Thursday, May 30, 2024

Iran Hegemonic Ambition – The Neo-Islamic Revolutionary Movement

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Khaama Press
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Khaama Press is a Kabul-based independent and non-political news organization established in 2010.

By: Hatef Mukhtar

Iran MullahsAs Tunisia’s revolt against the autocratic rule of now deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali enlighten the region with a revolutionary fire which no western or Arab powers could have foreseen, Iran immediately understood that the wind of history could play in its favor, bringing about the opportunities Iran Ayatollahs had long awaited.

As Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen all rose against their respective dictators, clamoring for their right to self-determination; religiously-driven factions rose through the trenches, given budding revolutionary movements the structure they were lacking.

While the Arab Spring Movement was born of an organic cry-out for freedom and social justice, it was groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – Sunni political faction – or al-Wefaq in Bahrain – Shia political faction – which gave the people a sense of direction and for the most part purpose.

From Tehran, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei predicted in 2011 that the MENA region – Middle East and North Africa – would come to remember the Arab Spring Movement as the cornerstone of the region’s Islamic Revolution.

Rising to the challenge, Iran saw in widespread calls for democracy its window of opportunity. Tehran decided it would shine forth its influence, confident it would appear the natural political winner of this regional power chasm. No longer in control, Saudi Arabia was bound to lose its hold over the region, hence the inception of Tehran as the Arab world’s new super-power; such was Tehran’s view-point in 2011.

However, Iran’s ability to project power in the region has been challenged significantly by several factors — Saudi rivalry, unrest in Syria, domestic political discord, international ostracism —

An antagonistic friendship

A long-standing ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a man Tehran knew it could trust in maintaining Iran’s hold over the Levant, through his sponsoring of factions and militias which cause and goals were in line with its own — the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Hamas in the Palestinian Territories —  Iran lacked oversight when it decided to publicly throw its weight behind Assad’s regime, shouldering the crimes of his brutal dictatorship, therefore tarnishing its image as a benevolent force and regional power-broker.

It is important to note that while Iran political stance is symbiotic with its religious beliefs – Shia Islam – it does not based its friendships and alliances along a sectarian line as often assume, Tehran has a very clear understanding of the MENA region’s power dynamic and the role which Islam plays in it.

On the wake of Iran 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran set out to organize the next stage of its political agenda – spreading its ideology through the creation of sister-cells across the region, starting with countries with a strong Shia community such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq –

Iran’s hegemonic claims on the MENA region stretch back decades and are at the core of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s governance vision – as stated in his book: “Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist” –

With Iran clearly militarily engaged in Syria as it seeks to consolidate its positions in the Levant region and create a buffer zone against Israel and to some extent Turkey’s growing influence, Tehran is being dragged into a lengthy and bloody conflict; forced to support President Assad, as the alternative would mean to surrender Syria to its nemesis, the United States of America and by association, Israel.

Tactical Alliances and Foreign Policy

Iran Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi asserted in Februrary 2011 Iran’s desire that: “Egyptians’ high aims, national demands, and resurrection of glory could be achieved in the very near future.” Lest all this is dismissed as Persian gloating, Iran reemphasized its foreign policy includes: “Supporting the ‘Resistance’ in the Middle East.”

The remark perfectly synthesized Tehran’s political stand in terms of its foreign policy and governance ambitions – Iran’s leaders hope events in Arab countries will converge as to create a unified Muslim Middle East, beyond the Shia-Sunni divide, that looks to Tehran for guidance against the West –

Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran poured millions of dollars into Egypt Muslim Brotherhood’s coffers, almost singlehandedly bank-rolling the Sunni organization’s political and social endeavors. It was Iran funds which enabled the Muslim Brotherhood to grow its political base among poor and middle class Egypt and promote the somewhat political radicalization of an entire segment of the population.

“You can call this an Islamic revolution,” predicted Essam el-Erian, a prominent Brotherhood leader.

The scheme has been emulated throughout the region.

From Lebanon to Bahrain and Yemen, Iran’s footprints are ever increasingly visible.

The U.S. government and private sources engaged in aid distribution have witnessed Iran’s financial and ideological reach into the Arab world. One senior official in Washington with experience in many of the countries undergoing political flux commented, “By the time American and Saudi aid reached those areas, the Iranians’ cash and presence had gained local people’s empathy and loyalty.”

In Yemen, Iran found an expected friend and ally in the Southern Secessionist Movement – al-Harak – stifled for almost two decades under the autocratic rule of deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Harak leaders used Yemen 2011 popular uprising to reinstate their calls for independence and self-governance.

As Saudi Arabia backed up Sana’a central government, Iran offered al-Harak its unwavering support.

With an ally in Yemen southern provinces and the Houthis – Shia rebel group which originally sought to return to the ancestral rule of the Imams – in the north, Iran literally pulled the carpet from under Saudi Arabia’s feet.

With the Houthis growing ever bolder as their influence is spreading to more northern provinces in Yemen – Hajjah, al-Jawf, Sa’ada and parts of Amran – al-Saud are nervously looking at their southern borders, foreboding a Shia-led insurrection which could ignite old border disputes.

Despite an intensive anti-Tehran campaign led by the Yemeni coalition government – under the careful guidance of Washington and the Gulf Cooperation Council – Iran’s hold over the impoverished nation is exponentially increasing both in the north and the south, with countless officials having already pledged their alliance to Tehran.

Islamic Renaissance or Neo-Islamic Revolutionary Movement

As surely as Washington has been warning against the rise of Islamic fundamentalists to power, Iran has been sponsoring religious-political figures such as Rashid Ghannouchi in Tunisia.

After two decades in exile Ghannouchi returned a hero to Tunisia, very much the Sunni parallel of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Having established ties with Ghannouchi during his years in London, Iran’s mullahs anticipated he could propel Harakat al-Nahda al-Islamiya or Islamic Renaissance Movement to the forefront of Tunisia political landscape. Essentially, Tehran sought to turn Ghannouchi into the emblem of Tunisia’s  revolution, a man who embodied political Islam.

Kingmaker in Lebanon, Iran wants to become a regional political and religious beacon.

The transformation of Hezbollah from an anti-Israeli militia into an Iranian-guided, street-savvy, Shiite political party, becoming the kingmaker in Lebanese politics has been a major triumph for the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, which success it now seeks to replicate throughout a clever network of regional alliances against Saudi Arabia, its main contender in the region.

Mullahs trumpet the Iran-Hezbollah alliance as a fundamentalist, Islamist counterthrust against moderate Sunni Arabs.

In Yemen, Iran did not hesitate to support al-Qaeda – a Sunni fundamentalist group which aims to re-create Islam Caliphates ruling system –

Although Tehran is wary of the terror group, knowing it religious stance is not compatible with its own, it nevertheless utilizes its political reach to further its regional vision – Iran, it appears, wants to reign over the Arabian Peninsula on both ideological and political fronts.

Thirty-three years ago, when Iranians came together for freedom, hoping that the ouster of their monarch – the self-proclaimed Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi – would herald the birth of democracy, Ayatollah Khomeini and his cohorts seized control, imposing an internally tyrannical, externally anti-Western, Islamic state.

Khomeini outsmarted Iranian politicians seeking plurality; first by claiming he would fulfill their expectations and then, once  his supreme leadership was uncontested, by brutally removing all  political contenders from the scene. His governmental heirs are now following the same political maneuvering.

Even as the U.S. and the EU remain transfixed by demonstrations in Tunis, Cairo, Amman, Manama and Sana‘a, and by the inception of a new order in Beirut, always reacting never preempting; Iran has been on what it holds to be its “sacro-saint” mission – bringing theocracy to the Muslim world.

The evidences of Iran’s reshaping of the region are accumulating:

Interferences in Bahrain have intensified. An increasing number of Bahrainis are of Iranian origin, and Shiite religious authorities are strengthening links to the Jaafari jurisprudence schools in Qom, Mash’had and Tehran.

In Kuwait, Iran efforts have been focused on reviving the Husseiniyahs – places used by Shiites to commemorate the assassination of Imam Hussein – and supporting relevant Kuwaiti figures. Kuwaiti Shiites have been also assisted in forming political and popular movements to stand guard against any official anti-Iranian decisions taken by the government.

In Yemen, Iran’s involvement in providing political and material support to the rebellious Houthis in the North and al-Harak in the south is now common knowledge.

In Syria, Iran continues to support Assad’s regime, putting in jeopardy the very social fabric of the Sham region — Lebanon, Palestine and Syria —

In Lebanon, Tehran continues to hold the country’s ability to self-govern hostage through its support of the Hezbollah and sponsorship of prominent political figures. Very much the meddling relative, Iran has been Lebanon kingmaker through Syria.

An examination of the Shia and Kurdish efforts to build legislative and political pillars in a post-Saddam Iraq indicates a major Iranian role. All plans undertaken by the American administration in Iraq were carried out in tandem with the Iranians, or at least through Tehran-affiliated forces.

In the Arab Maghreb, Iran is relentless in its efforts to spread its sectarian ideals through continued diplomatic presence and its privileged relationship with Algeria. It is also spreading its Shia doctrine in the Moroccan society, especially among university students. It has done so by building on the sympathy the Hezbollah is generating among Arab citizens in that it stands against Israel and for the Palestinian people.

These movements and their undisclosed objectives – such as exporting the Islamic revolution to Arab and Muslim countries – have stirred fears in the rest of Arab Maghreb.

In  reaction to Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in North Africa,  the Kingdom of Morocco decided to sever all diplomatic ties with Iran in March 6, 2009, after the Iranian diplomatic mission in Rabat was charged with meddling with Moroccan identity, essential religious values and the unity of its royal Sunni doctrine.

Between Theocracy and Democracy

As the Arab Spring is evolving and morphing, it is increasingly clear that Iran has much to overcome before it can claim to rule the Middle East and an extent the Arab World as a whole.

Even Iran’s natural ally in Bahrain – al-Wefaq – is not as keen on living under Tehran over-bearing shadow as western powers are making out. Instead political factions and civil societies across the region are more inclined to follow the democratic route.

Having lived under dictatorship or monarchies for decades, Arabs are now talking and breathing political renaissance and democracy.

And indeed if Iran cannot become the single spiritual and political beacon to the Arab Shia community, it stands little chance of leading the Sunni Arab majority.

The Arab awakening against authoritarian pro-Western governments marks the beginning of a new struggle between secular democracy and Iranian theocracy.

It is yet difficult to foretell which influences, that of the West or Ian’s will ultimately prevail as anti-American sentiments and the Europe imperialistic policies are challenged by a new class of politicians, one which legitimacy is rooted in demagogy.

About Author

Hatef Mukhtar Afghan AuthorHatef Mokhtar (born 11 May 1962) is an Afghan author currently living in Norway and is a Norwegian citizen. He is the founder and chief editor of The Oslo Times and a human-rights activist. He writes for several newspapers and magazines such as KL-Today, Daily Sun, Malaysia Today, Haama Daily, groruddalen.no, Malaysia Today, and Burma Digest. He works towards the freedom of press and speech, and for the promotion of peace. He is a public speaker and a political analyst. Although a political analyst on Afghanistan, he also specializes in global human rights issues and the freedom of expression in particular. Mokhtar belongs to the Durrani clan of the Pashtun. He is the founder and chairman of Armed for the Quill (AFTQ) and the organization Global Peace. Read more about him at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatef_Mokhtar

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