Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative in the Quds Force (the special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards responsible for extraterritorial operations), said on October 10 that the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State was an excuse for the West to increase its military dominance in the region.
"Although they are using Islamic State as an excuse to enter the region and strengthen their dominance in the region, this will not be achieved, since we are confident that the outcome of this move will be a failure, just as the rest of America’s moves in Iraq and Afghanistan failed,” he told Iran’s Defa News.
Shirazi’s remarks reflect the hard-line stance taken by Khamenei, Iran’s military, and some prominent politicians against the U.S.-led air strikes in Syria and Iraq. Even though Iran is opposed to Islamic State, as one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest allies, Tehran views the U.S.-led coalition against the jihadist group as also posing a potential threat to the Syrian government.
Senior Iranian figures outside the military also voiced similar views this week. On October 9, the chairman of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy parliamentary committee, Ala al-Din Boroujerdi, dubbed the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State a "political game."
"America and the West created Islamic State solely to create unrest in the Islamic world," he commented, saying that the United States was "responding to domestic public opinion regarding the beheading of an American journalist by this little group."
Boroujerdi said that the "only way" to confront Islamic State was to provide assistance to the Syrian and Iraqi governments, as Iran has been doing.
Iran’s influential parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, also slammed the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, while noting that Tehran had its own plans for fighting terrorism.
"Bombing is irrelevant against this group of guerrillas. Because of this, Iran does not take this move seriously, but we have a plan to fight terrorism and we are acting on it," he said.
Iran officially denies providing military assistance to Syria. However, a number of senior figures, including Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Reza Rauf Sheibani, this week praised "national militias" in Syria as being like Iran’s own Basij paramilitary movement. Sheibani has also lauded the Lebanese Shi'a militia Hizballah’s role in fighting Sunni rebel groups in Syria.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk