Rouhani’s chief adviser on Ethnic and Religious Minorities (and former Intelligence Minister) Ali Younesi’s visions of a “Greater Iranian Empire” struck a nerve in the hearts of Iran’s Arab neighbors. Their fierce reaction to his statement caught the Iranian leaders off-guard and sent them scrambling to control the damage. Younesi, as well as Iranian parliament chief Ali Larijani, chose the “lost in translation” excuse while 104 members of the Iranian parliament requested Younesi’s dismissal.
Whether Younesi’s aspirations were exaggerated in translation or not is debatable. What isn’t debatable is that his was not a lone voice in the dark and that his timing reflects once again the split personality of Tehran since Rouhani took office.
Nuclear Deal Based on Regional Peace
For over a year and half, Tehran has been trying to broker a nuclear deal and subsequently a rapprochement with the West based on repeated statements that Iran is a peaceful country with peaceful aspirations.
Khamenei’s “nuclear fatwa”, Rouhani’s “WAVE” initiative and efforts to mend fences with Iran’s Gulf neighbors all exemplify Iran’s efforts to be seen as a promoter of peace.
Younesi’s aspirations for a greater Iran may not impede a nuclear deal per se but his reasons for such an empire should light up a series of red lights at the nuclear negotiations table. According to Younesi, a greater Iran will “protect all of the nationalities in the area…against Islamic extremism, takfirism, atheism, neo-Ottomans, the Wahhabis, the West and Zionism“.
The Iranian army and its terrorist proxy groups are already fighting all these “enemies” de facto in different areas of the world – adding nuclear capability to its military arsenal could prove devastating to all these “enemies” in the future.
Regional Subversion and Meddling
As we showed in our earlier post, Iran’s “Crescent of Control” is growing: What began in Lebanon, spread to Syria, Iraq and lately Yemen. In all of these countries, Iranian politics, religious outlooks and military forces are at center stage.
Tehran continues to state that its presence in all of these countries was welcomed which can remind us of Roman expansion and world conquest in the name of defending smaller entities. Lebanon has been taken over, militarily and politically, by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah; Assad invited Iran to fight on his side in the civil war; Iraq requested Iran’s help to fight ISIS and Yemenite Houthi rebels took power with Iranian military support.
But Tehran’s modus operandi is the same in all cases: identify pro-Shiite leaders/factions and offer them political and military support (including terrorist infrastructure) while making sure that these leaders continue to thank Iran for its “welcomed interference”.
As such, countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are within Tehran’s sights as the next countries to join its Crescent of Control.
Global Islamic Awakening
Younesi’s statement might be dismissed but Supreme Leader Khamenei’s own visions for a Global Islamic Awakening can’t:
- The Enemy: “For two hundred years, Westerners ruled the Islamic Ummah…They occupied Islamic countries: some of them directly, some of them indirectly with the help of local dictatorships. England, France and finally America – which is the Great Satan”.
- The Inspiration: “A new era is starting throughout the world…Today neither Marxism, nor western liberal democracy, nor secular nationalism has any appeal…the greatest appeal belongs to Islam, the Holy Quran and the school of thought that is based on divine revelation.”
- The Opportunity: “Today the arrogant powers of the world feel helpless in the face of Islamic Awakening. You are dominant. You will win. The future belongs to you”.
- The Goal: “This century is the century of Islam…The kind of Islam that is based on rationality, Islam that is based on thinking, Islam that is based on spirituality, Islam that is based on attention to God and reliance on Him, Islam that is based on jihad.”
- The Brotherhood: “Today the Islamic movement throughout the world of Islam is independent of Shia and Sunni…It is independent of Arabs, Persians and other ethnicities. There must be a sense of brotherhood among us…The goal is Quranic and Islamic rule…all of us are opposed to the arrogant powers, all of us are opposed to the evil hegemony of the west, all of us are opposed to the cancerous tumor, Israel.”
- The Promise: “By Allah’s favor, there will be a day when the Islamic Ummah will reach the peak of power and independence…Muslim nations should come together under the banner of the call to God and the call to Islam. Then the Islamic Ummah will regain its dignity”.
Makes Younesi’s statement sound childish, doesn’t it?
Global Uprising of the “Underdogs”
Here’s how previous Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the 16th NAM summit in Tehran in 2012: “We believe that adopting worn-out policies based on intimidation and humiliation (by Western powers) is not only unjust and unjustifiable but also weakens international cooperation for the materialisation of the goals and objectives of the UN charter…No doubt, those who plan such policies will soon find out that they are doomed to failure.” He also attacked the UN Security Council as “illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic” and called for “fundamental changes in global governance”.
The state-run PRESSTV site made things clearer with an article headed “Iran’s NAM summit will isolate the West“.
Many NAM states tended to agree with Iran – especially states who were colonies in the past or who feel that their third-world status was implemented by the Western powers. For them, Iran is a champion to overturn their status as “global underdogs”.
So, all in all, Younesi’s “Greater Iran” vision does seem to reflect a general call for overturning the current status quo: whether it be through regional subversion, Islamic Awakenings, mutual aid to “underdogs” or a nuclear arms race, Iran is striving to expand its influence dramatically. Maybe we should thank Younesi for voicing what the Mullahs in Tehran really believe but feared to say.