Iranians, 95% Shiites, represent less than 5% of the world’s Muslim population (1.5 billion) and although Shiites represent approximately 15% of the global Muslim population, Tehran wants to lead a Global Islamic Awakening consolidating all Muslims.
Sounds a like a lion cub trying to take over all of the prides of lions in the world – this might sound reasonable in a Disney movie but it is out of sync in the real world. The non-Muslim world and most of the Muslim world look on such aspirations with fear and yet, Tehran continues to stake its claim to export the Islamic Revolution to any part of the globe which will welcome it. The fact that most countries, Muslims and non-Muslim, want nothing to do with an Islamic Revolution nor an Islamic Awakening, is irrelevant to Tehran which continues to seek out factions within these countries, usually Shiites but sometimes Sunnis or even Christians, to help plan the seed of the Revolution in foreign lands. And when governments react fiercely to such attempts, Tehran blames them of being anti-Muslim and Iranophobic.
It’s worth remembering a quote from Zarif’s book: “We claim that we have a viewpoint that has the potential to be projected globally and change the international order. This claim bears no relation to our capabilities or our power. It originates from the very nature of our worldview. Why doesn’t Malaysia face such problems? It is because Malaysia does not seek to change the international order.”
Malaysia may have less Muslims than Iran (18 million compared to 80 million) but countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh have more (180 million, 170 million and 130 million respectively). And yet, Indonesia is content to be Indonesia, Pakistan is content to be Pakistan and Bangladesh is content to be Bangladesh…Why not Iran?
Tehran’s Method of Meddling
As we have outlined in many previous posts, Tehran doesn’t invade countries, it infiltrates them through meddling in local politics by supporting oppressed factions within other countries, usually Shiites, against their governments. Once these factions take over leadership, they make a point of “inviting” Tehran to help them rule.
This has happened successfully in Beirut and in Baghdad. In Damascus, it was Assad’s ruling party which called on Tehran for help, giving over the reins of the government of Syria to Tehran. In other countries such as in Yemen and Bahrain, Tehran has not yet succeeded but is certainly trying.
Of course, Tehran doesn’t openly admit to its meddling nature. As far as Tehran is concerned, it is “helping” Assad in its civil war out of “religious and human duty” although Assad is an Alawite (Shiite) who represent only 12% of all of Syria’s Muslims and the blood of hundreds of thousands of Syrian rebels is on Tehran’s hands.
On his visit to Beirut last week, Zarif made a point of stating that Tehran does not meddle in Lebanese politics, a statement hotly contested by the Lebanese opposition leaders: “Nasrallah admitted, without equivocation, that Hezbollah is orchestrating the FPM’s moves and standing behind its attempts to undermine stability in Lebanon through paralyzing state institutions“.
The critics of Tehran continue to shout foul but Tehran is not listening and continues to call for Muslim unity: “Unity of Ummah (Islamic community) is imperative to fight common threats facing the Muslim countries“. And what are the two greatest threats to Muslims according to Tehran? Terrorism and Zionism
Fighting Terrorism Is An Excuse To Meddle
Tehran is using its “fight against terrorism” as a rallying call for all these countries to follow its lead. Within one week alone, Tehran called on Syria, Iraq and Gaza to join together in the fight against terrorism. This call to fight terrorism doesn’t sit well with the fact that Tehran is supporting terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to help export its revolution. In fact, it seems that Tehran is amplifying its fight against ISIS as an excuse to rally other Muslim countries to war.
Bahrain, a clear target of Tehran’s meddling has no illusions: “Iran uses ISIS as a pretext to meddle in the region“. And Bahrain is not alone – all the Gulf states are wary of Tehran’s WAVE (World Against Violence and Extremism) initiative which took on speed as Tehran went to war against ISIS in Iraq and in Syria. They are even more worried that Tehran, with its coffers replenished under a nuclear deal, will become more empowered to meddle and manipulate its “fight against terrorism” as a means of empowering local terrorist organizations, such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Shiite factions in Bahrain, to spark revolutions in their countries.
Zionism is, in Tehran’s definition, the most extreme form of terrorism in the world and as such, is fully supporting the destruction of Israel. Although it has had its ups and downs with Hamas over picking different sides in the Syrian civil war, it is intensifying its support to Hamas in its war against Israel and even Fatach’s Abbas is supposed to visit Tehran in the near future.
Meddling Increases With Nuclear Deal
Some believe that the nuke deal will not change Tehran’s “approach to the region” while other believe that a nuclear deal will empower Tehran to meddle more. With or without the US approval, Tehran is set to reap immensely profitable ties with Moscow and Beijing as well as increased trade with its neighbors. Tehran is smart enough to not try to export the revolution to Moscow or Beijing but it will use any open doors to do so in other countries wherever and whenever possible. Furthermore, the lifting of sanctions which will fill Tehran’s coffers with at least $28 billion of which some will be funneled to export the revolution and fund terrorist organizations. Why? Because, as Zarif explains it so clearly “Without revolutionary goals we do not exist … Our revolutionary goals are what distinguish us from other countries.” The increase of trade, the freeing of funds and the promise of nuclear program that will reach a “sunset clause” within 10 years will all help Tehran to try to achieve its global aspirations.
This may not be easily understandable to Westerners: Americans and Western Europeans do not have long term aspirational goals. The US may view itself as the world’s moral and political police but ask an American president where the US will or should be in the next ten years and you will probably get a few helpless shrugs and some theoretical goals – Ask Khamenei the same question and he will immediately tell you that Tehran will lead the world to a “century of Islam“, with or without him…that is the main difference.