To say our region is in imminent peril is an understatement. Threats are emerging from all directions in many different guises. Most derive from warped ideologies that mask a will to gain power and seek territorial domination. Today, the U.S., together with its Western and predominantly Sunni Arab allies, has finally woken-up to the danger posed by the misnamed “Islamic State” or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a danger I’ve been warning about for over a year, and has deployed its military resources to eradicate this lethally toxic group in northern Iraq and around the Syrian city of Raqqa where those killers are headquartered.
This intervention is long overdue. Unfortunately, it took the beading of Western hostages to grab the attention of the international community, which failed to be galvanized by the mass slaughter of Iraqi men, women and children. But while all eyes were on Israel’s devastation of Gaza and the horrors perpetrated by ISIS, Tehran, arguably a far greater menace to the security of the Middle East and the Gulf, seems to be quietly achieving its hegemonic goals, unimpeded and unnoticed.
Now I would really like GCC leaderships to pay attention. The Iranian plot doesn’t end with YemenKhalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor
If I had to prioritize the respective threat levels of ISIS and Iran on a scale of one-to-ten, the former would be way down the scale because an estimated 35,000 fighters cannot hope to beat back the combined might of a 50-member-strong international coalition. Granted, purifying the earth from this disease isn’t going to happen overnight and, sadly, many more innocents are destined to lose their lives in the process. Overall this evil parody of a Caliphate will be nothing more than a footnote in tomorrow’s history books. Halting the ambitions of Iran’s ayatollahs is a far greater challenge which is not being addressed. On the contrary, Iran has been afforded an aura of respectability by U.S. efforts at détente once differences over the Iranian nuclear program have been bridged. The fact that Iran is one of the biggest sponsors of terror hasn’t figured in the U.S. equation.
What are those ambitions? There is no need to speculate, the answer is known beyond a shadow of a doubt. Iran, I feel, is out to export its brand of Shiite ideology to as many regional states as possible, either directly or indirectly with the use of proxies, with the goal of replacing Sunni governments with Shiite regimes. I’ve been aware of this for decades and I’ve appealed over and over again to GCC member states and our Arab allies to clearly acknowledge this problem and do all in their power to ensure our grandchildren don’t end up speaking Farsi.
The message is clear. I can only hope they will hear the words coming right out of the horse’s mouth, spoken by Alireza Zakani, an Iranian lawmaker and confident of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In short, he exposed the mullahs’ box of tricks during a recent parliamentary speech. Iran is currently going through a stage during its “Great Jihad” that requires a particular strategy and a cautious approach, he said, according to my understanding, while boasting that three Arab capitals are now in Iran’s hands and affiliated to the Iranian Islamic Revolution, adding that the Yemeni capital Sanaa is well on its way to becoming the fourth with at least fourteen out of twenty Yemeni Provinces coming under Houthi control. He didn’t name those Arab capitals but I assume he’s referring to Damascus (Shiite Allawite regime), Beirut (under the sway of the Shiite militant organization Hezbollah) and Baghdad, whose constitution ensures the prime minister must be drawn from the Shiite community. And, yes, Yemen – a country considered the birthplace of the Arab nation – has fallen into the hands of Shiite Houthis, former separatists turned terrorists no longer content with striving for part of the cake, they now seek to consume all of it.
The situation in Yemen
Due to the hesitance of our governments to stand alongside the Yemeni government against these terrorist Iranian puppets, we’ve enabled their aspirations. Yemen’s President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi has been coerced by their violent seizure of much of the capital into signing a deal with the Shiite rebels resulting in Houthis being appointed as political advisors as well as other concessions. Hadi has described the deal as “historic.” I call it a disastrous error of judgment reluctantly agreed to by a man with his back up against the wall. A stroke of his pen has made him complicit in this crime. He has sold his country to Iran for the price of quiet but instead of honoring their pledge to withdraw from Sanaa, the Houthis are demanding even greater concessions.
It doesn’t surprise me that Houthis are celebrating their victory with firework displays and revenge attacks on their enemies. But what’s truly shocking is that the U.N. has blessed this agreement. Even more mind-blowing is that some Arab leaders have congratulated the Yemeni government on this step towards “reconciliation.” What are they thinking? Houthis due to their proximity, sheer numbers (approximately eight million) and their reputation for barbarity are more hazardous to the security of Gulf States than even Hezbollah. This entire scenario feels like a nightmare in which I’m running for my life chased by a hideous monster, while everyone around me is smiling and chatting even as the creature breathes fire scorching their hair.
No wonder Alireza Zakani is self-satisfied! Before the Islamic Revolution there were two main components to the U.S. axis in the region – Saudi Islam and Turkish secularism – he notes. Now, he says the political balance has altered to benefit Iran. Today, he apparently said, we are at the peak of our strength and able to impose our will and strategic interests throughout the region, before claiming that Iran was responsible for keeping the Assad regime in power and saving Baghdad from ISIS. In truth, Iran is destabilizing and divisive and through Hezbollah has paralyzed Lebanon. It still escapes my comprehension why the Western nations, including the U.S., have sought to brand only the group’s military wing “terrorist” when the political and military wings have a single leader.
And now I would really like GCC leaderships to pay attention. The Iranian plot doesn’t end with Yemen. Zakani, according to my understanding, said that the Yemeni revolution will not be confined to Yemen alone, adding that it will reach the territory of Saudi Arabia, given the long Yemeni-Saudi border. Two million organized armed men are in Yemen - and it won’t be long before its Saudi Arabia’s turn, he said, according to my understanding. And yet, I read that Riyadh and Tehran are experiencing a thaw in relations! We are indeed very vulnerable. GCC States from Saudi Arabia to Oman are surrounded on all sides by hostile Shiites under Tehran’s sway, whether Iranian, Iraqi or Houthis, but instead of acting to shore up our defense, we are patting Houthi terrorists on the back, turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s crimes and hugging Iranian officials.
I can only cling to the hope that now some of our countries have been galvanized to act against ISIS, our armies and air forces will extend their operations to take back Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen before the Sunni Arab World is reduced to shadow in a darkening Persian night. We must hold our GCC flag high and show the plotters around us that we see through their game, which is one they will not be allowed to win.
Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and the has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad.
Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books.
Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.