By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
The deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran Brigadier General Hossein Salami told a forum at the University of Damghan in Semnan province in northern Iran, that his forces has bases throughout the Middle East and that Iran was confronting “the Zionists” and Americans in the region.
Speaking at the National Forum for honoring Mujahideen, which included “jihadist figures from Bahrain and Yemen,” according to Iran’s Al-Alam news, the IRGC commander claimed that Iran had emerged victorious from recent conflicts in the Middle East. “The Zionists know that today any war they start will lead to their being erased. We have bases of the Islamic Revolution from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea,” he said. Hezbollah has become a “nightmare” to Israel, according to Salami. He also pointed to the war in Yemen and said that the Iran’s Houthi allies in Yemen “will never die.”
The “Mediterranean to Red Sea” comments because over the last two years commentators have increasingly sketched out how Iran is building a “road to the sea” via Iraq and Syria. This corridor of power has emerged as ISIS declined and Iran filled the vacuum, and Tehran has benefited from the Syrian war in Iraq and general chaos and weakening of states in the region. Reports on the “road to the sea” have not always enumerated it precisely but in general it is seen as not only a corridor of influence but also a network of militias and proxies, such as the Iranian-backed forces and bases in Syria, Hezbollah, the Shia militias in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen. These include more than 19 bases in Syria and other facilities. Salami didn’t reference any of the details, but his comments clearly show the Tehran regional view includes these bases of the IRGC across the region, reaching the sea. He mentions them in the context of threatening the US and Israel especially.
The comments, which were published by several Iranian media news sites, highlighted different aspects of the speech. Fars published most of what he said. “the Islamic land today has become a battlefield against the arrogant world.” Arrogant is a term usually meaning “America.” he referenced Yemen and the war there between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition. “Yemen will never die and that its people are now seeking to regain its long-standing identity.” He mocked the US for seeking to “rescue” the Saudis from the “mud” of Yemen.
“The deputy commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said that very strong popular forces had been formed in Syria along with the official army, which is now fighting the remnants of the United States. In Iraq, the army and the people are capable of abiding the enemy,” Fars reports. ‘
He also bragged about the IRGC’s missiles, which have recently been used against Kurdish opposition and against ISIS. “The enemy fears Iran’s missile capabilities…Today, we have capabilities in the missile field in different dimensions, quantities and with high accuracy.” Salami then said “Americans have lost their political legitimacy” and claimed Iran would defeat the US sanctions that were recently imposed. A search for more articles notes the speech was widely reported in Persian media. Another news site highlighted this economic aspect of his speech. Al-Manar also claimed Iran would win the economic conflict.
Key words: Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami Red Sea (حسين سلامي البحرالأحمر)