One of the more interesting if unintended outcomes of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 has been the elevation of the United States’ arch-rival, Iran, to the level of a regional superpower. Thanks to Washington’s disastrous security and diplomatic strategies, begun under the incompetent presidency of George W. Bush and continued under the expedient presidency of Barack Obama, Tehran now exercises unprecedented influence throughout the territories of its nearest Arab neighbours. Political and military proxies of the country are evident in Iraq, Syria, the Lebanon, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and beyond, while envoys from the Shahrbani Palace are treated with the deference once reserved for visitors from the State Department. In a sense the actions of the United States and its shirt-tail allies have made domestic paranoia about Iran in the 1980s and ’90s a reality.
Of course I’ve discussed this matter several times before but the sheer audacity of Iranian actions in recent months emphasises the new loci of power in the Middle East. The open-source analyses of the military blog Oryx lends further weight to all this:
“Iraq’s fight against the fighters of the Islamic State is one not only fought by Iraq’s Armed Forces and the Peshmerga, but also by an increasing number of Shiite militias, most of which receive extensive support from Iran. Iraq’s equivalent of the Lebanese Hizbullah movement, Kata’ib Hizbullah, is without a doubt the strongest and most influential of all Shiite militias currently present in Iraq. This has come to be so mostly thanks to Iranian funding, lethal aid and the presence of Iranian advisors on the ground.
Iran has supplied these militias with anything from 12.7mm AM.50 anti-materiel rifles, 40mm Nasir grenade launchers, Safir jeeps equipped with 107mm multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), recoilless rifles and even 122mm HM-20 MRLs, all of which produced in Iran. The amount and type of weaponry supplied depends on the size of the militias in question.
However, the rumoured presence of Iranian tanks with militias in Iraq could until now not be confirmed. These rumours quickly made their way around the world each time any vehicle with tracks on a tank transporter driving close to the Western border of Iran was sighted. Now photograpic evidence has finally arisen of Iranian tanks that have joined the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, and are busy driving their fighters out of the town of Tikrit.”
There is more here, plus the boosting of the Assad Regime in Damascus, Tehran’s embattled but still hale ally (which the US is now making overtures to thanks to the emergence of the Islamic State in the borderlands of Syria and Iraq):
“The Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF), entangled in a bloody civil warthat will soon reach its four-year mark, relies heavily on Russia and Iran to keep attrition from diminishing its firepower. After having upgraded several SyAAF Mi-17s with armour plates and FLIR cameras, stationing Mojaher 4, Yasir and Shahed 129 UAVs in Syria and even providing an Il-76TD to the SyAAF on behalf of Syrian Air, Iran is now further consoldating its stake in the conflict by the delivery of ten Su-22s to Syria.
The first of these new Su-22s was spotted while bombing the town of Talbeesa, Homs Governorate, on the 9th of March 2015.”
(h/t to War is Boring).