Iraq is without electricity in sweltering temperatures that near half the boiling point of water. Lebanon no longer stands on the edge of the crisis; it is already in free fall with no power or medication. A quarter of Syria’s population is disabled, asking anyone who will listen for help. In Yemen, the shortage of medication is coupled with food shortages, making the threat of famine closer than ever. What do all these countries have in common? Most probably, Iranian interference. Iran is in Syria (supposedly at the Syrians’ behest), in Yemen (silently, because the legitimate authority has not summoned it and still opposes it), in Iraq through militias that take their orders from Tehran, and in Lebanon through its party.
Would Iran have been able to exercise all this active interference had it not found subordinate groups to follow it under various slogans? I highly doubt it. The strategy is clear: the recruitment of a group that Tehran enables by making the group militarily superior to the remaining components in the country and supplies it with propaganda funds and gangs to silence opponents through clandestine assassinations or deafening explosions.
The issue we must consider here is how Iran managed to recruit all these forces in these societies to use them to, first, destroy the state, and then, to achieve its own objectives without caring for any ensuing havoc. The reason is that some Arabs in these states joined the Iranian project, either out of spite considering the situation in their countries or in pursuit of an imaginary ideology.
These groups have been following Iran over the course of many long years and for different reasons. On the Syria-Lebanon front, the enmity between the Syrian and Iraqi Baath parties was the cornerstone of this interference. Out of spite to his rival in the war of frenemies, Hafez al-Assad decided to side with Iran in its war against Iraq, and the relationship began subsequently. It was clear that the Iraqi Baath’s decision to enter into an armed conflict amidst a new revolution was tantamount to political blindness that failed to read or understand history, and for which Iraq ultimately paid dearly.
The relationship between Syria and Iran kept flourishing until the Syrian regime needed to oppress its people a decade ago and asked Iran and Russia for help. The former had its own objectives, which are still relevant today. In the era of Hafez al-Assad, the Syrian regime was controlling Lebanon (again, with the approval of a segment of the Lebanese society), and this control imposed the existence of an armed group (Hezbollah), which in turn imposed the control of its sect in the War of Brothers on political activity, stripping other components of any means except speech and demonstrations. The language of arms overtook any other act or language, all under the guise of “liberating Palestine.” However, it is no secret that the liberation of Palestine is but a slogan that the party sells to the naïve, and that Hezbollah’s opportunist alliance with a Lebanese party that is willing to climb over stacks upon stacks of calamities just to reach power is what got Lebanon to its demise today.
In Iraq, the root of the problem lies in a small arrogant Baath group that chose to clash with a popular revolution and showed no willingness to share power or wealth with larger Iraqi segments. Had it done this, it would have been able to absorb the flare of slogans coming from the east. Instead, it opted for oppressing and relocating compatriots to the east, ahead of waging a ruthless war that it lost.
The arrogance then worsened with the occupation of a peaceful neighboring country, all while deep fissures were cracking the internal Iraqi front, eventually leading Iraq to an occupation that knows what it does not want but does not know what it wants. All of these reasons facilitated the recruitment of groups that take orders from Iran, whose clear strategy was to ensure Iraq never rises and remains crippled, even if half its people die, so long as part of Iraq is still under its control.
In Yemen, the failure and fragmentation of Yemeni forces and the late Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ambitions to hold power forever pushed an ambitious armed group to take over the capital city and violate all sanctities, including the murder of the ally that enabled them. Then the group launched a bloody war that serves Iran’s objectives before turning this war into a permanent industry fueled by the bones and livelihoods of the Yemeni people.
In parallel, major states that had interests in these countries are opting to abandon the fiery region. As such, this front will keep bleeding and we will see more oppression, destitution, and displacement take place. Even more barbaric violence funded by short-sighted parties that will use post-Taliban Afghanistan and the Syrian terra nullius as a springboard will become more prevalent.
Therefore, the Middle East is likely to slide into violence and discord given the complete absence of modern statehood. Perhaps those who can do something will step up before it is too late and take serious steps toward establishing the minimal foundations of modern states, though this needs a brave assessment of the status quo and future prospects. The other possibility is that Iran will invest in the atmosphere of “opposition for the sake of opposition” to expand the chaos, leading everyone to the catastrophe that the Iranian society has reached today.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Lebanese news outlet Annahar al-Arabi.