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memri
December 2, 2016 No.
6699

Prominent Iranian Dissident Mehdi Khazali: Iran's Strategy, Policy In Syria Is Qods Force Adventurism Led By Qassem Soleimani – And It Is Wrong

In a video he posted on his website on September 11, 2016, prominent Iranian dissident Dr. Mehdi Khazali vehemently attacked the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)'s Qods Force and its commander Qassem Soleimani. Khazali, who lives in Iran and is the son of Ayatollah Abu Al-Qassam Khazali, a member of both the Guardian Council and the Expediency Council, said in the video that Tehran is "bogged down in the quagmire" of Syria because of the "excessive aspirations" of Qods Force commander Soleimani, and that this has led to Iranian resources being "wasted in Syria" and to the Syrian people's hatred of Iran. He added that it was Soleimani's policy that had led to the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS).

In addition to calling on the Iranian regime to give the U.S. access to military bases on Iranian soil, as it has done for Russia, so that it will be able to fight ISIS, in the video Khazali also called on the Iranian regime to end its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and to change direction – that is, to work together with Turkey, the U.S., and Russia for the Syrian people against ISIS, and to establish democracy in Syria under which there is no place for Assad.


Mehdi Khazali (Image: iroon.com)

Reaching out to Sunni Muslims, Khazali stressed that there is no difference between Sunni and Shi'ite extremism, and that all Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims are equal. Because of their hostility towards Iran, he said, the Sunni Arab Gulf states are equipping ISIS, and therefore Iran needs to work together with the coalition to combat ISIS in order to stop the Gulf enmity towards Iran.

Dismissing the aura of heroism and leadership that Iranian regime circles have established for Soleimani in the media, Khazali called it unmerited, and added that Soleimani was incapable of saying a few words in front of a camera. He also compared the hollow Soleimani who had created chaos in the region to Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, who, he said, had worked for the good of society.

He criticized the IRGC and its Qods Force for their "adventurism" and for their actions against Israel, including kidnapping Israel soldiers and assisting in carrying out attacks on Israel from Lebanon and Gaza, and said that these actions were the reason that Israel was still in existence, because they give justification for its survival.

The U.S. and Europe, he said, are not interested in eliminating ISIS, but rather in confining all the extremists in the world – Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Shi'ite ISIS, and so on – to the region, so that they will kill each other off, and so that Islam can be presented as ugly and cruel, "with the aim of preparing the ground for the serious world war against Islam and the Muslims." He explained: "They [the West] are sending a message that all [Muslims] are the same, and that if they have might, all of them [i.e. both Sunnis and Shi'ites] are going to act this way."

Also dismissing the position of the IRGC and of Iran's ideological circles, according to which Iran is a power in the region thanks to the IRGC, he quoted former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezai as saying: "As far as missiles are concerned, we are not considered to be even a thousandth of America."

Click here or below to view excerpts from Khazali's statements in the video:

The following are excerpts from Dr. Khazali's statements in the video.

"If We Had Any Sense, And If The Qods Force Had Not Had Excessive Aspirations, Bashar Al-Assad Would Have Been Toppled In 2011 Because Of The Arab Spring"

Question: "Tell us about the Nojeh airport in Hamadan [Iran] and the Russian jets that are stationed there [and fly to Syria from Iranian territory]... Tell us about this matter."

Khazali: "There were many disagreements [in Iran]. Some said the Russians should not have revealed [their presence in Iran] and that they acted improperly. Some attacked the regime and said: 'You violated the country's sovereignty as well as [Ayatollah Khomeini's] statement ‘neither the East [the Soviet Union] nor the West [the U.S., only the Islamic Republic],’ and added that this was merely a pretext to attack the regime...

"In essence, I see the Syria war as a wrong one. If we had any sense, and if the Qods Force had not had excessive aspirations, Bashar Assad would have been toppled in 2011 because of the Arab Spring, and his dictatorial, oppressive Ba'thist regime would have fallen. We could have maintained good ties with those who would have replaced him in a democratic manner. That way, Iran's resources would not have been wasted in Syria.

"For 30 years, we gave oil to Syria for free. Anyone you give oil to for free will be your friend, like the saying, 'So long as you have money, I am your friend...' So any regime that would have arisen [instead of Assad's] would have received free oil from you and welcomed you. There was no need for us to intervene there [in Syria]. I think our strategy and policy were wrong. [This is] adventurism on the part of the Qods Force and Qassem Soleimani. I believe that this war (against ISIS) was a mistake. It wreaked destruction in Iraq, Syria, and part of Turkey. We ourselves are continuing to provide funds for this war. [As though] an eight-year war [with Iraq 1980-88] was not enough [for us], we have now been fighting in Syria for five years."

"We Are Bogged Down In The Quagmire... We Are Bogged Down With ISIS, Which Emerged Because Of Qassem Soleimani's Mismanagement"

"This was a mistake we should not have made. I have already said several times that the two sides [in this war] are a Shi'ite ISIS and a Sunni ISIS. Now, unfortunately, as the saying goes, 'one crazy man drops a rock down a well and 100 wise men cannot get it out.' The rock has been dropped down the well and now we are stuck and nothing can be done. How do we get this rock out? This is the situation we are in. This war is ongoing and we are bogged down in the quagmire. We are bogged down in this quagmire. We have become entangled with ISIS, due to Qassem Soleimani's mismanagement. If not for this, there would have been no ISIS.

"With the Arab countries' money, the Arab extremists [ISIS] have gathered in an area greater than what remains of Syria and Iraq; they now occupy this area and are selling [its] oil. [ISIS] poses a threat to the world's security. They perpetrate crimes throughout the World. Because of a mistake by Qassem Soleimani and the Qods Force, the world now has a common enemy."

"Even If America Wants A Military Base From Which To Put Down These [ISIS] Criminals... We Should Agree"

"What should we do now? If America – not only Russia – request a military base, in order to overcome those criminals, who pose a threat to human society as a whole, we must agree. It's not at all important, because after all, during the fighting with the Taliban, we gave America (permission to use) our space, and the same goes for the fighting against Saddam. We had a common enemy and common interests, and our good sense dictated that we set our differences aside. Today ISIS is threatening the security of the region, and we must lend a hand.

"If we succeed in cooperating with Turkey, as we did during the [recent] coup [attempt against Erdogan]; if we succeed in bringing Turkey over to our side so that it will no longer support ISIS and if Syria-Turkey border incidents do not push Turkey towards Syria's opponents; [and] if instead of supporting Bashar Assad's tyrannical regime we protect the Syrian people from ISIS – then Turkey, Russia, America, and Iran can unite and decide that democracy should be established in Syria and that Assad must go. They will unite against ISIS and stop this fitna there, and uproot ISIS. Anywhere ISIS goes, it sows destruction and harms the honor of Islam, as is reflected in the jokes and cartoons on this issue – such as [the one depicting] the last Muslim standing swordfighting with himself.

"This is the result of what ISIS has created on both fronts in Syria. There is no difference between the Sunni and Shi'ite ISIS. The takfiri thinking that wants to kill everyone [or] turn them all into members of the takfir [camp] is mistaken. We want to reach out in friendship to our Sunni brothers. All Muslims are equal and should live side by side.

"I think that we must open our [air]space and provide military bases [for Russia], but at this time we must see why Russia has decided to reveal military secrets [i.e. that its planes took off from Iranian bases to carry out bombing missions in Syria]. Why in all these incidents does [Hizbullah secretary-general] Hassan Nasrallah suddenly say 'Iran is providing all our funds' – what is his point? Does he want to create a crisis for Iran? After all the years that we and everyone in the world has known that Nasrallah receives a stipend from Iran, and so many years that he has said nothing about it, why is he suddenly announcing that all his funds and money come from Iran. Perhaps they are seeking to create tension behind the scenes.

"Now the masters [in the Iranian regime] must go fight ISIS, and we hope that ISIS will be eliminated by all those involved, and that other countries will join in as well. We must establish good relations with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, so that they will not give ISIS financial support. At present, they are arming those criminals because of the enmity between us. We must prevent this support, and bring America and Russia over to our side – and thus we will be able to shut down the [entire] fight.

"The Syrian People Will Blame Us, And Will Hate The Qods Force And [Its Commander] Qassem Soleimani; They Will Be Hated In Lebanon And Syria"

"The Syrian people is indeed unfortunate. I think in the future, because its country was destroyed, the Syrian people will blame us and hate the Qods Force and [its commander] Qassem Soleimani. They will be hated in Lebanon and Syria. This will happen in the near future, very soon, perhaps in a few months, such as in 2017. You will see how the Syrian people loathe them. The wise people in the [Iranian] regime must conclude this campaign and remove this rock from the well...

"After the rise of [Iranian President Hassan] Rohani [in 2013], there were talks, and Soleimani agreed that Bashar Assad would be voted out in 2014, meaning that we would wait until 2014, and then Bashar Assad would go, and then it would be possible to transfer the regime in Syria [to another president]. Had we made sure that the [Syrian] regime was voted out after [the] three years of destruction in Syria, 2011-2014… but in the [June 2014] elections, the masters [in Iran] changed their minds, and Assad was reelected by an astronomical margin...

"It was hoped that in 2014 this [transition of power in Syria] would take place. Iran, Russia, and Syria agreed to conclude this matter, but unfortunately, we are still failing to do so. There is still a chance, because Russia is willing [to see] Bashar go. America and Turkey want this. Only Iran needs to change its formula for the region, and [it should] continue [promoting] its interests [but] via a democratic regime [in Syria]. Unfortunately, Iran is still thinking of adventures, and has still not come to the realization that it can attain its interests by peaceful and calm means, which is the [right] way.

"ISIS will threaten our borders, and in fact, the target of ISIS and of the takfiri ideology is the Shi'a. ISIS's dream is to invade  Shi'ite holy sites. It is true that the takfiri ideology targets the four Sunni sects as well, but Shi'a heads [the list], and [takfiri ideology] has a bigger dispute with the Shi'a. This fire will certainly reach us as well, unless we are wise and we compensate for Qassem Soleimani's ambitions and mistakes with well-thought-out statements – not just with chanting slogans, which solves nothing."

"People Say That Soleimani Has A 'Flying Carpet' And Flies All Over – That's Fine For Harry Potter [Stories], But It Doesn't Help [Iranian] Society Today"

Question: "Is General Soleimani the 'Batman' people say he is – meaning that he is with Putin one moment and then suddenly appears in Yemen?"

Khazali: "Kayhan elements have created a ghost [meaning Soleimani], and this is a childish fiction created by domestic elements. Occasionally the BBC and America find political figures and artistically turn them into the president of the country. Now they [Iranian elements at home] seek to do likewise, which is childish, as they have created a ghost. We have no need for a ghost. We need someone who looks [like a leader] to be able to stand in front of a camera and say two words. Soleimani does not have [this capability]. People say that Soleimani has a 'flying carpet' and flies all over. That's fine for Harry Potter [stories], but it doesn't help [Iranian] society today, which says: '[Soleimani] has destroyed Syria,' and 'Bashar Assad is disliked and has no legitimacy.' Whereas a hero for our society is Nelson Mandela, who stepped down as president in favor of someone younger. For the society today, Obama was very successful, and [Hillary] Clinton is well liked. She and Obama had good achievements. Obama gained popularity due to the JCPOA. That is what today's [Iranian] society is looking for."

"What Has Qassem Soleimani Brought Us? War. Our Money Was Wasted In Syria"

"What has Qassem Soleimani brought us? War. Our money was wasted in Syria. It is unclear what happened to the $800 billion in petrodollars [that we had during] the Ahmadinejad era. It reached Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas, Syria; it was spent on Bashar Assad. These martyrs who travel [to Syria] as defenders of holy sites – do they defend holy sites, or Bashar Assad? Ultimately the public will ask: What holy sites are there in Aleppo? Where do these people become martyrs? Why did this even happen?

"I read an article by a president[ial candidate] who was supposed to be appointed to the transitional government [in Syria]. He firmly blamed Iran, saying that it should be prosecuted and punished. He considered Iran to blame for all Syria's disasters. The people are already beginning to realize these things."

"By Your Actions, You Have Made Israel Seem Unfortunate, Keeping It [Alive] – If You Stop Your Games Now, Israel Will Face Its Fate [And Cease To Exist]"

"I said once that it was adventurousness that led you to kidnap two Israelis [Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, in July 2006], and [as a result] Israel heavily bombarded Lebanon's infrastructure for 33 days straight [i.e. the Second Lebanon War]. It also launched several missiles. After that, Israel said that Hizbullah, which is in effect an Iranian satellite, had defeated it in the 33-day war. Then you shouted, 'Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is a hero and we have created a homeland [for the Shi'ites in Lebanon].' But this homeland no longer enjoys any sympathy.  It was fleeting… What remains of this homeland?... Then we saw that in the 22-day war in Gaza [Operation Cast Lead in 2009], no country backed Gaza but Iran and Hamas. It was already an Iranian war against Israel.

"This is exactly what they [Israel and America] wanted. They wanted to say that Iran was so strong that 'oh Arabs, be frightened, and buy weapons [from us], fear Iran and not Israel.' Even Syria did not cooperate in the war between Israel and Palestine. Revolutionary Egypt, which abandoned Mubarak, did not even open the border crossings for medicines to come in. This sent a message, and they succeeded in it.

"I was in a [prison] cell when reports [in Iran] claimed that the Israeli defense minister had [taken refuge] in a bomb shelter [during the 2009 Gaza war]. The guard came by and told me: 'Did you see what we did?' I said: 'It seems that you were also fooled by their news. Some short-range missiles with low potential were fired [from Gaza to Israel]. Yes, they destroyed some walls, but what did they ultimately achieve? [Israel] sells weapons and has distanced the Arabs from Palestine. The war has become one between Iran and Israel. This gave life to Israel, which was already past its expiration date.

"One of the steps in the West's plan for change [in the region] was for Israel to leave, like South Africa did; for the feud to end; and for Israel to be purged of weapons, as the land is sacred to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Before this land belonged  to the Muslims and became  their primary place of prayer, it was the first and last place of prayer for the Jews. Jerusalem is [also] a sacred area for Christians. This land is sacred to all the monotheistic religions, and belongs to everyone. By your actions, you have made Israel seem unfortunate, keeping it [alive]. If you stop your games now, Israel will face its fate [and cease to exist].

"The Western world sees its interests in technocratic and democratic regimes that replace oppressive ones. In today's information-rich world, where every child has a news agency, there is a price to pay for ties with oppressive regimes, which is why they hasten to make alliances with democratic countries. The West [too pays] a price for ties with kings and totalitarian regimes, because unlike in the past, there is a wealth of information that is instantly spread. So they replace [oppressive regimes with democratic ones] and the Arab Spring was just one [example] of this policy of change, which is still going on. We must learn a lesson, join them, and improve our relations with the regimes that have been chosen by the people."

"There Is No Global Will To Destroy ISIS"; The Criminal Europe And America Are "Creating The Atmosphere In Which Both [Sunnis And Shi'ites] Show Force, In Order To Present The World With An Ugly Image Of Islam"

Question: "Is Iran so powerful that in 2014 it could have decided – that is, [President] Rohani and Soleimani could have decided – that Bashar Assad would move aside and the game would be over? And in our day and age, when it is possible to manage everything by cellphone or some other device, is there a need for Soleimani to leave Syria for Yemen?"

Khazali: "There are two issues here: One, how powerful is Iran compared to the world? Two, how powerful is Iran in the region it controls, that is, in Syria? For instance, ISIS shows force in areas it has occupied, killing and beheading people, burning and drowning people in cages, exporting oil, and so on. These are ISIS's capabilities in its territory.

"Syria is within our sphere of military influence, and once, an IRGC member boasted that Bashar Assad only has 10,000 people left and that it is us, that is, Qods Force, that is keeping him [in his position as president]. In fact, Bashar Assad's career was finished a few years ago, and they [the Qods Force] preserved him...

"There is no global will to destroy ISIS, which is why it is powerful – but so are we. Some say: 'Let there be casualties on both sides. This [only] benefits Islam.' Now [other countries] are saying [about us]: ‘Let there be casualties on both sides. This benefits us,' because both sides are Islamic extremists, and that is what they want. This [the fighting] creates a very violent and ugly image of Islam, which is what they want.

"Therefore, you see that an atmosphere has emerged in which the Shi'ite ISIS and the Sunni ISIS both show force, because the world wants this show [of force] to happen. It is the world, both the West and the East, that is committing crimes; it is Europe and America that are committing crimes and creating this atmosphere in which both sides show force, in order to present the world with an ugly image of Islam. Therefore, if you see that we have a chance to determine who the president [of Syria] will be – just as we cut a deal with Russia that Bashar Assad would go in 2014, we can also violate this agreement and keep him [Assad], because the West desires it.

"We know that in Iraq there is a Shi'ite majority; in Syria there are the Arabs, and ISIS is a collection of extremists from Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and so on. [The West] gathered them all in one area and told them: 'Do what you want to present this image to the world.' ISIS broadcasts the worst forms of cruelty to the world, and films this bizarre and unprecedented viciousness. Why does it film this and create fear? Because the West wants [this]. This prepares the ground for the world's serious war against Islam and Muslims. They [the West] send the message that all of them [Shi'ites and Sunnis] are all the same and that if they had the power, [both Sunnis and Shi'ites] would all act this way.

"Therefore, we must not think that we are powerful compared to the world, because it is not so. They gave us this opportunity. With regard to the region, indeed, a country so large that it is not clear what happened to $800 billion of its profits – clearly, these funds were invested in military matters, so they [the Iranian military elite] believe that Iran is the region's top military power. But Mohsen Rezai [former IRGC commander and current secretary of the Expediency Council] let slip that 'in terms of missiles, we aren't even one thousandth of America...'"[1]

 

[1] YouTube.com/watch?v=ZkZfiiisdAM, September 11, 2016.