At a hearing on Capitol Hill about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) role in fueling terrorism and instability, Iran expert and Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Ali Alfoneh claimed that the Iranian regime has made “no serious military effort against the Islamic State” in Syria, as evidence builds that Iran and the Assad regime have actually strengthened the terrorist group. Alfoneh emphasized that the US and Iran drastically differ in their goals in the Middle East. While the US aims to defeat ISIS and facilitate a political transition in Syria, Alfoneh notes that for the IRGC, which seeks to preserve Assad’s rule, “it is fine that there is an enemy called the Islamic State that is not really threatening the existence of the Islamic Republic of Iran” because it allows Iran to present the Bashar al-Assad regime as a better alternative to and even a bulwark against ISIS. Meanwhile, Iran and the Assad regime have been targeting the moderate opposition to Assad which the West and its Arab allies hope will replace him.
Alfoneh’s comments correspond with those of Secretary of State John Kerry who has argued that the Assad regime and ISIS have a “symbiotic relationship” in that they have “only rarely targeted one another” and “even do business with each other. A study last year showed that the Assad regime has largely avoided targeting ISIS. The US Department of State has even accused the Syrian regime of conducting air strikes in support of ISIS’s advance on Aleppo in order to weaken moderate Syrian rebels located there. Assad’s regime also helps finance ISIS by buying oil from it. Last week the Treasury Department sanctioned an Assad loyalist who facilitates the Syrian regime’s purchase of oil from the Islamic State.
Iran wields extensive influence in Syria and has increased its involvement in the war, sending thousands of Iranian troops as well as Hezbollah, Afghani, and Pakistani fighters to assist Assad. The Iranian regime has repeatedly issued statements condemning ISIS and considers the group heretical. However, former US intelligence officer Michael Pregent created a map that illustrates that the ISIS center of gravity lies beyond Iran’s priority defensive boundary and therefore, he argues “Iran has no intent of defeating ISIS.”
The motives behind a mass-shooting attack that left 14 dead and 17 injured in San Bernardino on Wednesday remain unclear, The New York Times reported. The attackers, identified as Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married or engaged couple, were killed during a confrontation with police. A third person was taken into custody, but authorities are uncertain as to whether the individual was involved in the shooting.
According to authorities, Farook and Malik gunned down their victims at a social services center for the disabled in San Bernardino, a city 60 miles east of Los Angeles, with assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols. The attack was said to have been planned in advance and terrorism has not been ruled out as a motive.
Mr. Farook, an environmental inspector, had been employed with the county health department for five years. On Wednesday morning he attended a holiday party for the department at the Inland Regional Center, a sprawling facility that provides services for thousands of people with disabilities. He left “angry” after a dispute of some sort, the chief said, and returned with Ms. Malik around 11 a.m. — heavily armed.
“There had to be some degree of planning that went into this,” Chief Burguan said. “I don’t think they just ran home and put on these tactical clothes.”
He said the motive had not been determined. “We have not ruled out terrorism,’’ he said.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the suspects left their six-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother, claiming that they had a doctor’s appointment.