A portrait of Iran's Qasem Soleimani displayed by Iraqi Hezbollah. Undated

Iran-Backed Iraqi Militants Say Ready To Arm Jordanians Against Israel

Saturday, 04/06/2024

Tehran-backed Iraqi Hezbollah battalions are ready to arm and equip 12,000 fighters of “the Islamic resistance” in Jordan, Iranian semi-official news agency ISNA reported on Saturday.

“This threat is about opening a broad front against the Zionist regime, which is probably the most dangerous of all fronts because it could geographically threaten all the cities of the occupied territories and could facilitate attacks against many of the most sensitive targets, including Tel Aviv and [Israel’s] nuclear facilities,” Iran's semi-official ISNA wrote.

According to the agency, following Israel’s attacks against Iran's consulate building in Damascus, Iraq’s Hezbollah voiced its readiness to provide "Jordanian resistance forces” with light and medium weapons, anti-armor weapons, advanced missiles, and millions of tons of explosives and ammunitions.

“Axis of resistance” or “resistance forces” are terms coined by the Iranian authorities to refer to Tehran’s proxies in the region, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq and Yemeni Houthis.

“The resistance is ready to take the necessary measures. The mere order of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is enough to block the land route to the occupied territories,” ISNA quoted Abu Ali al-Askari, head of security for Iraqi Hezbollah, as saying.

Though Tehran has avoided any direct military involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict, it has used its proxy groups such as Houthis and Hezbollah to attack Israeli and American targets in the region. However, there are concerns that the recent deadly Israeli air strike in Damascus and Iran’s possible response might lead to serious escalation in the Middle East.

Hamas fighters seen in November 2023

On Monday, a precision Israel strike killed seven IRGC officers in Damascus, including Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the highest-ranking commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force (IRGC-QF) in Lebanon and Syria, and his deputy, Mohammadhadi Haji Rahimi.

Since then, Tehran’s officials have vowed revenge against Israel. In a message released Tuesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said, “The nefarious regime [of Israel] will be punished by our brave men. We will make them regret this crime and other ones like it, by God's will.”

In a statement issued on Saturday, the IRGC thanked the supporters of the government who participated in the funeral and burial ceremonies of those killed in the Israeli strike. “To the heroic and revolutionary nation of Iran, we assure you that your zealous children in the IRGC will, by the grace of God, fulfill the national demand in inflicting a regrettable punishment on the Zionist enemy and its supporters,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, threatened the harshest possible response to Israel. However, he emphasized the Islamic Republic’s strategic approach towards recent developments, further adding that Tehran will determine the time and type of the retaliatory operation itself.

Considering such statements from Bagheri and some other Iranian officials, analysts contend that the regime's longstanding strategy of refraining from direct engagement with Israel will persist.

Earlier in the day, ultra-conservative lawmaker Hossein Jalali remarked that Iranian officials do not consider it expedient to implicate the country in an open war with Israel. “We will respond to Israel on a proxy basis through our groups,” he maintained.

According to the lawmaker, the headquarters of the resistance front is in Iran but its armies are in different countries.

Jalali’s remarks are a rare acknowledgement of direct ties between the Iranian regime and militant groups in the region. Tehran has always claimed these groups make their own decisions and act independently. In an interview with CNN on October 31, 2023, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian insisted that no group takes orders from Tehran, and that Iran has no proxies in the region.

Nonetheless, some observers believe that the positions expressed by Iranian officials in recent days suggest that Tehran may be looking to open new fronts in the region via its proxies in an attempt to counter Israel. This is where serious threats would put Jordan's stability in question.

In a report released on Wednesday, Ayelet Savyon, director of Iran Media Studies project at Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), warned that Tehran has a “great plan” which intends to “bring down the Jordanian regime, attack Israel from the East, and thwart the Western-Sunni normalization project.”

Savyon added that in the past days, pro-Palestinian demonstrations have ramped up in Jordan, with many protesters urging Jihad against Israel, the expulsion of the US ambassador in Amman, and even toppling the Jordanian government. According to the analyst, “Jordanian sources reported on recent Iraqi-Iranian efforts to infiltrate Jordan via the Iraqi convoys delivering aid to the Palestinians.”

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