I guess that the operation that shook Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan (Arabstan) Province in western Iran, targeting a military parade will be an important landmark in the already unhealthy relations between the Mullahs’ regime in Tehran and the Arab world.
To begin with, and from a humanitarian standpoint, I fully regret and condemn any loss of innocent lives, if there were civilian casualties. Some reports, in fact, have reported some civilian casualties among dozens of military dead and injured. My full sympathy goes to those innocent victims.
In the meantime, however, what the Iranian leadership has perpetrated and continue to perpetrate, both internally and in the neighboring countries; namely, Arab countries from the Arabian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean and southward to the Strait of Bab El-Mandeb must not be overlooked.
On the other hand, it would be wrong to keep quiet about what a self-claimed ‘saintly’ authority, might do in the future; especially, when the behavior of this authority, which consider itself unaccountable to anyone, since 1979 are well known to the Arabs, even whole world.
The ‘political culture’ of Iran’s ruling elite is based on three non-negotiable and unshakeable premises, which would make it absurd to bet on changing its behavior while it refuses to admit its mistakes:
The first premise is its ‘religious legitimacy’ based on the principle of ‘Vali-e-faqih’. When any authority is based on the exclusive prerogative to decide what is right and what is wrong – as is the case of the Tehran regime – all veneers and appearances that claim democracy, coexistence and good neighborliness, fall.
When any authority is based on exclusive prerogative to decide what is right and what is wrong – as is the case of the Tehran regime – all veneers that claim democracy, coexistence and good neighborliness, fallEyad Abu Shakra
Respect for diversity
The ‘lies’ about democracy and respect for diversity and human rights have been ‘exported’ abroad for some time; and unfortunately, several world leaders believed them either because they were bluffed, or because they intentionally wanted to believe them as is the case of former US President Barack Obama.
The second premise, in conjunction with the first, is dressing ‘Shi’ism’ that originated in the ‘love of the Prophet Muhammad’s household and descendants’, who were all Arabs from the Quraysh tribe, as an Aryan nationalist identity.
Thereafter, this has been transformed into a case of revenge not only against who once prevailed in the power struggle of the early Islamic history, but also against a large ethnicity called the Arabs, and an Islamic sect that is followed by almost three-quarters of the world’s Muslim… in the name of Islam, no less! So, given this insistence on resurrecting old hatred that goes back more than 1335 years, it would surely be impossible to engage in any objective dialogue that aims to end animosities and move all concerned towards a future of cooperation, friendship and common interests.
The third and last premise is that of ‘the military and police state’. There is little doubt now that the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards is now a fully-fledged authority in Iran, as its possesses and runs – both inside and outside the country – its security apparatus, powerful military machines, in addition to owning and operating a sophisticated network of financial, investment and construction establishments that truly make it a ‘state within a state’.
Indeed, part and parcel of the IRGC ‘political legitimacy’ is derived from its foreign military operations which it exploits domestically to build an aura of triumphs and glory, in order to silent popular opposition, stifle dissent in a deprived nation suffering from the anathemas of corruption, abuse of power, and intentional encouragement of extremism and xenophobia.
The other day, Ahwaz, which is the center of the largest Arab population concentration in Iran, witnessed the armed operation, for which the regime wasted no time in blaming ‘foreign enemies’ of perpetrating, with training and financial support from two Arab Gulf states. Sure enough, this super quick accusation attempted to kill three birds with one stone:
1- To mobilize Iranian nationalist feelings and enhance solidarity with the leadership against ‘the foreign enemy’.
2- To deny any kind of injustice, maltreatment and persecution of ‘non-Iranian’ minorities in the country.
3- To justify any future regional escalation, through claiming that Iran was ‘a partner’ in the war against terror, as it is one of its victims!
The truth is that the Ahwazi Arabs are not the only victim of the Tehran regime persecution and disregard of human and political rights; as the Kurds, Baloch and Turkmen have suffered a long history of maltreatment, in addition to the discrimination and deprivation practiced against religious minorities. However, since what happened in Ahwaz is connected with the Arab minority, why don’t we go through what current and former senior figures have said about the Arabs.
Among the unforgettable quotes, must be what Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the IRGC’s second-in-command, once said to Mehr News Agency (state-owned). He said: “Officials in Iran did not expect the Islamic Revolution to spread outside its borders, to Iraq and then Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Bahrain, Yemen and Afghanistan”.
Boasting about Tehran’s achievements, Brigadier General Ismail Ghaani, deputy commander of the IRGC Quds Brigade, went further by saying: “Iran continues to conquer the countries of the (Middle East) Region… it began by controlling Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Palestine; and now it is advancing in the rest…!”
Not to be outdone, Haydar Muslihi, a former Intelligence Minister during the Presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said – according to IRGC’s Fars News Agency: “It is true that Iran is in control of four Arab capitals, just as Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu had said… Netanyahu’s words only confirm the growth of Iran’s influence in the Region”.
He then added pointing to the Houthis of Yemen: “The Iranian Revolution does not recognize borders, it is for all the Shi’a… and the Houthis are a fruit of the Iranian Revolution”. However, the ultimate boast came from Ali Younesi, the Special Assistant to the President for Ethnic and Religious Minorities’ Affairs, who said: “In Iraq lies the capital of the new Iranian Empire!”
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Indeed, this dominance has been translated by Tehran on the ground. In Iraq and Lebanon, it is being translated by creating failed states and subservient authorities, in Syria and Yemen by bloodshed and civil war. In the Palestinian Territories – the West Bank and Gaza – it has resulted in destroying the independent and united Palestinian voice.
As for Arab-inhabited areas in Iran, Tehran’s persecution, coercion and obliteration of national identity have led to the emergence of several political and liberation movements, among which are ‘The Arab National Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz’ and ‘The Arab Front for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz’.
In the very heart of what such movement are fighting against are the policies of ‘demographic engineering’ aiming at turning the Ahvazi Arabs into a minority, sequestration of Arab lands, banishing Arabs from the political and cultural scenes, and depriving them of the resources and equal opportunities compared to Iran’s other ethnicities.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949.