Walid Phares, expert on global terrorism and the Middle Eastern affairs, chaired a panel on the Iranian regime’s “IRGC and Meddling in the Region” in Paris, 29 June 2018, that was organized jointly by FEMO and APA. In his introductory remarks he said:
Thank you all for coming here to attend this exceptional panel on the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (as they’re on) in the region. I’d like to thank the sponsoring organizations, FEMO and the Alliance for Public awareness.
Today’s panel is exceptional because it has to do with the central nerve, the core of the Iranian regime’s expansion in the region. And this panel is really specialized, powerful, and diverse from the perspective of countries, of expertise, and of knowledge—not just theoretical knowledge, but ground knowledge, reality knowledge. Maybe do a quick introduction for the members, though of course they have their resumes available. But it’s good to have a sense of who we have on the panel that would lead us to understand their expertise with regard to the remarks they are going to be offering.
Ambassador Riad Yassin, former Minister of Yemen, current ambassador in Paris, he’s the only sitting official on this panel and we’re very pleased to have you here with us addressing the issues.
General Charles Wald, former deputy commander of U.S. European Command, and in his bio you can read all the positions, the strategic positions that he occupied. But he’s one of our American leading military experts on the region, on strategy. He had developed the option that we don’t want but we want to hear about as well, which is if it goes bad with Iran and what the Iranian regime is doing in terms of military confrontation in the region, what would be an alternative response. But he will be addressing very important issues which will come soon to the discussion.
General James Conway is one of the commanders of the Marine Corps which is one of our best troops, best military sections in the United States. In addition to all the titles that you can read about in his amazing historical experience, he has been on the ground leading the marine force in Iraq in 2003. His experience is invaluable. So thank you very much for being with us, general, today.
Mr. Frédéric Encel is a scholar of geopolitics, he’s specialized on the Middle East. He has been and continue to be a leading voice on the academic and research worlds about the region. He belongs to and directs a number of programs. He has been on TV and media for a long time. We’re very pleased to have you with us today on the panel, sir.
We have with us also Mr. Yves Thréard who is an editorialist in La Figaro, but a very specialized journalist at La Figaro and well-known media figure in France and the francophone world, but also around the world in general his investigative research is well known, his knowledge of why European and other governments respond the way they do to the Iranian regime, we want to take advantage of that. And Figaro has been a very important media in the debate, the media debate, and we hope that you will enlighten us on that media debate in Europe but also in the international community. Thank you very much for being with us.
Mohammed al-Sulami here is head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies. Also a noted figure in research in academic understanding but also investigative understanding of the real threat that the Iranian regime present in the region, first, meaning in the Middle East and the Arab world but across the world as well. He will share with us his own knowledge and hopefully we’ll get to the point of Q&A and he will give us more on the current situation. Thank you for being with us, sir.
Before we start the panel I’d like to say a couple things about my little experience that’s going to help me field the questions or actually ask the panelists to address those issues. I am now in the United States but I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. My first contact with Iranian studies was as old as 1987 when I published a book in Arabic on the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran—1987, many people were not born when that book was published—in which I projected that eventually because of the ideology, ideology as a genesis by itself, the Iranian opposition knew that before all of us, but we started to realize that the Iranian regime because of its initial ideology to which it would add geopolitics and economics and ambitions, originally will tend to expand in the region. It was in the DNA. And the book was not read in the West because it’s in Arabic, but it’s available at the Library of Congress.
After I emigrated to the United States, my first academic article was published in the Journal of Global Affairs in Washington, D.C., and I titled the Iranian-Syrian axis, 1991 in which I projected after the collapse of the soviet Union that now more than ever, then that would be 28 years ago, the Iranian regime is going to try to expand. It did so already in the ‘80s via the same organization we are going to be commenting about, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard—let’s call it the Pasdaran—into Syria, and from Syria, into Lebanon via Hezbollah. But one remark I made at the end of the article that was a decade before the Iran war that Iran and the Syrian regime have a plan for Iraq. No matter what, at one point in time in history they want to link geopolitically and create that bridge, the land bridge that everybody now is talking about.
Finally, third point in the history of my research, it was after the American invasion of Iraq, the fall of Saddam Hussein, and attempts by the United States to help the Iraqis recreate a more democratic Iraq. The way the Iranian regime behaved in Iraq from day one all the way to the day we withdrew from Iraq, it was aimed at controlling Iraq, under the American management since the departure of the American forces. It was very logical from day one. So, along this whole region the Iranian regime always had ambition to become regional power. And in the center of which you have the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Last but not least, as of 2010, as we start hearing about incidents out of Sana’a in the north of Yemen, while the American media, the international media, didn’t even know where Sana’a was, we realized that this is an Iranian regime project which eventually years later hooked up with the Houthis and the rest is history as you know it. So, this panels is going to be addressing from different angles extraordinary experiences, the expansion of the Pasdaran in the regional as the central force for the Iranian regime in trying to create the much wider sphere of influence. And I can tell you, but that’s not our panel, that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has projects around the world, as United States Congress hearings and our agencies’ analysis have established, all the way to Africa, all the way to Latin America, and East Asia as well.