslim nations against Israel but it is also a slight miscalculation by the President to illustrate Iran as the bulwark against terrorism in the region as Muslim nations are in fact accusing Iran of supporting terrorism itself. One example of this is what Max Boot described in Commentary Magazine as the ethnic cleansing campaign operated by Iranian – backed militias against Sunnis in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad. Furthermore, we mustn’t forget about Iran’s continued support of Shia militant group Hizbollah whose rocket stockpile now lies at approximately 100,000. This is an especially worrying thought as Hizbollah will inevitably see more funds funnelled towards it in the wake of sanctions relief, putting Israel at further risk.
Unfortunately it seems as though Iran’s involvement in Yemen and Syria is only a precursor to the Islamic Republics determination to expand its reach in pursuit of Middle Eastern hegemony. This activity will only double as the major cash injection to its starved economy continues to flow and provides the funds its needs to embark on its military expansion. Israel, as well as United Kingdom mustn’t lose focus of Iran’s ambitions and continue to contain the regimes attempts at exploiting the havoc that has emerged from the fight against ISIS.
If Iranian actions continue to go unchecked, we run the risk of further sectarian violence and the breakdown of international efforts to stabilise the MENA landscape. This will only become harder as Iran seeks to use the rewards of sanctions relief to bolster its ballistic missile and military capabilities. Although ISIS, lone wolf attackers and the anarchy Libya is facing are all at the forefront of our attention, Iran is the greatest power that is truly capable of greatly manipulating conflict in the region and if Iranian military expansion as well as the rhetoric that accompanies it isn’t taken seriously, then the Middle East will face many more years of instability.