IRGC threat may draw global community closer to US position

By Sultan al-Barei in Riyadh

Iran's Bavar-373 air defence missile system, which will potentially be deployed on Syrian soil. [Photo via Mehr News]

Iran's Bavar-373 air defence missile system, which will potentially be deployed on Syrian soil. [Photo via Mehr News]

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has made repeated attempts to augment Iraqi, Lebanese, and now Syrian air defence systems, and recently admitted to providing missile technology to Yemen's Houthis (Ansarallah).

These actions will likely result in more nations moving closer to the US position towards the arms embargo on Iran, experts told Al-Mashareq.

A few months ago, Syrian defence minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub and Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, Iranian Armed Forces' chief of staff, signed an agreement to significantly expand bilateral military co-operation, especially air defence.

The agreement, signed July 8th in Damascus, could be used to provide complete air defence systems to Syria, upgrade its existing systems, or integrate the two countries' air defence networks, experts said.

A week later, during a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Iranian ambassador Mohammad Jalal Firouznia expressed interest in supplying the country with defensive weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles.

Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for Iran's Armed Forces Joint Staff Headquarters, in September admitted Iran has "shared missile technology and experience with Yemenis".

Iran announced its support for the Syrian regime with an air defence system, and its support for the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles in Yemen, Iranian affairs expert Fathi al-Sayed told Al-Mashareq.

"This shows that the intention of the IRGC's Quds Force (IRGC-QF) to 'export the revolution' is ongoing despite international pressure," said al-Sayed, who works for al-Sharq Centre for Regional and Strategic Studies.

Some countries are still trying to keep dialogue channels open with Iran, he said, "but they will eventually find themselves forced to join the US's efforts in putting an end to Iran's plans".

Iran often responds to the international community's pressure with promises, which it then proceeds to break, al-Sayed said.

"It has therefore lost the trust of the world and become friendless," he said. "Only a few countries with common interests have relations with Iran, including Russia and China."

IRGC's continued threat

"Iran supports the Houthis and the Syrian regime," retired Emirati army officer Abdullah al-Ameri told Al-Mashareq.

"It is continuing a series of threats and missile attacks through the IRGC-QF in the region," he said, pointing out that "these missiles have no target other than the countries of the Gulf region".

Al-Ameri said it is impossible to know what IRGC-affiliated groups might do, noting that the missile technology Iran shares with the Houthis may be used in other ways and endanger the lives of "thousands of civilians in the region".

These actions are likely to increase co-operation between the Gulf states and the US, he told Al-Mashareq.

"Western countries are present in the Gulf region to ward off Iran's danger," he said. "I expect these countries to strengthen their presence soon to secure the region and take firm political steps."

"I expect them to become united with the US [position] and impose sanctions on Iran for repeatedly violating the agreements it has signed in the past."

IRGC-QF arms 'thorny issue'

Iranian armament is "one of the thorniest issues in the world from a legal standpoint", international criminal law professor Wael al-Sharimi told Al-Mashareq.

He said if weapons, particularly missiles, were confined to Iranian soil, they would not pose a threat. But the current situation is exactly the opposite.

"The IRGC-QF is enhancing long-range missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads or causing great damage," al-Sharimi said.

"Since it is sharing the technology with Syria and Yemen, it is considered a threat to world peace and requires UN intervention," he added.

"If international bodies do not take steps to curb Iran, any country or group of countries would have the right to respond to Iran's threat using available means," he said. "This would fall under self-defence and protection of civilians in conflict areas."

Regarding reports that the IRGC is transferring missiles to Syria, al-Sharimi said the matter is "a double-violation".

"Since the Syrian regime is under sanctions for crimes against civilians, Iran and the IRGC-QF deserve any sanctions that may be imposed on Syria," he said.

He told Al-Mashareq he expects some European countries to join the US side, "because the danger Iran poses is a common danger, directed at everyone, without exception".

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