Washington’s contentment with merely voicing its “concern” about Iran’s behavior and support for terrorism only serves to encourage the Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) state to further interfere in the internal affairs of states in the region, as if its blatant occupation of several parts of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon is not enough.
The Iranian “invasion” of Lebanon, where Iran’s proxy Hezbollah controls the entire country, including Sunni, Christian, and Druze regions, should have been stopped before the country became another subordinate, occupied Arab nation. In Iraq, for instance, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) is an Iranian proxy that superseded Iraq’s national army. In fact, PMF Commander Faleh al-Fayyad once said in a meeting with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Hossein Salami: “We are proud of the Revolutionary Guard model and of the Islamic Revolution.” The same goes for Syria, a big part of Yemen, and even some North African Arab states.
This Iranian influence has become clear as day. If no practical efforts are made to contain it, the Khomeinian Revolution, currently headed by the Wali al-Faqih Ali Khamenei, will continue to seek to achieve what Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi could not.
The current Supreme Leader of Iran is not Persian, though. He is an Azeri, and some even say he is of Arab origins. He also claims to be one of the People of the Prophet’s House. His father, Javad Khamenei, was one of Mashhad’s prominent scholars. His grandfather, Hossein Khamenei, an Azeri scholar in Najaf, was a descendant of Ali bin Zain al-Abidin bin Husayn bin Ali bin Abi Taleb.
The problem is that Khamenei has no heir. Should he resign, or when he eventually passes, he will most probably be replaced by the non-consensual current President Ebrahim Raisi. The contract that Khomeini had begun in 1979 will surely collapse, and the revolution will end just like the Shah regime did. In fact, some people assure that the contract will collapse, and the old era will be revived.
Soon after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq won the eight-year Iraq-Iran war, Tehran opted for a different kind of confrontation. With US arrangement, the Iraqi President was put on death row, and Iraq slid into the abyss of war. The Baath party was definitively ousted, and three Iraqi Kurds took the reins of power in the country: President Barham Saleh, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein. Surely, there is no objection to that. The three leaders are all Iraqis and entitled to occupy these positions in their country, for which their ancestors fought and gave many martyrs, just like their Arab compatriots.
But today, Iraq is no longer an Arab country, unfortunately, as Iran holds the reins of power in it. Truth be told, Iran, the country of Khomeini, Khamenei, and now Raisi (whom most Iranians describe as a murderer and criminal), exercises military, security, and political occupation over four Arab states: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen (partially), and it unashamedly seeks to carry on in that direction. After losing the war with Iraq, Tehran resorted to sectarian expansion toward Arab states with considerable Shia presence. Remarkably, most of Iraq’s Shia turned their back to Iran’s project and held tight to their Arab and national identity.
Still, Iran carried on with its attempts to infiltrate the country on a sectarian basis and managed in the end to establish a full-fledged Iranian proxy in Iraq, the PMF, which is supposedly a part of the Iraqi Army but covertly a sectarian militia that directly obeys Iran.
In an interview with the BBC in late 2016, the Head of the Jordanian Joint Chiefs of Staff had voiced his country’s concern about the PMF’s advance to many Iraqi cities and its eventual establishment of a “military belt” linking Iran to Lebanon. Indeed, this is what happened, and the Shia-influenced names given to the PMF’s formations (such as the Imam Muhammad al-Jawad Brigade, Imam Ali Division, Ashura’ Company, Karbala’ Brigade) are a testament to the veracity of this strategy.
The bottom line is that Iran’s “strategic” objective is to infiltrate the Arab world on a sectarian basis to control all of Iraq, then on to Syria and Lebanon, as well as reach Yemen and the Strait of Hormuz, and thus the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean, which provide the only sea passage for Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar.
It is clear and certain today that Iran is seeking to achieve all this “strategic” expansion toward Arab states to restore the glories of Ancient Persia. Its real motive is not Shia-related. It just seeks to set a foothold in the Mediterranean, control parts of the Red Sea, reach the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden, and control the Strait of Hormuz, thus reviving the glorious days of Persia.
In conclusion, Iran is working to restore its glory by politically exploiting Shia communities. For this reason, Tehran is preventing the Kurds of Iraq, led by Masoud Barzani, from achieving their historical ambition of establishing a Kurdish state with Erbil as a capital. It is also for this reason that it pushed for the current Kurdish-dominated political façade in Iraq.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.