April 12 (UPI) -- It is comforting to know that the "smiling" President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has not lost his sense of humor over the U.S. government's decision to launch a missile attack against the Syrian airfield from which the sarin gas attack was mounted on Khan Sheikhoun.
Indeed his threat to join Vladimir Putin in using force against Donald Trump if he dares to cross their "red lines" again is a joke worthy of the world's best standup comedian. Rouhani's reaction to a clinical and controlled U.S. missile strike on Syrian air force bunkers and weapons stores, is modest in comparison to the 70,000 front-line troops that Iran has committed to the Syrian civil war. Rouhani is careful to send Afghan refugees who have sought sanctuary in Iran to die on the Syrian battlefields as cannon fodder. Their widows are then offered full Iranian citizenship and a meager pension by way of compensation.
Iran is pumping billions of dollars in weapons and military resources into Syria in its effort to prop up the blood-soaked regime of Bashar al-Assad. There is no doubt that Iran and Russia were well aware of the sarin gas attack on defenseless men, women and children. The Pentagon knows that a Russian drone flew over Khan Sheikhoun shortly before a plane dropped the sarin bomb. They know that both Iran and Russia have condoned and helped coordinate previous chlorine gas and barrel-bomb attacks by the Assad regime on the Syrian civilian population.
Indeed Putin's bellicose threats must also raise a wry smile, when wave after wave of Russian warplanes have bombed Syrian cities into dust for the past 18 months, killing thousands of innocent people. For Rouhani and Putin to claim that "aggressive" U.S. actions against Syria are not permissible and violate international law, is risible.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the body responsible for extra-territorial operations -- the Quds Force -- are the main vehicles for Iran's aggressive expansionism in the Middle East, aided and abetted by the Russians. The IRGC has for decades been carrying out terrorist attacks across the zone, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. The IRGC now controls 90 of Iran's 202 docks and ports, utilizing them for the exclusive export of weapons and military personnel to zones of conflict in which the IRGC are engaged throughout the Middle East. Meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and particularly exporting terrorism and fundamentalism, represents a strategic pillar for Tehran's survival and endurance.
The IRGC is behind most of the brutal Shi'ite militias rampaging through the predominantly Sunni provinces of Iraq, massacring families and leveling cities like Ramadi, Fallujah and now Mosul in the name of the war against the Islamic State. The Iranian regime's violence and crimes in other countries in the region and in particular its suppression of Sunnis, carried out under the banner of Shi'ite Islam, is what provoked the original backlash that in turn spawned the birth of groups like IS who seek to establish an "Islamic caliphate" while spreading their violence and brutality to the four corners of the globe. It is a great irony that Iran has exploited the campaign against IS as an opportunity to carry out their genocidal crusade against the Sunnis, at the same time fooling the West into regarding the theocratic regime as an ally, even coaxing the United States into providing vital air support.
Iran cannot be part of the solution to the conflicts raging in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. It is part of the problem. Iran exports terror. This is the real Iran under the theocratic rule of the mullahs, whose so-called "moderate" president Rouhani the West believes it can do deals with. We should wake up! Rouhani is in charge of a venally corrupt government, which has executed over 3,000 people since he took office in 2013 and which is behind every conflict in the Middle East.
President Donald Trump's decision to attack the Syrian airbase has marked a clear turning point in relations with the Iranian regime. Wrenching Putin away from Assad will be the first necessary step in bringing the Syrian conflict to an end. America should then turn its attention to blacklisting the IRGC as an international terrorist organization. Such decisive steps, in the wake of Trump's willingness to launch a barrage of cruise missiles against the Syrian regime, will provide an adequate response to threats from the mullahs and their Russian allies and a warning to aggressors that the days of hand-wringing appeasement are over.
Struan Stevenson is president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association. He served as a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland from 1999 to 2014); as president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014); and as chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) from 2004 to 2014.