IRGC commander Esmail Ghaani threatens Israel in rare message from Syria
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Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force leader Esmail Ghaani recently visited Syria where he threatened Israel and the US, according to Iranian reports.
He went to the border city Al-Bukamal, which is in Syria on the Euphrates river across from Iraq. This is a key area for Iranian weapons trafficking and home to the Imam Ali base. Iran moves precision guided munitions and other weapons through this area and has a network of pro-Iranian militias between Al-Bukamal and Deir Ezzor, a corridor of Iranian influence.
Ghaani said that Iran would continue to fight the “Zionist regime” and the US, and said the US and Israel were supporting ISIS. Ghaani was appointed after the US killed IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani in January.
He is known for his expertise on Afghanistan and has had a rocky relationship with pro-Iranian groups in Iraq and elsewhere. He doesn’t have the clout that Soleimani has but he is trying to show he can make the same clandestine trips that Soleimani was known for.
In Al-Bukamal he visited a prayer room and posed for photos, two of which were circulated online. The report about his trip was initially published by Tasnim News in Iran, which is close to the IRGC. However, they then deleted the report.
It was too late to hide it, though, because dozens of Farsi media had picked it up. The reports name was “US-Zionist conspiracies are not complete.”
Alam TV noted that Ghaani had a “message for the US and Israel.” Russia’s Sputnik headlined their report “from inside Syria.” Rasa News reported the same visit with photos.
Ghaani appeared to push several conspiracies during his trip. He claimed the 9/11 terrorist attacks were carried out by the US and used as a pretext for wars in the Middle East. He also claimed that the “children of the Prophet and Imams love to fight these world-consumers, and this spirit causes the failure of the US and Israel on the one hand and repression of ISIS remnants on the other.”
He said that Iran’s fighters in Syria, of which there are estimated to be tens of thousands of pro-Iranian militias and around 700 members of the IRGC, must prepare for martyrdom and they should be spiritual in their “resistance.” Iran believes it runs an “axis of resistance” in the Middle East against the US, Israel and Gulf countries.
Meanwhile in Iran the IRGC’s Ground Forces showed off new “self-sufficient” military vehicles and other developments they have made. They claim US sanctions have not affected them. IRGC head Hossein Salami also praised the IRGC for its self-sufficiency and “jihad,” and noted that the arms embargo on Iran has not stemmed its abilities. Iran’s enemies should prepare for “surprises,” he noted.
Ghaani was in Iraq around March 30 and again around May 20, according to reports. Some Iraqis resented Ghaani’s meddling in Iraq and he may have had to apply for a visa the second time. Iran has tasked a Hezbollah agent named Sheikh Mohammed Kawtharani with coordinating its role with the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Units.
The US put a bounty on Kawtharani on April 11, ten days after the Ghaani visit. On Friday 14 members of the pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah were detained in Baghdad while preparing rockets to fire at US troops. Pro-Iranian groups have carried out six rocket attacks on the US this month, including on the Green Zone, airport and Camp Taji.
Rocket attacks were carried out on June 8, 10, 13, 14, 16, 18 and 22 according to various reports. It is believed that IRGC aerospace force head Amir Ali-Hajizadeh visited Al-Bukamal on or about April 29, just seven days after overseeing the firing of a military satellite into orbit.
In January, March, and several times in May the Al-Bukamal area was hit by airstrikes. The one in March laid waste parts of the Iranian base. On June 24 an onion factory in Syria and a radar dish installation near Suwayda, as well as areas near Deir Ezzor were hit by airstrikes.
Ghaani’s Al-Bukamal alleged visit comes as Iraq sent forces to the border of Al-Qaim on June 27 to secure the area. The area is used for trafficking precision guided munitions to Hezbollah.
In addition Iran suffered a mysterious explosion near an area where surface to surface missiles are made on June 25. At the same time in Iraq Iranian-backed militias are chafing to fight the US.
Akram al-Kaabi of the pro-Iranian Nujaba militia released a statement on Saturday saying pro-Iranian groups were united with Iraqi security forces and has been seen with Ghaani recently. He said his militia was “partners in blood and jihad” with the Iraqi security forces.