In 1979, when the Mullahs’ revolution put dramatically an end to the long and brutal reign of the Shah of Iran, a confirmed enemy of Islam and an ally of Israel, the Arabs rejoiced at the prospect and hurriedly welcomed this country and its new leadership in the fold of the Muslim Ummah. But, alas, their joy was ephemeral because soon after, the late Ayatullah Khomeini and his vindictive regime displayed the true face of the so-called Islamic revolution: hegemony over the Middle East, reviving the immemorial enmity and animosity the Persians harbored towards the Arabs.
Hurriedly, the Mullahs’ regime espoused the Palestinian cause, severing relations with Israel and ceremoniously installing the PLO in their embassy, not for the purpose of solving the long conflict in the region, but rather to gain, a much-needed, geopolitical foothold in the Mideast to leverage at will for strategic gain and geopolitical influence.
Exporting the Iranian Revolution to the Arab lands
But, as soon as the Mullahs took control of the country, they declared openly their hostility to the Arab World and vowed to export their revolution to this part of the world, at whatever cost. The undeclared aim of the Mullahs’ Iran is to control the holy shrines of Islam, by proxy puppet governments, and spread Shiite influence all over the Arab nations, first, and then the rest of the Muslim world.
This grand design devised by the late Khomeini had two sequential objectives:
- Swamp the Arab world with propaganda material disguised in religious and cultural books, magazines and pamphlets written in Arabic; and
- Create fifth columns in Arab territories with the aim of spawning political dissent, unrest and military opposition leading to revolutions and power seizure by pro-Shia regimes.
To achieve these two aims the Mullahs’ Iran had, first and foremost, to obliterate a formidable enemy lying on its western border i.e. Iraq, a longtime foe that had mighty military teeth but weak feet of clay represented by the Shiite majority population, a potential lethal weapon to be used later on in the long war against Sunnis for hegemony in the region.
Because of the long asylum sojourn of 14 years in the holy Shiite city of Najaf (October 1965-1978), Khomeini had acquired a good knowledge of Iraq both on its military capabilities and its social weaknesses. His conditional stay in this country and his ousting when the revolution started in Iran increased his animosity for the Arabs and his hatred of their culture and long history.
After the demise of the Pahlavi monarchy at Khomeini’s hands by the initial use of cassette propaganda in which he blasted the Shah and his reign calling him: “… the Jewish agent, the American serpent whose head must be smashed with a stone.”i
Parviz Sabeti, head of SAVAK’s ‘anti-subversion unit’, believed the number of cassettes “exceeded 100,000.”ii The next phase was the mobilization of the Mullahs in Iran proper and the alliance with the liberals, communists and Kurds to launch a popular revolution in the country.
The corrupt regime of the Shah, in spite of its military might, could not resist the revolutionary tsunami in the country and the monarch unwillingly left into exile leading to his death. The fall of the Pahlavi dynasty brought back triumphantly Khomeini on February 1, 1979. Immediately he proceeded to eliminate his allies one by one in order to set up his theocratic dictatorship.
Having accomplished the integral control of power in Iran, Khomeini turned against the very country that hosted him for a decade and a half: Iraq, starting with border skirmishes. The ultimate aim was to lure Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s strong man into a war, defeat him and move on to control the Gulf States and especially the much-prized Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, seat of the holy shrines of Islam and the leader country of the Muslim faith among all Muslim countries.
The Iran-Iraq War, one of the deadliest in the history of humanity and inordinately protracted, ensued, lasting from September 22, 1980 to August 20, 1988, much longer than any of the two world wars and claiming the lives of over 1,300,000 people including civilians and military personnel and a material loss of US$627 billion for Iran and US$561 billion for Iraq.iii
After eight years of a devastating war, the West, through the United Nations arranged for a cessation of hostilities and the end of the war, which Iran unwillingly accepted. For the irreconcilable 87 years old Ayatuallah Khomeini, “it’s worse than poison.”iv
Soon after this declaration, the ailing Iranian leader passed away giving birth to the Second Iranian Republic whose sole aim is to arm massively to avoid the humiliation of the Iran-Iraq UN-brokered peace.
Rather than engage into a headlong collision with the Arab foes, Iran initiated an era of entente and friendship but the pre-Islamic hate was still there, though carefully hidden. And from direct confrontation, Iran moved to indirect fomentation of internal trouble by Shiite groups. The very first manifestation of this sordid scenario was the uprising of the Shiites of Bahrain at the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, with the aim to topple the legitimate government of the Al Khalifa. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries realizing the extent of the Iranian grand design for the region moved quickly and efficiently to boost Bahrain military capacities and stop the ultimate Shiite takeover of the country.
True, the Bahrain government did not have a clean slate as to what concerns human rights, but the Bahrain uprising, under the disguise of the Arab Spring, aimed to create havoc in a domino effect manner in the Gulf region, to allow Iran to place it handymen in power. The last manifestation of that desire is the al-Nimr episode in the eastern regions of Saudi Arabia. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr inflammatory religious preaching aimed at creating instability in this part of Saudi Arabia to allow the creation of de facto republic for Shiites that would, in the long run, be used by Iran to undermine the Stability of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the region. Al-Nimr was behind the Eastern provinces as well as Awamiyah uprisings of 2011-2012 against the central Saudi government, executing a careful Iranian scheme to sow disorder and encourage civil disobedience.
The Shiite Crescent in the Middle East
The creation of this crescent, in fact, started right after the ousting of the Shah from Iran. The Ayatullah Khomeini believed strongly that the best way to defend his nascent theocratic regime, from Sunni encroachment and stifling in the Mideast, can only be achieved through the creation of subservient Shiite islands in the Sunni traditional territory. The first implementation of this scheme was the creation of the Hizbullahland to supplant Fatahland, after the forced departure of the Palestinians from southern Lebanon in 1982, as a follow up to the Israeli Siege of Beirut during the 1982 Lebanon War.
Nevertheless, Iran, since 1982, duly raised, nurtured and armed Hezbullah in southern Lebanon, to create an exclusively delimited Shiite entity within a multi-confessional Lebanon. Since Hezbullah dragged Lebanon into a catastrophic war against Israel in 2006.This war was commandeered and planned by Iran and executed minutely by Hezbullah: the military arm of the Mullahs’ theocratic regime. The aim of this devastating war on Lebanon, somewhat fought by two external regional powers i.e. Iran and Israel, was threefold for the former: field-test its latest weaponry, test the resolve of the Jewish state and send to it a strong message that the Mullahs’ Iran is a power to reckon with in the future.
Hezbullah, a formidable Iranian army outside of Iran, will be used, later on, convincingly in the civil war going on in Syria since 2011 to bolster the Alawite pro-Iran regime of the dictator Bashar al-Assad. The intervention of Hezbullah is undoubtedly detrimental in the survival of Assad’s regime.
Another similar auxiliary army is in the making in Yemen: the Houthis. Militarily speaking they are as good as Hezbullah, if not better. They have successfully occupied Yemen and toppled the legitimate government with the help of the renegade ex-president Ali Saleh. They could be ultimately used by Iran in the horn of Africa or even West Africa to spread Shia religion and further Iran’s interests.
Occupation by proxy
As of today, Iran is occupying four Arab countries indirectly through proxies, either military organizations that have created a state within a state such as Hezbullah and the Houthis or, somewhat, legitimate and subservient states as in the case of Iraq and Syria:
Lebanon: Lebanon is under the occupation of Hezbullah since the departure of the Palestinian fighters from the south in 1982. Hezbullah is a formidable state within a state. It is a political party which doubles as a mini state responsible for the welfare of the Shia in southern Lebanon and with a capable army that has inflicted an unwanted and an uncalled for war on Lebanon in 2006, that cost the country dozens of innocent lives and hundreds of millions of dollars of material loss. If Iran goes to war with Israel for any reason or if Israel attacks Iran, Lebanon will be dragged unwillingly in this deadly confrontation since Hizbullah will side with Iran and pound the Jewish state, especially in its northern part. Of course the latter knows that and has contingency plans for such a nightmare scenario.
Iraq: The Americans won the Iraq War that lasted from 2003 to 2011 by first defeating Saddam Hussein and his huge army in 2003 and overrunning his last bastion in Bagdad thanks to the Shia’s fifth column in the country and the military input of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a stooge politician of Iran, ran the country with an iron fist ostracizing openly the Sunnis leading to their rebellion and alliance first with al-Qaeda (2004-2004), under the leadership of, initially, Abu Mu’sab al- Zarqawi and after his death, at the hands of the Americans, Abu Ayyub al-Masri. After the demise of al-Qaeda, the Sunni insurgency sided with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -ISIL- also known as The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -ISIS-, that became known later on as the Islamic State -IS- (1999-present). Initially, Iraq was occupied by the US and Iran, nowadays it is occupied by Iran through the Revolutionary Guard that is leading the fight against Daesh. For many Iraqis, today, the decisions concerning their lives and destiny are made in farawayTehran not Bagdad.
Syria: The minority Shia Alawite regime of al-Assad has always being a client state of Iran, but since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, this dictatorial regime has become subservient to the Mullahs because it owes its miraculous survival to Iranian military support as well as salutary intervention thanks to Hizbullah. Many Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah army officers and soldiers died in the fight against al-Nusra, ISIS and a myriad of Islamist fighters during this devastating civil war. A year ago the regime of al-Assad was on the brink of collapse, but thanks to the concerted action of the international community after the deadly ISIS Paris attacks of November 2015 to obliterate the latter, the regime has been given respite and a new lease of life. But more than ever, Syria is under the direct control of Iran and will stay so for a long time to come.
Yemen: The Houthi insurgency in northen Yemen among the Zaidi Shia Houthi community against the Yemeni State goes back to 2004 and still continues today with the main difference that the Houthis with the help of the ex-president Ali Saleh control half of the country. They have been duly trained and heavily armed by Iran with the purpose of creating a Shia state within a sea of Sunni nations, to serve as a stepping stone for the propagation of Shia religion in eastern and western Africa, and to a certain extent even North Africa. Reacting at long last to the Mullahs onslaught on Sunni faith, The Arab countries, under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, fought back to stop the Iranian hegemonic progress to occupy Arab countries starting with firm military action in Yemen.
America sides with Iran
Since the Mullahs’ revolution, Iran has spent large sums of its oil revenues on arms production and acquiring nuclear capabilities for the purpose of becoming a convincing regional power with hegemonic intentions. Initially, the United States and its Western allies reacted angrily to the prospect of a nuclear Iran, but now they seem to accept a probable future nuclear Iran.
As early as April 11, 2006, Iran announces to the world that it has succeeded in enriching uranium at its nuclear facilities to use for energy purposes and not for military design. On June 6, 2006, the P5+1 Group (Russia, Germany, France, Britain, China and The US) proposed to Iran a number of incentives to abandon its nuclear program. However, on August 22, 2006 Iran rejected this offer stating, somewhat, that it contains positive elements that could be pursued further in the future. On December 23, 2006, the Security Council unanimously adopted the Resolution 1737 imposing sanctions on Iran for its failure to halt uranium enrichment and calling on member countries to refrain from providing the latter with sensitive nuclear technology, as well as freezing financial assets of some of its organizations and individuals. On October 18, 2015, Iran and P5+1 reached a historic nuclear deal that leaves the door open for Iran to acquire the much-wanted atomic bomb.
Since President Obama came to power in 2008, he has progressively worked diplomatically to favor good relations with Iran at the expense of the traditional alliance with the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, one wonders if this American change of heart is for the good cause of the containment of Iran’s hegemonic designs in the region or a mere recognition, for good, of the new power configuration in the Mideast.
For the Arab world this is a hard blow, if not an act of treason from a long-time friend and ally. The Arabs have always supported America in its Mideast policies: provided cheap oil, fought a war against Saddam, sided with the US on its global war on terrorism, invested big sums of money in the American economy, etc. and now they are getting the cold shoulder from a once staunch ally. To add salt to injury, Obama in an article published in the Atlantic called Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries “free-riders.”v
Prince Turki al-Faisal, once Saudi Ambassador to the US, in an open letter published by the arab news newspaper rejects Obama’s accusation of the Gulf countries of free-riding attribute and lists the many major contributions of Saudi Arabia to its relationship with the US:vi
“No, Mr. Obama. We are not “free riders.” We shared with you our intelligence that prevented deadly terrorist attacks on America.
We initiated the meetings that led to the coalition that is fighting Fahish (ISIL), and we train and fund the Syrian freedom fighters, who fight the biggest terrorist, Bashar Assad and the other terrorists, Al-Nusrah and Fahish (ISIL). We offered boots on the ground to make that coalition more effective in eliminating the terrorists.
We initiated the support — military, political and humanitarian — that is helping the Yemeni people reclaim their country from the murderous militia, the Houthis, who, with the support of the Iranian leadership, tried to occupy Yemen; without calling for American forces. We established a coalition of more than thirty Muslim countries to fight all shades of terrorism in the world.
We are the biggest contributors to the humanitarian relief efforts to help refugees from Syria, Yemen and Iraq. We combat extremist ideology that attempts to hijack our religion, on all levels. We are the sole funders of the United Nations Counter-terrorism Center, which pools intelligence, political, economic, and human resources, worldwide. We buy US treasury bonds, with small interest returns, that help your country’s economy.”
This cold shoulder was duly returned to Obama on his farewell visit to Gulf region during the annual GCC summit on April 2016. Obama tried to allay the fears of the Gulf leaders with empty promises and déjà vu attitudes, but, most importantly, he wanted to sell them his nuclear deal with Iran. The GCC leaders listened politely to his arguments, but believe none of his words. A proof of that is the Saudi official media almost ignored his visit.
It must be said that the Saudi establishment was right in its appreciation of the political talk of Obama. America’s Obama, in what is being called by the press: the “Obama Doctrine,” in his global political appreciation, has tilted dangerously in favor of Iran, which is benefitting from the political largesse of the current administration. In this regard, Dr Majid Rafizadeh, President of the International Council, argues that this visit will benefit greatly Iran:vii
“…Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia will benefit Iran geopolitically, strategically and economically. Iran is aware that Obama’s cosmetic “reassurances” to other countries in the region- that everything is going to be fine- will grant the IRGC and Khamenei more room to maneuver, increase their influence in the region and let them pursue their hegemonic ambitions. This is due to the notion that Obama’s reassurances will prevent other countries in the region from taking serious and collective action against Iran (which is Iran’s major concern), while Obama’s reassurances is releasing Iran to do what it desires without any fear of regional or global repercussions.”
Since, Iran, emboldened by American favoritism, has been duly exhibiting provocative behavior by show of military might and deployment of military hardware in areas of conflict to bolster allies’ position in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
The Arab nations, under the “spiritual” and “political leadership” of Saudi Arabia, are taking their destiny in their hands to ensure the protection of their respective countries in the wake of the looming security threat represented by Iran’s hegemonic expressed desires in the region.
The Arabs are planning to put together a rapid deployment force to meet swiftly any external threat. The experience gained in the Yemeni war waged against the Shia Houthis will be extremely positive in the development of an Arab military force. Arabs will, also, explore all possible avenues to protect themselves including nuclear deterrent weaponry and alliance with Israel, if necessary.
Iran, since the advent of the Mullahs’ revolution has been threatening to wipe out Israel, but that is only rhetoric because it is a well-known fact that Israel has over 100 nuclear warheads and necessary delivery technology and will be able to destroy Iran in minutes, but it does not ever brag about it. In addition, Israel benefits from the overall nuclear umbrella of America like the rest of Europe.
In reality, the threatening gesticulations of Iran towards Israel are directed exclusively, by proxy, to the Arab world. The Mullahs are reviving the time-old Persian hatred for the Sunnis.
Will the Arabs stand up responsibly with might to the Persian persistent threat, only time will show convincingly?
*Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.
i. Khomeini on a cassette tape [source: Gozideh Payam-ha Imam Khomeini (Selections of Imam Khomeini’s Messages), Tehran, 1979,
ii. Taheri, A. 1986. The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution. Chevy Chase, Maryland: Adler & Adler Pub.
iii. Farhang, R. 1997. Iranian Perspectives on the Iran–Iraq War. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. p. 2.