A statement issued by the Presidency of State Security on September 28 said, “Saudi security authorities took down a terrorist cell whose operatives received military and field training by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including methods and techniques for making explosives, and explosives hidden in two sites were seized.” According to the Saudi Press Agency, 10 suspects were arrested; three of them received training in Iran, while the rest were “linked to the cell in various roles.”
This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has arrested individuals who had received training in Iran, or camps affiliated with its allies, whether in Iraq, Lebanon or Syria. It is highly unlikely that it will be the last, as long as the IRGC continues to believe in concepts such as “the exportation of Iran's revolution” and “expansionism,” and as long as it continues to impose its influence and power over neighboring countries, and to interfere in their affairs in several ways.
Perhaps the main issue with the IRGC lies in the fact that it rejects the notion of a “state” with powers that are limited to its borders, and that it can impose its influence on other countries through economy, technology, manufacturing, arts and culture, soft power, and competition according to diplomatic norms approved by the United Nations and accepted by most countries of the world. The state’s army and national guard play only a defensive role by protecting the state and its people.
It is safe to say that the IRGC’s lack of belief in the idea of a sovereign nationalistic state that is limited by its political boundaries and its shift toward forming an empire has affirmed the IRGC’s sense of righteousness and entitlement, leading them to be more firm in their endeavor to defend the “weak” and “oppressed” against their “oppressors” and spread justice.
These views are a reflection of IRGC’s misguided expansionist aspirations, and they are merely flashy claims and slogans that are not aligned with the reality of the situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In fact, such aspirations only make the “weak” even weaker, and lead to an increase in unemployment and poverty rates, as well as add to the economic burdens of the middle class.
If the supporters of the “Imam's line” are eager to defend the “oppressed,” then perhaps their priority should be to defend those who are oppressed and deprived within the Iranian borders. Those who pinned their hopes and dreams on the 1979 revolution only to be let down just like what happens in most faith-based mass movements, confirming the famous phrase “the revolution devours its children.”
Iranian radicals were not satisfied with a massive terrorist attack such as the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, their nefarious ambitions lead them to lure a number of Saudi citizens to provide the IRGC and Ettela’at (the Iranian intelligence service) with information about internal Saudi affairs.
They have also created an emotional mobilization rhetoric that aims to lure young people under several pretexts. It aims to train them to carry weapons by manipulating them through Quranic verses such as “Hence, make ready against them whatever force and war mounts, you are able to muster, so that you might deter thereby the enemies of God, who are your enemies as well,” or under the pretext of preparing for the “second coming,” “confronting the takfiri currents,” or “being armed against ISIS.” Al these attempts to exploit and manipulate ultimately aim to reach a specific goal: extending IRGC’s influence and sabotaging Saudi stability.
Whoever believes that the IRGC’s actions stem from their support of one doctrine over another, overlooks the fact the this apparatus provided logistical support to fighters and leading members of al-Qaeda, a number of whom remained in Iran, under the supervision and protection of the IRGC. This means that the IRGC only acts in its best interest. It does not care about the nature of the doctrine it supports, and only follows the person, apparatus, or organization with which its militant interests and aspirations are aligned.
In Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, the Iranian regime supported forces with opposing doctrines and beliefs, some of which are Salafi, and supplied them with weapons to fight US forces.
There is no need to go far back in history, if we examine the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict that has turned into an armed confrontation between the two nations, we find that Tehran has offered its support to Yerevan in instead of Baku.
Perhaps it is in fact a paradox, as the Iranian journalist Masoud Al-Fak wrote, “Jewish Israel and Sunni Turkey are supporting Shiite Azerbaijan,” while “Shiite Iran and Christian Russia, are supporting Orthodox Armenia,” because “religion plays no part when it comes to political interests.”
This notion must be emphasized especially for those who try to explain IRGC’s actions by giving narrow sectarian justifications. Relying on this sectarian mentality in analyzing the current political and security situation will only lead to misleading outcomes, in addition to increasing ideological polarization. This will only result in more division, and animosity between opposing parties.
“Always play your winning card” – that is what the IRGC practices whether with Hezbollah or al-Qaeda cells or other organizations taking up arms against the Gulf’s regimes. These are but cards at the Guard's table and these armed organizations have neither a say in decisions nor a share in rewards. They have the most to lose in all battles, and history is the best witness. In the end, the Iranian national interests will have the lion's share while everyone else stands by slavishly following a complicated game they were nothing but pawns in, oblivious to its clashes. Otherwise, they never would have stumbled blindly into it.
Nevertheless, there is great deal of good in the behavior of the IRGC in that people are turning away from the Iranian revolution's table every passing day, having realized that its dishes are poisoned and that the great values many people have offered their lives to have gone with the wind, leaving behind nothing but pain and the smell of blood and gunpowder along with the memory of lost ones. So long as the IRGC continues its incursion and threats, it will keep losing supporters. Believers in a modern, just “national state” have come together to condemn terrorism and denounce the undermining of the Gulf's security, underlining the importance of protecting its safety and stability and promoting the prosperity of its people, and defying the inflammatory rhetoric devastating nations. This awareness, which is growing by the day, will stop the IRGC's rhetoric from inching forward and will render all its projects futile and unavailing.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Annahar al-Arabi.
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