The 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the easing of sanctions on Tehran did not curb or moderate Iranian-backed militancy, according to a new report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) who warned that IRGC-manufactured militia groups are currently the greatest threat to regional stability.
The latest report titled “ The View From Tehran: Iran's Militia Doctrine” and co-authored by TBI’s Saeid Golkar and Kasra Aarabi revealed that while economic sanctions on the Iranian regime have significantly weakened Iran’s already ailing economy, it has not altered the regime’s priorities.
"The research today that was published reveals that the number of militias surged after the easing of sanctions on Tehran," argues Kasra Aarabi, an analyst on #Iran and Shia Islamist Extremism at the Tony Blair Institute (@InstituteGC).https://t.co/FuvxZqkWvh pic.twitter.com/McNSQRtBVe— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) February 12, 2021
“The relationship between Tehran, the IRGC, and these manufactured groups is rooted in worldview, they have spent a lot of time indoctrinating and radicalizing these fighters,” Aarabi told Al Arabiya.
“So even if tensions are eased, or if Iran receives sanctions or sanctions are increased, then given the fact that this relationship is not based on material, but it is what based on worldview, these fighters will fight as warriors without borders, regardless of access to funds from Iran,” he added.
The latest report released on Thursday coincides with an increased frequency of attacks from the Iran-backed Houthi militia group that on Tuesday, fired four explosives-laden drones on Saudi Arabia, attacked Saudi Arabia’s southern Abha International Airport and managed to set a civilian plane on fire day later on Wednesday and then fired a ballistic missile and two drone on the southern territories of the Kingdom 24 hours later.
"These fighters will fight as warriors without borders, regardless of access to funds from Iran," says Tony Blair Institute analyst Kasra Aarabi following a co-authored report that found the easing of sanctions on Iran did not curb #Iran-backed militancy.https://t.co/FuvxZqkWvh pic.twitter.com/CvweRPPsaG— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) February 12, 2021
The increased number of attacks launched by the Houthis this past week comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified members of Congress of his intent to remove the Iran-backed Houthis from the US list of terrorist organizations.
According to a document obtained by Al Arabiya English, the US State Department intends to remove both the Houthi militia and three of its senior leaders from a terrorism list.
“The premise that Iran would moderate its commitment to creating and sponsoring militias due to the thaw in US-Iranian relations after the 2015 nuclear deal and sanctions relief for Tehran was false. The number of militias created by the IRGC surged after this period, and the Guard’s presence abroad peaked, with the Quds Force expanding its operations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen,” both TBI authors wrote in their report.
Aarabi said the report also points out Iran’s support for militia groups on a spectrum, specifically the IRGC’s role in helping those groups it has manufactured like Hezbollah in Lebanon to supporting grassroots groups with shared or tactical interests, from Hamas to the Taliban.
“There is a spectrum and we show this in the report from groups that are grassroots militias that have shared or tactical interests, such as the IRGC's relationship with the Taliban, for example. Or, on the other side of the spectrum, there are groups that have been manufactured and have ideological compliance, they have embraced Vilayat-e Faqih and they have embraced Khamenei as the supreme authority,” Aarabi, using the phrase in reference to the Shia Islamist principle that gives Iran’s supreme leader authority over Shia Muslims.
“Within this latter group, there is a spectrum. Groups that observe practical implementation of day to day Vilayat-e Faqih of Khamenei's practical will. They obviously have a much closer relationship with the IRGC and they receive more support and essentially more ideological compliance and more support from Teheran,” Aarabi said.
“It is these groups in particular that are going to be the hardest to dismantle and counter and they pose the greatest threat to stability in the Middle East,” he added.