The National Interest: In the days after the joint Syrian Army–Lebanese Hezbollah victory over the rebels in the strategic town of Qusayr, the Assad regime has been positively giddy, announcing plans for a major offensive to retake the northern city of Aleppo. Assad’s key backer, Iran, has also been gloating. A victory speech of sorts, reported by hardline outlet Fars News and translated by the American Enterprise Institute’s Iran Tracker, offers a broad insight into how one of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s closest advisers sees the Islamic Republic’s standing in the region, and how the Syrian conflict figures in Iranian strategy. It’s a vision that sharply conflicts with how we’d expect Tehran to see itself — and accordingly, one that should be closely examined as the United States attempts to compel Iran to make concessions on its nuclear program.
The speaker, general Yahya Rahim-Safavi, is Khamenei’s top military aide, a role that he took up after a decade heading the politically powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He’s an influential player — notably, he backed the infamous head of the IRGC’s covert Quds Force, general Qassim Suleimani, whom the New York Times branded “Iran’s Master of Chaos.” And if his position and background didn’t already give it away, Rahim-Safavi is known as a resolute hardliner.
In Rahim-Safavi’s eyes, Iran’s strategic position is strong and getting stronger, and two men are responsible — Ali Khamenei and George W. Bush. [Continue reading…]