Please help me welcome our newest writer, and Army veteran Jeff Danovich.

Jeff currently resides in the Baltimore/Washington Area with his wife and children.  Jeff recently finished up at The George Washington University, where he studied both Political Science and International Affairs. Also an Army veteran, Jeff has served in Northern Iraq with the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) in 2003 and 2004.

Welcome aboard Jeff. -Brandon Webb, Editor

Newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seemed to display a softer side when he came to New York City this week for the United Nations General Assembly. His words and deeds seem to indicate that Iran is ready to come to the bargaining table and and discuss their nuclear ambitions. Does this indicate a shift in Iranian policy or is this just a ruse to help lift sanctions that are crippling Iran’s economy?

Despite being sworn in as President earlier this year, Rouhani is not the “man in charge” in Iran. It is Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.  Presidents come and presidents go, but Khamenei is the one that calls the shots. Khamenei still shows support for Hezbollah and a more moderate president will not change that relationship. “Whoever the president is, whoever the ministers are, Hezbollah will still be the same Hezbollah to Iran,” says an Iranian official. Although he is labeled as a moderate, Rouhani himself is regarded as a hawk when it comes to Israel and Iran’s relationships with Hezbollah and Hamas.

Rouhani ran his campaign on economic issues. The biggest economic issue facing Iran today are sanctions that have been set in place by the international community. By stating he is willing to be more transparent about Iran’s nuclear program, Rouhani is hoping sanctions are lifted and Iran’s economy can thrive once again.

If there is a more true indication of Iran’s intentions, look to the current situation in SyriaQassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Quds Force, has been a frequent visitor to Damascus, along with other high ranking officers from the Quds Force. He has assembled a command center complete with the heads of the Syrian military, a Hezbollah commander, and a coordinator of Iraqi Shiite militias.

One interesting wrinkle is that the Iranians are practicing their own version of COIN strategy. Iran is importing weapons and ammunition, command and control elements, and training materials to Syria. Their end game, it seems, is to create a militia to assist pro- Assad fighters and create a safe haven for their irregular fighters to continue attacks against Israel.