By Iran Review
By Seyyedeh Motahhareh Hosseini*
Following recent bomb attacks, which were carried out by Daesh terrorist group in the French capital city, Paris, a number of questions have been raised about this incident. A question, which was raised frequently was why Middle Eastern countries, especially Turkey and Iran, have been successful in controlling Daesh by preventing spillover of the crisis into their countries and fighting the risk of Daesh at borders, while many Arab, Muslim, European, Western and Asian countries have not been able to control radical Islamism as well as the tendency toward such groups as Wahhabis, Salafists, Daesh, al-Nusra Front, and al-Qaeda groups within their borders? It seems that the main concern for countries like Iran, which has common borders with radical Islamist groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and Turkey, which is a major route for extremist radicals in and out of Syria, is how to prevent the spread of radicalism through their borders.
The success in preventing the spillover of such regional crises as war, unrest, dissatisfaction, anti-government ideas and flow of refugees into their soil is also a sign of political and security complexities in these two countries. Turkey has good relations with Daesh and other radical groups and most of these radical forces easily pass through its borders while the same forces turn into aggressive and high-risk forces in other countries. Turkey has been largely immune to spread of aggressive ideas of radical Islamist groups, including Daesh, because Daesh does not consider it as an obstacle and enemy. In addition, both Daesh and Turkey’s government consider Kurds as their common enemy. Other factors that have been effective in shaping Turkey’s complicated policy toward these groups include: the country’s proportionate progress in recent decades; presence of Islamist parties at the helm of political power as represented by the 13-year rule of the Justice and Development Party; inclusion of powerful mystic tendencies in Turkish people’s Hanafi religion; lack of Turkey’s participation in any kind of provocative operations against Daesh, al-Nusra Front and other Islamist groups; apparent opposition of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Israel; and Ankara’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Iran is also faced with the threat of such extremist groups as Daesh, the Taliban, Wahhabi groups and so forth along its borders, while being considered as their enemy from a religious and ideological viewpoint. However, a combination of various domestic and regional policies has so far prevented these groups from posing a real threat to the country. From the viewpoint of border and international issues, Iran has been trying to prevent spread of their ideas, thoughts and plans among Sunni population in the county. Perhaps, this policy has been the most important factor that has so far thwarted extremist plans of these groups from being implemented in Iran.
From the viewpoint of domestic policies, Iran has been able to handle such crises as autonomy of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and while establishing friendly relations with the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, has prevented strengthening of secessionist tendencies among Iranian Kurds. Perhaps this policy was the second factor that helped Iran turn threats it was facing in Syria into opportunities through presence of its Quds Force in the Arab country. The Iranian people’s apprehension about the consequences of international policies in the Middle East from the time that the United States invaded Iraq up to the rise of Daesh was the third important factor that thwarted threats that stemmed from insecurity and war in neighboring countries. The success of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers also provided good support for Iran’s domestic and foreign policies in order to maintain stability of the Islamic Republic of Iran in one of the most critical regions of the world.
In comparison, if we looked at the policies of the West and Europe, we would see a hodgepodge of provocative and contradictory policies, especially on the part of the European countries, in the face of the Islamist groups. Such policies have made European states a destination of choice for spiteful moves of radical Islamist currents. While the number of Muslims in Europe is high, activities that are provocative to Muslims take place with high frequency across the continent. On the other hand, steps taken so far in the name of fighting the plots and conspiracies of Daesh and other radical Islamist groups, will certainly fail to fundamentally stop their violent activities and will have no effect on radical Islamism in Europe in the long term, but will only add fuel to the existing conflicts and contradictions. The main point of comparing the performance of security and police systems in European countries with those in Turkey and Iran is to show that Europeans are unfamiliar both with the nature of the Muslims’ culture, and those factors that make radical Islamist groups tick. On the opposite, local security and police apparatuses in Iran and Turkey can understand the process of policymaking and the way that such radical groups as Daesh, al-Qaeda, the Taliban as well as other Salafist and Wahhabi groups work. Therefore, by tracing their high-risk plans, they manage to defuse those plans. However, through their aggressive and confrontational approach, European countries will never be able to trace and defuse plans made by these radical groups. On the opposite, such confrontational approach to these groups will only help strengthen their vengeful motivations and pave the way for their destructive forces to infiltrate various parts of Europe.
*Seyyedeh Motahhareh Hosseini
Assistant Professor of Political Science & Expert on Central Asia and Caucasus Affairs