rudaw – – Iran has declared the end of ISIS. The Islamic Republic has expanded its influence across Iraq and Syria during the war with the extremist group.
“Today with God’s guidance and the resistance of people in the region we can say that this evil has either been lifted from the head of the people or has been reduced,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a live TV address on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Acknowledging that some remnants of the extremist group remain, “the foundation and roots have been destroyed,” he said.
The declaration of victory follows the liberation of the Syrian city of al-Boukamal on Sunday. The group now no longer holds any urban territory. What remains of its forces are in villages and the desert areas along the Iraq-Syria border.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said on Tuesday that he will not declare final victory over ISIS until the desert areas are also cleared, but he said the group is militarily defeated in Iraq.
Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds force, had earlier on Tuesday sent the news of the end of ISIS to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. He said he was speaking on behalf of all the forces fighting terrorism and the thousands of Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Afghans, and Pakistanis who had died in the war, Tasnim news reported.
He reiterated Iranian accusations that the United States helped to mastermind ISIS activities and said that it was Iran’s support, coupled with the Shiite forces of the Hashd al-Shaabi, which helped Iraq and Syria defeat the terrorist group.
ISIS, with the formation of its caliphate, smashed through the traditional borders of the Middle East. As the group is militarily defeated and areas once under their control face the mammoth task of physical and political reconstruction, Iran is expanding its influence.
“Call it what you want, a Shia area, a Shia crescent, or an area of Iranian influence – this is the situation now. It’s already in place,” Kasim Muslih, a commander within Iraq’s Iranian-backed militias, recently told the BBC’s Feras Kilani in eastern Syria.
Iran has strong relations with both Baghdad and Damascus. In Iraq, it backs the powerful Hashd al-Shaabi militias and is strengthening trade and economic ties. In Syria, Iran has been fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad against ISIS and in that country’s civil war. Iran is also part of the Astana process, joining Russia and Turkey in efforts to bring an end to the Syrian conflict.
Arab League foreign ministers on Sunday, led by Saudi Arabia, accused Iran and its allied Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of destabilizing the region and vowed to take the matter to the UN Security Council. An Arab League statement accused Iran and Hezbollah of supporting “terrorist groups.”
Iran has rejected the statement as “lies.”
Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are longtime rivals.