Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel, tough talk from the Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces — Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri announced on Saturday that Iranian military commanders had been given a green light to respond to attacks from Israel “immediately”.
Former IRGC Chief Commander and Iran-Iraq war leader Maj. Gen. Seyed Yahya Safavi dubbed modern warfare ‘ideological’ and that military strength will be based on “rights” or “justice”.
Safavi said that America and the “usurper Zionist regime” had an “ideological military force”, but noted that Iran’s martyrs, particularly those who had died in the Holy Defense — the Iran-Iraq War — continued to be a shining example for Iran. Safavi particularly praised those martyrs from the holy city of Qom.
- IRGC Navy Cdr discusses Persian Gulf security with Iraq (iranmilitarynews.org)
The commander of the IRGC Naval Forces, Admiral Ali Fadavi, met Iraqi Navy commanders in Baghdad, where he discussed Persian Gulf security, according to Sepah News, the IRGC’s official public relations and news outlet.
Fadavi “emphasized the necessity of having Muslim countries securing the Gulf”, and said that Iran’s “deterrence power” maintained regional security, the report said.
The IRGC naval commander also “rejected the presence of foreign countries in the Persian Gulf and in the artery of the world’s energy supplies”. Good relations between Iran and Iraq, he added, could set the region on the right path.
Fadavi said that he had invited his Iraqi counterparts to visit Iran.
BG Farzad Esmaili of the Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base made the announcement, saying the incident happened on February 10.
As Iran moved to condemn attacks against Shias in Pakistan this week, Iranian hardline news site Mashregh once again blamed foreign “Wahhabis” for sponsoring the violence. In the wake of increasing Sunni-Shia sectarianism and violence in its Sistan-Baluchestan province — which borders Pakistan — Iran has recently blamed its Sunni rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia for funding and inciting Sunni separatist movements.
Whether they are sponsored by foreign states or not (and it is impossible to ascertain from open-source intelligence), the Sistan-Baluchestan separatist movements — particularly Harakat Ansar Iran (HAI) — differ from their predecessor Jundullah in that they are far more outward-looking and have connected their cause with wider Sunni causes.
HAI, for example, maintains a blog in Persian — as one would expect — but reaches a wider audience through sites in Arabic and English. The Persian website focusses mostly on local issues in Sistan-Baluchestan — including setting up an anti-narcotics wing to combat drug trafficking and addiction in the province. HAI also used its Persian-language blog to announce its cooperation with Pakistani group Sipah-e Shahada.
Aimed at a different audience, the Arabic and English sites look beyond the group’s regional goals and discuss wider issues of Sunni-Shia sectarianism. (HAI’s English site is currently suspended but the group continues to publish English-language content on its Persian blog, a sign of how important it is to HAI to be a part of the English-language “Jihadosphere”)
Like other Jihadi groups, HAI also maintains an extensive presence on social media, and has branded Twitter accounts in both English and Arabic (though, significantly, not Persian). Prior to opening its branded Twitter accounts, HAI advertised its presence on Twitter via an Arabic-speaking spokesman operating under the name Abu Hafez al-Balushi (and who may be operating out of Pakistan). Al-Balushi’s account has over 6,500 followers, many from Sunni Gulf states.
Again mimicking other Jihad groups, HAI has its own YouTube channel and even a media wing, al-Farooq, which has put out videos but especially images with anti-Shia, pro-Sunni messages that the group has disseminated via Twitter and Facebook. One of the images, which caused some shock, is of a youth training camp:
Often, HAI’s English media talks about sectarian issues but focusses on Iran, however — such as this recent posting:
HAI also uses its English channels to state its local aims:
HAI’s English and Arabic language media have also emphasized support for Sunnis in other parts of the world, including in Bahrain and Syria:
As with Bahrain, HAI frames the Syria crisis as a Sunni-Shia conflict, emphasizing both Sunni solidarity and criticizing Shia Iran’s role in the conflict. A recent blog post says that:
The Shi’ites are supported by Russia, Iran, China, Iraq and Hezbollah. These allies supply money, weapons, advice and manpower to keep Bashar’s forces strong and sustainable. They support Syria because of worldly interests such as oil and other valuable resources and are working extremely hard to delay the guaranteed victory of the Mujahideen.
HAI has used its Arabic language channels to provide information about local issues in Sistan-Baluchestan, but also to call on Sunni Arabs in the Gulf to join in the struggle against Iran, including by donating money.
Ultimately, while HAI makes active use of social media to connect with others beyond the borders of Iran, and while it positions itself as part of a global Sunni struggle against Shia Muslims, the Iran-dominated content of the group’s messages and its repeated return to discussing its own struggle show that HAI is predominantly concerned with local issues rather than with attempting to brand itself as merely a local offshoot of any global Jihad movement.
- Sistan-Baluchestan Sunni Jihadi group announces ‘youth training camp’ (iranmilitarynews.org)
- Sunni Jihad group Jaish ul-Adl claims attack on IRGC in Saravan (iranmilitarynews.org)
IRGC Cdr: Secret Revolutionary Soldiers and Branches in Lebanon, Gaza caused “historical failures” for IDFPosted: March 7, 2013
In a speech that offers insights into the Revolutionary Guards’ perception of their role in Iran’s attempts to expand its regional power, IRGC deputy commander BG Hossain Salami has said that “the secret soldiers of the Revolution” and their branches in Lebanon and Gaza have brought about “historical failures” for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
A recently-formed Iranian Sunni jihadi group, Jaish ul-Adl (‘Army of Justice’) has claimed responsibility for killing several IRGC officers in an attack in Saravan in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province.
Reza Seraj, the head of the Student Basij Organization, discussing America’s “attempts to bring Iran to the negotiating table” said that the strategic power balance between the US and Iran has changed and that the issue of Iran is of such importance for the US and for President Obama that it wants to solve the matter this year or next year.
“[America] really cannot endure the change in power balance,” Seraj said. “The thing that has brought American endurance to a head is the Islamic Awakening, which has reversed the strategic balance for America.”
Seraj went on to say that Washington was trying to interfere in the 2013 Iranian presidential election by creating “economic and social, political and even security challenges”.
Discussing Iran’s recent nuclear talks with the 5+1 powers in Almaty, Naghdi said that the “great powers” had joined forces to “march against Iran” but were still weak.
“They want negotiation and compromise,” Naghdi said, explaining that this was because the US’s power is declining, while Iran’s was on the rise.
Sepah News has quoted the commander of Iran’s Qods Force, the IRGC’s extraterritorial wing, as saying that Syria needs a “martyr” such as Hajj Mohammad Ebrahim Hemmat, General Ahmad Kazemi or Hossein Kharrazi.
According to the report, Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani spoke during a memorial for members of the 27th Mohammad-Rasoul-Allah Division killed in the Iran-Iraq War.