Iran Shifts Focus from Nuclear to Conventional, From Defense to Offense
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Supreme Commander of Iran’s military forces in the Middle East, is engaged in one of the biggest projects of his career: He is fashioning a new Muslim Shiite mega-army made up of four national military forces put up by Iran, Syria, Iraq and the Lebanese Hizballah. This four-pronged force, to serve under Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) central command, is designed to dominate the heartland of the Fertile Crescent, namely Iraq, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and cover a region ranging from the Caspian Sea, through northern Iran and Iraq up to the Mediterranean shores of Syria and Lebanon.
Tehran will gain the coveted land bridge for linking its domains.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources add another primary aim of the new military machine, which is to confront the foes of the Islamic Republic when they get in the way of Iran’s expansionist schemes.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani injected an instructive comment into his warning to Donald Trump on Tuesday, Dec. 6, not to “rip up the nuclear accord: "There is no doubt that the United States is our enemy,” he said.
Israel has been named as such too often to count.
In the first stage of the merger, the four Shiite armies’ infantry and armored units will be amalgamated, followed later by the union of their naval and air forces.
Soleimani is working to the guidelines handed down by Iran’s supreme leader. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei instructed the general to reorganize the chain of command for the quarter-of-a-million-strong Iranian army with new appointments and structural changes.
The key sentence: All branches of the Iranian military command structure to be reshaped to enhance its ability to deploy and use conventional military power throughout the Middle East. They are being rebalanced to shift the army from its defensive posture to a more active role in supporting Iran’s expeditionary operations outside Iran.
Translation: Iran has shifted its main military focus and resources from the nuclear to the conventional – without, however, sacrificing its aggressive imperial designs, which the supreme leader has decided can be best achieved by a melting-pot of marching Shiite soldiers.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that modeling the new military outfit on the lines of the Revolutionary Guards will produce an elite force of commando and special operations units, armed with top-notch equipment, including armor. It will be trained as a rapid intervention force, ready to respond at speed to calls for assistance from the new armies taking shape in Iraq and Syria as components of Iran’s new Shiite project.
On Nov. 27, the Iraqi parliament passed a law approving the Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces militia as a government entity operating alongside the Iraqi army.
The details of that measure are illuminating:
1. The Popular Mobilization Force of 120,000 men will be merged with the Iraqi army.
2. The Baghdad government will pay the wages of its officers and men starting this month.
And so, after Washington coughed up hundreds of millions of dollars per year to strengthen the Iraqi army, it suddenly turns out that the US has funded the core military infrastructure for Iran’s new Shiite army.
This month too, the Syrian army established a “Fifth Corps” which our sources revealed was nothing but a front for the fusion of the Bashar Assad’s military with its allies, Hizballah, and the Shiite militias imported to Syria from Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Revolutionary Guards. This hybrid, to number between 50,000 and 70,000 men in the first stage, is coming together under the eye of IRGC officers.
Its command structure will eventually be absorbed into the overall command of the new Shiite force, as the process of building a united Shiite army out of the conjoined military forces of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizballah, goes forward.