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Why 'Operation: Decisive Storm' is Iran’s worst nightmare

Often, scholars and politicians have made the argument that regional powers in the Middle East are opposed to a nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers due to the nuclear technicalities of the deal or restoring relationships between Tehran and the U.S. Nevertheless, this premise fails to shed light on the underlying concerns, nuances and intricacies of such a nuclear deal as well as Iran’s multi-front role in the region.

The underlying regional concerns are not primarily linked to the potential reaching of a final nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic or easing of ties between the West and Tehran. At the end of the day, regional powers would welcome and be satisfied with a nuclear deal that can ratchet down regional tension, eliminate the possibility of the Islamic Republic to become a nuclear state, and prevent a nuclear arms race.

But what is most worrying is the expanding empire of the Islamic Republic across the Arab world from Beirut to Baghdad, and from Sanaa to Damascus, as the nuclear talks reach the final stages and as no political will exists among the world powers to cease Iran’s military expansion.

Establishing another proxy in Yemen

Iran’s Quds forces have long being linked to the Houthis. The Islamic Republic continues to fund and provide military support to the Houthis (by smuggling weapons such as AK-47s, surface-to-air missiles as well as rocket-propelled grenades) in order to establish another proxy in the Arab world.

Iran’s long-term strategic and geopolitical objectives in Yemen are clear. The Islamic Republic's attempt to have a robust foothold near the border of Saudi Arabia, as well as in the Gulf Peninsula, will tip the balance of power in favor of Tehran.

By empowering the Houthis, Tehran would ensure that Saudi Arabia is experiencing grave national security concerns, the possibility of conflict spill-over, and internal instability. In addition, by influencing Yemeni politics through the Houthis, Iranian leaders can pressure Saudi Arabia to accept Iran’s political, strategic and economic dominance in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon as well.

Regional robust actions such as Operation Decisive Storm are sometimes required in order to set limits to Iran’s hegemonic, imperialistic objectives

Majid Rafizadeh

The latest advancement of the Houthis supported the interests of the Islamic Republic until recently. There was a need for robust action against Iran’s hegemonic ambitions. Nevertheless, the West was resistant to act.

From geopolitical, strategic and humanitarian perspective, the robust military action, Operation Decisive Storm, is a calculated and intelligent move to send a strong signal to the Islamic Republic that its interference in another Arab state will not be overlooked. In other words, Arab states do not have to wait for the West to act against Iran’s covert activities and support for Shiite loyalist-militias in the region.

The tightening grip over another Arab capital

As the nuclear talks between Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - the five permanent members of the Security Council - plus Germany (P5+1) and the Islamic Republic appear to show progress towards a final agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the world powers (specifically the United States) have chosen to turn a blind eye on Iran’s military expansion in the Arab states, and particularly in Yemen.

Iran’s long term strategic and geopolitical agenda should not be overlooked. Iranian leaders’ hegemonic ambition is to consolidate and strengthen its grip on the Arab states, and to have control over Arab capitals from Beirut to Baghdad and from Sanaa to Damascus.

The Islamic Republic’s ambitions to expand its empire during the nuclear talks and regional insecurities are carried out through several platforms. Central figures, such as Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, hardliners such as Ali Reza Zakani, Tehran's representative in the Iranian parliament and a close figure to the Iranian supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Supreme Leader himself, play a crucial role in fulfilling Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions.

Iranian leaders are not even concerned about repercussions from boasting about their grip over Arab capitals. Zakani recently bragged about having control over Arab capitals, "Three Arab capitals have today ended up in the hands of Iran and belong to the Islamic Iranian revolution". He added that Sanaa will soon be under the grip on the Islamic Republic as well. According to him, most of Yemen’s territories will soon be under the power of the Shiite group, the Houthis, supported by the Islamic Republic.

The second platform that the Islamic Republic utilizes is sponsoring, financing, equipping, training and advising loyalist and heterodox Shiite groups across the region. The number of these militia groups is on the rise and they operate as a pawn to serve the geopolitical, strategic, economic, ideological and national interests of the ruling clerics.

America's lack of political willingness to act

As the Islamic Republic creates such Shiite groups across the region to “protect” Arab capitals, Tehran centralizes its power across the region. In addition, after the creation of new Shiite groups, the elimination of these proxies will not be a simple task, for they will be ingrained in the socio-political and socio-economic fabric of the society.

In addition, these loyalist militia groups are game changers in the region, tipping the balance of power further in favor of the Islamic Republic and its regional hegemonic ambitions.

The expansion of Iran’s military and loyalist-militia groups in the region transcends Tehran’s political ambitions. The ideological tenet of this expansion and of Tehran’s overall growing regional empire (under the banner of Popular Mobilization Forces: an umbrella institution of Shiite armed groups) are crucial facets to analyze.

More fundamentally, as the final nuclear deal approaches, and as Tehran witnesses the weakness of Washington and other powers when deciding to overlook Iran’s militaristic and imperialistic activities in the region, Tehran has become more emboldened and vocal when it comes to its military expansion.

Iranian leaders boast about their role in Arab states projecting Tehran as a savior for the Arab world. As Zakani stated, according to Iran’s Rasa new agency “had Hajj Qassem Soleimani not intervened in Iraq, Baghdad would have fallen, and the same applies to Syria; without the will of Iran, Syria would have fallen”.

Nevertheless, by the U.S. being so concentrated on a nuclear deal and President Obama being so focused on leaving behind a historic legacy regarding a nuclear deal with Iran, the unintended consequences of such an inefficient foreign policy are being ignored and overshadowed. Although the U.S. has military bases in the region, it has evidently chosen to ignore Iran’s military expansion.

The concerns of regional countries about the nuclear deal is not solely linked to the nuclear technicalities of the deal or Iran-West rapprochement, but are primarily related to Iran’s growing empire as well as the consequences of such a nuclear deal leading Tehran to apply more assertive and expansionist foreign policy in the region.

Regional robust actions such as Operation Decisive Storm are sometimes required in order to set limits to Iran’s hegemonic, imperialistic objectives, and interference in other Arab states’ affairs, as well as in order to prevent the destabilizing effects emanating from the growing militia rebels sponsored by the Islamic Republic.

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Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American scholar, author and U.S. foreign policy specialist. Rafizadeh is the president of the International American Council. He serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University and Harvard International Relations Council. He is a member of the Gulf 2000 Project at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs. Previously he served as ambassador to the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC.
 

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Last Update: Saturday, 28 March 2015 KSA 10:56 - GMT 07:56
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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