Russia and Iran: Unholy alliance for a new order?
The two countries seem to be, in the short run at least, in sync to drive state system in two regions of the world toward fragmentation
Putin and Assad are exacerbating the refugees crisis in Europe to overwhelm EU countries and eventually break up the Union. These were the words of General Phil Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and head of the US European Command, during a testimony in the Congress.
Iran, on the other hand, is using militias and non-state actors to sew sectarian and religious driven violence in the Middle East Arabic speaking countries. Both Russia and Iran seem to be, in the short run, at least in sync to drive state system in two regions of the world toward fragmentation and destruction, and therefore maybe to replace them with a new order.
Russian Vladimir Putin's relationship with Europe is a list of dysfunctional entente. EU’s openness eastward after the breakup of the Soviet Union was never perceived easily in Moscow. Ukraine’s bid to unshackle itself of the Soviet era practices and reform its state institutions with western help alarmed Moscow.
Putin quickly annexed Crimea and opened a wound in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainians of Russian descent and their neighbors. This resulted in low intensity insurgencies calling with the help of Russia’s military to break up from Kiev Rule. Europe’s sanctions hit the Kremlin ego before it made its impact felt in the financial market.
Moscow’s isolation on the world stage followed and this was not digested by Putin in his third term in office during which his clear aim was to reinstate Russia as a world player.
An emboldened Iran before and after the nuclear deal with the US, UN and EU led Tehran further into its belligerent proxy wars with Arab neighbors. From Gaza to Beirut, Baghdad to Damascus, Sanaa, and Manama, Iran’s tools are active at sewing dissent and sectarian tension. It is either in the name of defending the dispossessed Shiites in the world or for exporting its Islamic revolution or in the name of resisting Israeli Zionism, which wore off since the end of the 90s.
In Iraq, Shiite political and military forces linked to Iran have inherited the country in post Saddam Iraq. ISIS takeover of parts of Iraq two years ago followed years of sectarian discrimination by the central government in Baghdad against the country’s Sunni Arabs.
In Yemen, the Iranians did not shy away from claiming that they would defend Houthi militias when Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies launched military operation to reinstate the legitimate government of president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
This followed years of suspicion that Iran is working to prop up Houthis Shiite minority in northern Yemen to potentially undermine peace and security in the southern Saudi Arabian border towns with Yemen, also inhabited by the Shiites.
In Syria, Iran sent weapons, cash, advisors and mercenary Shiite militia from Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon to try to help Assad regime stay in power. The intervention began under the pretext of protecting Shiite shrines in and around Damascus. This religious or sectarian stance shifted when a crony of Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said that allowing Assad regime to fall is tantamount to the "fall of Tehran".
The developments in Iraq, and the calls for its division, the calls to break up Syria and the Iranian control of Lebanon through Hezbollah militia are all indicative of Tehran's policy to encourage discord within neighboring Arab countriesMohamed Chebarro
Last but not the least, Iran invested in the Lebanese Hezbollah, a sectarian Shiite party that championed the fight against Israel in the 90s. Though Hezbollah genesis in 1982 clearly called for an Islamic state in Lebanon modelled after the Iranian revolution in Iran, this was muted in the nineties as the party consolidated its grip on organs of the Lebanese state while developing under Iran patronage its international military cells in countries as far as Latin America and Asia and as close as the Gulf Arab states.
The latest Gulf Cooperation Council communique, naming Hezbollah a terrorist organization bent on recruiting Arab youth with the aim to radicalize them and turn them against their states and societies, is a clear indication of how Iran has worked to undermine its neighbors’ governments and potentially sow the seeds for a new order of state-lets dominated by Tehran.
The developments in Iraq, and the calls for its division, the calls to break up Syria and the Iranian control of Lebanon through Hezbollah militia are all indicative of Tehran's policy to encourage discord within neighboring Arab countries. The declaration of Hezbollah in Lebanon a terrorist entity is a step in the right direction to tell Iran that its proxy wars using Arab Shiite as tools will no longer be tolerated.
The declaration of Saudi Arabia that it is to form an Islamic and Arab armed coalition to ensure that Syria’s Assad is removed by diplomacy or through the use of force is another indication that some countries in the Middle East, like in Europe, are ready to stand with territorial unity of nations such as Iraq and Syria.
Doing otherwise is to leave the field wide open for Tsarist Russian ambitions, and Iranian ethnically fueled supremacy dreams. The regional drawing board might be opened since the US has disengaged and Europe is busy housing its refugees.
Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London.