Tehran unites Muslim enemies instead of uniting Islam

It’s no secret that Iran views the “West” in general and the US, UK, Israel etc…as its enemies. These Western enemies symbolize all the humiliations and oppressions that were felt by the third world countries under the colonial empires while Israel is especially hated since it is viewed by Tehran as the last remaining Western “colony”. At the same time the Sunni-Shiite conflict which has been raging for about 1,400 years, is pitting Muslims against Muslims.

Tehran’s answer to both conflicts was to unify Islam against the West. For the past two years, Tehran has been selling itself as the unifier of Islam in order to  lead Islam to a “Global Islamic Awakening” which will eventually lead to a “Century of Islam” and a “New Islamic Civilization“. These lofty visions are adaptations of Khomeini’s basic ideal of “Exporting the Revolution” to all countries in which people are oppressed. As long as Tehran continues to be a cause instead of a nation, as Henry Kissinger put it so well, it is duty-bound to meddle in other countries’ politics in the hope of igniting another revolution against the “Western hegemony”.

According to this logic, all of Tehran’s enemies, are therefore enemies of Islam. This logic might appear to be sound when it comes to non-Muslim “enemies” but it is absurd when these “enemies” are Muslims. In fact, it is even more absurd since Iranians are Shiites, a sect of Islam which represents only 10%-15% of the global Muslim population. The leaders in Tehran who pride themselves on their logic, have found a simple answer that conveniently allows such an absurdity to exist: The Muslims who are enemies of Iran are actually enemies of Islam because they have one thing in common – they have associated themselves with the “West”.

Tehran’s two major Muslim enemies are easy to identify although they are very different in their nature:

  • External: Saudi Arabia, Iran’s loudest and most worrisome regional enemy
  • “Internal” (self-exiled):The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), Iran’s exiled political enemy

To its horror, Tehran is now witnessing more and more Muslim nations associating themselves with Saudi Arabia and the NCRI and instead of unifying all Muslims under a vision of a united Islam lead by Tehran, it has managed to unify Muslims against Tehran.


Saudi Arabia and the Arab world

At the beginning of 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a war against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen who had managed to overthrow the Saudi-supported government there. Tehran vilified the Saudi move and the Saudis answered by putting together a 12 state coalition of Arab states to fight the Houthis. This move took Tehran off-guard since the situation wasn’t anymore a Saudi-Yemen issue, it had grown into a larger Arab-Iran issue.

As the Iran-Saudi conflict escalated in an endless war of words, fueled by events such as the execution of the Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia for charges of inciting “terrorism”, the Saudis took their conflict against Iran one step further and put together a coalition of 34 Arab states for the purpose of “fighting terrorism”. The real purpose of this coalition can be found in the three nations which are “conspicuously” missing on this list, Iran, Syria and Iraq. No, this isn’t an anti-terror coalition but an anti-Tehran coalition.

But this wasn’t enough for the Saudis who dropped the proverbial bomb on Iran by designating Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy, as a terrorist organization and convinced the Arab League to do the same removing Tehran’s anti-terror “red carpet” from under its feet.

Iran fumed and protested as it watched 34 Muslim nations side with Saudi Arabia and resorted to do what it does best in these situations: bad-mouth Saudi Arabia. The coalition, Tehran claimed, was “fake” and “the self-centered move by of al-Saud will bear no fruit but disgrace and the Saudi attempt are in vain“. What Tehran didn’t mention is that the Saudis outdid Tehran at its own game: since Rouhani presented his World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) initiative to combat ISIS, Tehran distanced itself from supporting terrorism and instead positioned itself as a champion against terrorism. Tehran then proceeded to include Syria (Assad’s government) and Iraq in its own coalition against terrorism. By uniting itself with 33 Arab states in the cause against terrorism, Saudi Arabia did exactly the same but the size of its coalition only strengthened the notion that Tehran was isolated from the Muslim world and any ambitions that Tehran might have had in unifying Islamic countries under its flag were destroyed.


Saudi Arabia and the NCRI

On July 9th, the NCRI organized its yearly rally in Paris under the call for a “Free Iran”. The rally was a huge success with over 100,000 supporters and bi-partisan support from countries all over the world.

Tehran, which has designated the NCRI as a “terrorist” organization (it’s the only country in the world which has done this) hit the propaganda machine button and began to cry foul. It slammed the NCRI, France, the dozens of speakers, the thousands of supporters etc… but it reserved its loudest criticism for the presence of Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal at the rally who praised the NCRI and added that “your legitimate struggle against the (Iranian) regime will achieve its goal, sooner or later…I, too, want the fall of the regime“. Here are some of Tehran’s choices responses?

  • Hassan Rouhani, President: “There are both children-killer regimes (i.e. Israel) and childlike regimes (i.e. Saudi Arabia) in the region. There are childlike regimes that are seeking the support of rotten terrorist organizations (i.e. NCRI)”.
  • Ali Larijani, Speaker of Majlis: “Another example is allowing the terrorist-killer Monafeghin (NCRI) in Paris and the nonsense that was uttered by the moron Saudi official. The gathering and what was raised was so worthless and so impolite that it does not merit a response.”
  • Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: “This (NCRI) is a politically bankrupt organization and they have betrayed their own people since the inception of the group…This group does not possess the courage to come to Iran and talk to the Iranian people directly; their claims are for beyond Iran’s borders”.
  • Javad Zarif Foreign Minister: “The presence of individuals such as Turki-al Faisal in this gathering is indicative of the incompetency and naiveté of these individuals”.
  • Iranian unnamed diplomat: “The Saudis are resorting to well-known terrorists… As they have also done in Iraq, Yemen and Syria. This shows that they use terrorism and terrorists to further their aims against regional Islamic countries“.

Obviously, the whole “Free Iran” rally wasn’t “appreciated” by the regime in Tehran, but the presence of the Saudi Prince at the rally was a warning signal: The “terrorists” of the NCRI were now teaming up with the “childish” but menacing Saudi Arabia. Two of Tehran’s worst Muslim “enemies” had united in the hope of helping to topple the regime.


Palestine and the NCRI

Tehran has placed the cause of the Palestinians as a cornerstone of its Revolutionary Ideals since it views Palestinians as the direct victims of the West’s latest colonial ambition. According to Tehran, Israel was built land that was stolen from the Palestinians by the Western powers in the UN. So when, two weeks ago, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the State of Palestine met with Maryam Rajavi, the head of the NCRI, the reaction from Tehran was a mixture of disgust, bewilderment, hate and “damage control”. Here are some of the reactions:

Hossein Sheikholeslam, adviser to FM Javad Zarif: “That a Palestinian faction that compromises with the Zionists (Israelis) and that has yielded to Israel under US pressure… today meets with terrorist elements is no surprise as could be expected“. But that wasn’t enough for Sheikholeslam: “That man (Abbas) is known to us and documents from the US Embassy in Tehran revealed that he has been a collaborator with the Central Intelligence Agency for a long time and his actions in the past decades have proved that” and “it should be clear for the people that Mahmoud Abbas has had secret ties with terrorist groups and Israelis, and now these relations are being disclosed“. So, not only is Abbas weak and ineffective, it seems that he is also a CIA spy and he is supporting “terrorism” as it is defined by Tehran.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Parliament Speaker’s General Director for International Affairs: “The Palestinians surely regret Mahmoud Abbas’s act of supporting terrorist instead of fighting with it…Mahmoud Abbas’s problem is that he is not focused on restoring the rights of Palestinians“. So, Abbas is simply not focused on serving the Palestinian cause. One could ask who made Tehran a judge of who is and who isn’t supporting the Palestinian cause people but the real question should be why is the cause of the Palestinian people so important to Tehran? The answer is devastatingly simple: Liberating Palestine is a Revolutionary cause and wherever there is a possibility of a revolution against “Western hegemony”, Tehran wants to be part of it.

And what was the reaction from Gaza? “They (the Iranians) have vied and are still vying to destroy and ruin the Palestinian people, entrench the division, and encourage internal conflict to gain political points, nothing else. Their goals have nothing to do with Jerusalem or justice“.

For Tehran, the meeting between the Palestinians and the NCRI felt like the proverbial “stab in the back”: Hezbollah and Hamas, the two organizations most prominent in Palestine remain fully supported, financially and militarily, by Tehran and no other country has taken an anti-Israel pro-Palestine stance as definitely as did Tehran. But the Palestinians probably understood what was on the table for so long: Tehran’s support of the Palestinian cause isn’t meant only for the freedom of the Palestinians but as another step towards achieving its vision of a Global Islamic Awakening under its flag. The Palestinian cause which has the potential to unite all the Islamic nations was the perfect unifying element and its success would definitely weaken the West’s influence in the Middle East. The fact that the Palestinians chose to meet with the NCRI, in coordination with Saudi Arabia, was a clear sign that they weren’t buying into Tehran’s megalomaniacal vision.


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The Brothers in Lies on Human Rights in Iran

In general, despite tens of thousands of cases which prove otherwise, Iranian leaders speak glowingly about the positive nature of their records on human rights in Iran: in Iran, “the government follows the people, not the other way around”, “the will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the government”, Tehran “genuinely and meaningfully” involves its citizens “without any discrimination of any kind”, Iran creates and maintains the “necessary measures for the protection of the rights of the vulnerable groups” (especially women and children), all Iranian nationals are “equal before the law”, “have the right to choose their own lawyers” and can count on “the presumption of innocence”, Tehran has “continuously worked for the promotion of human rights” (with the UN), Tehran continues to “fully participate” for the “promotion and protection of human rights”, Tehran adheres to a full separation of powers (executive, legislature, judiciary), the Iranian police has a “most immaculate record” and is “free of racial discrimination and ethnic impartiality”, Tehran prohibits the use of torture and arbitrary arrest, “Iran doesn’t jail people for their opinions”, Tehran never “targets Baha’is just because they are followers of this faith”, “if an individual commits a violation, it has nothing to do with Shiites, Sunnis, or others in Iranian society”, there are no forced legal marriages of children in Iran, “that they say we execute homosexuals is not more than a lie” blah, blah, blah…

What makes Iran more unique on the issue of human rights is that the chief of human rights, Javad Larijani, happens to be the brother of Iran’s judiciary chief, Sadeq Larijani (both are also the brothers of the chief of parliament Ali Larijani but that is not yet relevant to this post). This is very convenient for both since they both hold similar views regarding the state of human rights in Iran and both are extremely well coordinated in their denials and counter accusations on this issue.

In fact both brothers continue to state that not only are there no problems of human rights in Iran but that Iran can actually lead the world in developing an Islamic form of human rights which would be far superior than the existing “Western” one.

Listening to these two brothers talk on human rights is borderline comical and exasperating: One can only assume that they are both very loyal to the regime in Tehran, are both hypocritical liars and/or are both arrogant or delusional enough to believe their own statement. Here are a few new soundbites which will give you a glimpse of the madness which symbolizes the state of human rights in Iran and how it is managed by the regime.


Denials and counter accusation are their answer to criticism

Whenever accusations arise in regards to the state of human, the automatic response from Javad and Sadeq is denial followed by counter-accusations aimed at the people or the organizations issuing the criticism.

According to Javad, Iran’s record in human rights is “one of the best whether in terms of democracy or in terms of the judicial system” and is “honorable“. And what about the critics and the criticism of problems with human rights in Iran? They do not reflect the “realities on the ground” and are “politically motivated tactics” aimed at achieving political objectives. The highest profile critic of human rights in Iran is the UN Special Rapporteur on Human right in Iran, Shaheed Ahmed who has issued a series of damning reports. Javad’s reaction to these reports never entails actually dealing with their contents but in delegitimizing the author of the report and his motives: “Assigning a special rapporteur for the Islamic Republic of Iran where we have the biggest democracy in the region, and judicial rules and regulations are very advanced and rigorous has been very illogical and unfair…it is tyrannical and irrational for Iran to come under a massive assault and be subject to special reporting…Iran believes that the issue of human rights is not being followed in a just and unbiased manner on the international level, and it has been sacrificed at the expense of political motivations of the big powers”. Furthermore, he states that the designation of a special rapporteur on Iran is simply “illegal“. And what is his answer to Iran’s being the country with the highest rate of execution per capita in the world? Since 70%-90% (he changes the percentage all the time) of the executions are drug-related, the World should “be thankful” and the executions should be viewed as a “positive marker of Iranian achievement” and a “great service to humanity”. But Javad doesn’t ever comment on questions regarding 1) the effectiveness of executing drug dealers as a deterrent and 2) the covert roles of the IRGC and Hezbollah in drug trafficking around the world.

If someone read to you Javad’s speech at the UNPR on the state of human rights in Iran, you might think he represents a country such as New Zealand and not Iran.

Javad’s brother, Sadeq, echoes these sentiments nearly word for word: while blaming the West for “manipulative use of human rights”, he adds, “the West acts on the basis of double standards on human rights and makes manipulative use of the issue…Regarding the human rights, we believe the West’s stance is self-serving, and hypocritical”. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And it sounds totally irrational in view of the systematic oppression of women, juveniles, reporters, artists, activists, politicians, gays, minorities etc…and the hundreds of thousands of cases in which these people were harassed, arrested, interrogated, tortured, jailed and/or executed. In February, Amnesty issued a damning report on Iran’s judiciary claiming that it is flawed and inadequate on numerous levels and reduces the chances to a fair trial and a fair sentencing to nil.

Here’s a video which more or less summarizes the Larijani brothers’, and the regime’s as well, take on human rights:

It seems that a large majority of Iranians would like to change the state of human rights in Iran. These are the same people who voted for President Hassan Rouhani and the same people who voted for the “List of Hope” in the last parliamentary elections. Unfotunately for them, the Judiciary, as well as the Supreme Leader, the IRGC, the Guardian Council, the Basij and the hundreds of organizations which make up the regime are not voted into office by the people for their good but are placed into office by the regime in order to maintain the regime’s power. Just like in south Africa, where the regime of a minority of whites kept the majority of native Africans under the inhumane laws of apartheid through brutal laws and brutal authorities, the Iranian people who do want change fear that, just as in 2009, any such demands will be met by crackdowns, imprisonment, torture and death.


Islam and Shari’a are their answer to human rights

What makes the Javad-Sadeq Larijani’s take on human rights more intriguing is their belief that a better approach to human rights can be found in Islamic laws and traditions. This is Sadeq’s take on the future of human rights in the world: “The Judiciary will not take notice of irrational words and lies and will resolutely continue its work, because we believe that the highest human rights values are recognized in Islam…many of the issues raised on the pretext of human rights, including opposing the death penalty, are in fact in opposition to Islam, because Qisas (retribution) is clearly stipulated in the Quran”. Furthermore, he states that Islam “enjoys very rich and productive resources in the field of human rights” which can “counter” Western thoughts on human rights” and that  “Islamic human rights seeks to redeem the human dignity“.

Javad not only echoes his brother’s emphasis on “Qisas” (“Qisas is very beautiful and important“) he also has a lot to say about Islam’s, and Iran’s, role in redefining human rights in the future: “Islamic human rights” should be the “true face” of human rights since Islam is a “comprehensive” and “universal” religion. Furthermore he stated earlier this year that “a new model for public sphere is emerging: representative democracy based on Islamic rationality (and that Iran’s political establishment is) a democratic polity based on Islamic rationality rather than secular-liberal rationality”.

The problem is the judiciary in Iran works hand-in-hand with the IRGC, the Basij, the ministry of Intelligence and the police authorities in defining charges for “crimes” which, based from an Islamic perspective, Qisas is a legitimate response. Charges such as “enmity against God”, “foreign influence/interference”, “insulting the prophet/the Supreme Leader/the president/the regime”, “corruption on Earth” and “acting against national security” are levelled against anyone who criticizes the regime in any way by actions, words or art. So if someone draws a satirical drawing of Khamenei, he or she can legally be executed or at least sent to jail for a few years. How exactly do these laws “redeem human dignity”? How do these laws represent the “highest human rights values”?

And what about Islam’s ability to become the “true face” of human rights? Such a boast depends precisely on just how “comprehensive” and how “universal” Islam really is as a religion. The regime, with Ali Khamenei, its Supreme Leader at its head, have a glorious vision of a “Global Islamic Awakening” in which Islam will replace Western/European/US/Chritian values and ideals with those of Islam, and specifically, those of Shi’ite/Iranian Islam. If as Khamenei claimed, “now, it’s our turn” and this “New Islamic Civilization” will take over the world creating a “century of Islam”, the words of the Larijani brothers may turn out to be prophetically true. But how realistic is such a vision when infighting between Shi’ites and Sunnis are more prevalent than conflicts between Muslims and the West? And what about Asian religions and culture? Will a billion Chinese and a billion Hindus also become Muslims? Will all the Christian in the world become Muslims as well? And what about atheists? No, Khamenei is placing the proverbial cart before the horse here and the chances of such a global movement ever coming to fruition are minimal.

For now, Sadeq has offered to hold international talks on human rights: “I suggest that the (Judiciary’s) Human Rights Council, the Foreign Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council pave the way for talks with European countries (on human rights)” but that the US must be excluded from any such discussions because “Americans are only after deception” and that “We also have things to say about human rights in Europe. We have questions and views about Europe’s approach toward humans, Islamophobia in Europe, and France’s ban on hijab”.

Yes, there is a possibility that the Larijani brothers really believe, deep in their hearts, that Islam is the best source of a new global human rights charter. And if they are, one must admire them for such a belief. But the chances are that the motive to present Islam as the “true face” of human rights has a huge political agenda for them – it is the perfect solution to 1) continue to abuse human rights an disregarding any criticism or pressure and to 2) call on other countries who are abusing human rights to do the same.

Tehran’s Revolutionary Allies

Tehran wants to export its Islamic Revolution and, in doing so, build an empire based on its Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Some might scoff at this statement, judging it a bombastic conspiracy theory. It certainly does sound bombastic and had such a statement been said by non-Iranians, or even Iranian dissidents, one might agree that it sounds too much like a conspiracy theory.

Unfortunately, for whoever views such an aspiration as a danger (and fortunately for all the others), “Exporting the Revolution” is not only ingrained within the ideals of the Islamic Revolution itself, it is evidently the ambitious inspiration of many Iranian leaders who are proud to point out to successes in exporting the revolution to neighboring countries. It’s worth listening to the rhetoric of these leaders: their words speak volumes about Tehran’s long-term vision of a Global Islamic Awakening with Tehran at its center.


The Adviser: Tehran’s  Regional “Revolutionary Nations”

31BC6B55-A983-4557-8DDB-219376B7D479_mw800_mh600The latest Iranian leader to add some fuel to this growing bonfire of revolutionary aspirations is none other than Supreme Leader Khamenei’s right hand man- Akbar Velayati: While discussing the role of Iran in the region during the Munich Security Conference in Tehran, he pointed out that Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain are “revolutionary nations”. His choice of words is no accident and neither is his choice of countries. All of these countries have, to some degree, been sold on the Tehran’s Islamic Revolution and by lumping them together as “revolutionaries” reveals Tehran’s ambitions:

  • Lebanon has been under the influence of Tehran’s since 1982, with the birth of Iran’s proxy Shiite Hezbollah, culminating in the economic and military treaty signed between the two countries in 2008.
  • Iraq fell under Tehran’s influence in 2005 with the election of al-Maliki, a pro-Shiite/Tehran and anti-US president, who opened Baghdad’s doors to Iran.
  • Syria’s fall under the influence of Iran was on a slow burner until the civil war broke out in 2011 and Tehran pledged its political, financial and military support to Assad.
  • Tehran’s influence over Yemen took form in its support for the Shiite Houthi rebels to successfully overthrow the Yemenite government in 2014 which subsequently led to Saudis openly fighting in Yemen.
  • Bahrain is interesting in this context since it is far from being under Tehran’s influence, not because Tehran isn’t trying but because the ruling government of Bahrain is fighting off Tehran’s influence to this day.

By categorizing all of these countries together, from satellite states such as Lebanon to states suffering from Iranian efforts at subversion such as Bahrain, one can understand that Tehran’s plan for “Exporting the Revolution” has gone from one country (Lebanon) to the region (the so-called Shiite Crescent).


The Mullah: The Greater Iranian Empire

Ali-YounesiEarlier this year, Ali Younesi, a senior advisor to President Rouhani, spoke glowingly about a greater Iranian empire from the borders of China to the Persian Gulf with Baghdad at its center. His statement drew harsh responses from Baghdad and strengthened the accusations against Tehran’s empirialistic aspirations. Younesi quickly came under fire internally and went on the record to claim that he was misunderstood: he only spoke of a “historical and cultural unity” and did not imply a nationalistic unity between Iran and any other countries. Iranian leaders such as President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s parliament chief, Ali Larijani, and Iran’s FM Javad Zarif joined the “lost in translation” theme and went out of their way to try to convince the world that Tehran has no empirical ambitions and respects the national identity of its neighbors.

Although Younesi may have been misunderstood, but the context of his statement is important: he spoke about unifying all of these countries in the region in order to protect them from “Islamic extremism, takfirism, atheism, neo-Ottomans, the Wahhabis, the West and Zionism”. Clearly, this isn’t only a question of “history and culture” but is in fact a political and military unity against the enemies of Tehran and its Islamic Revolution.


The Soldier: The De Facto Iranian Leader

Whether politicians in Tehran or in any neighboring countries support or deny the revolutionary ambitions, one man’s presence in all of these countries is key to understand the military dimension beyond the words and ideas. That man is Iran’s Qods chief Qassam Suleimani.

Suleimani is rightfully deemed the most influential military leader in Iran, even more powerful than the chief of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Jafari. While Jafari remains in Iran, Suleimani is in charge Iran’s “extraterritorial military and clandestine operations” and he continuously pops up in Beirut, Baghdad and Damascus where he has his own offices and network of Iranian and local military personnel. Wherever Suleimani goes, an increase in Tehran’s military influence follows because, as Suleimani himself has said: “I Qassem Suleimani, manage Iranian policy in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan. The Iranian ambassador in Iraq is a member of the Quds forces, and whoever replaces him will also be a Quds Force man“.

Suleimani’s power is legendary and his local “partners” are in awe of him: Who else could shout “the Syrian army is useless! Give me one brigade of the Basij, and I would conquer the whole country” and still remain alive in Syria?

As Assad’s future became bleaker and the nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran was inked, it was Suleimani who flew to Moscow twice, despite UN sanctions against his flying abroad, to clinch the Russian support for Assad and the resulting military involvement by the Russians in Syria.

Without Suleimani’s military might, one might be excused to believe the Iranian denials of an empire and accept Younesi’s feeble “historical and cultural unity” statement. But Suleimani isn’t in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq for “historical and cultural” reasons – he is there to increase Tehran’s influence in the region, and in doing so, is creating the groundwork for “Exporting the Revolution” to all the countries he controls.


The Politician: Tehran’s “Global Vocation”

zarif (1)The ideal of “Exporting the Revolution” was devised by none other than the hero of the Islamic Revolution, Khomeini, as part of Iran’s constitution to “support the just struggle of the mustazafun (the oppressed) against the mustakbirun (the arrogant) in every corner of the globe”. It is an essential part of Iran’s revolutionary goals, goals which are taken very seriously in Tehran as Zarif wrote in his book: “Without revolutionary goals we do not exist …our revolutionary goals are what distinguish us from other countries.

Zarif went on to explain Tehran’s special raison-d’aitre in the region: Tehran, he claims, has a “viewpoint that has the potential to be projected globally and change the international order”. It is this “viewpoint” that drives Tehran to look beyond its borders to fulfil Khomeini’s vision. The fact that many of these countries’ governments don’t want to accept this “revolution” nor want to change the “international order” is irrelevant even to a politician such as Zarif: the revolution comes before all other ideals.


The Supreme Leader: Tehran Leads a Global Islamic Awakening

Khamenei-1No one embodies the spirit of the Islamic Revolution as much as Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Khamenei, who repeatedly chooses to call himself a revolutionary, as opposed to a politician, makes no qualms about fulfilling the ideal of “Exporting the Revolution” nor its goals: A Global Islamic Awakening that will include an “uprising against global and international dictatorships (Israel/US)” who have “humiliated the Islamic Ummah as much as they could” that will culminate in a “century of Islam” – Khameini doesn’t limit his vision to the region…he’s going global.

Although this may sound, like all the other over-ambitious Iranian leaders quoted here, as the simplistic rants of a religious extremist, the power of the Supreme Leader mingled with the inherent riches of Iran’s energy sources significantly increase the possibility of trying to turn this rant into a reality.

Khamenei, the revolution is the top priority  in times of war and in times of peace: The jihad to achieve these goals is, according to him, “endless because evil and its front continue to exist… this battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought“. But even in times of peace, such as the period that is sure to follow the nuclear deal, Khamenei wants to Iran to keep its  revolutionary ideals: peace with the West is dangerous since it will lead to a war that will force Iran to “put aside its revolutionary philosophy until it loses its power” – How? “The enemy’s effort to have influence is one of the big threats…an economic and security influence are of course dangerous and have heavy consequences, but a political and cultural influence is a much larger danger and everyone must be careful”.

Iran Selectively Obsessed with the Oppressed

The rhetoric from Tehran is filled with the Marxist dichotomy of the “oppressed” (mustad’afun ) and the “oppressors” (mustakbirun) in which Tehran frees the “poor oppressed” from the “arrogant oppressors”. This theme is central to Tehran’s revolutionary ideals which were born in the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and remain the driving force of Tehran’s foreign policy to this date through the goal of “Exporting the Revolution”.

Unfortunately, this ideal is not evident in the lives of Iranian women and Iranian minorities (religious, political, ideological, racial and sexual) who are oppressed by the regime’s strict Revolutionary and Shari’a laws. For some reason, although the regime is finely tuned to the cries of the “oppressed” all over the world, it is deaf to the cries of the oppressed Iranians and doesn’t equate itself with being the oppressor.

Tehran’s selective definition of who are the “oppressed” and who are the “oppressors”, as well as its total disregard for borders in this issue, is central to Iran’s internal and external conflicts: It fuels the accusations by its neighbors for meddling and subversion, accusations by the West of abuses of human rights in Iran, accusations by the West and some of its neighbors of Tehran’s continuous support of terrorism as well as Tehran’s suspicious nuclear program.


Oppressing the Oppressed in Iran

Article 2 of the Iranian constitution defines the Islamic Republic’s basic beliefs in religion (“There is only one God“, “Understanding God’s divine nature is fundamental in setting laws”, “Human beings return to God after death”, “God is just” and “Leadership shall continue the revolution of Islam”) and then defines the basic rights of humans (“dignity, value and freedom with responsibility to God”) before finally stating that “Oppression in any form is not acceptable“.

While each statement may seem legitimate in its own right, together they form a glaring contradiction: Those Iranian people who do not adhere to the regime’s religious beliefs are constitutionally stripped  of their rights of “dignity, value and freedom” and legitimately “oppressed” since they failed to commit in their “responsibility to God”.

Despite the statement “oppression in any form is not acceptable”, any Iranians opposing the regime or the laws of Shiite Islam is fair game to the regime’s oppressive laws and is liable to be arrested, sent to jail, tortured and or executed. This is true for journalists and bloggers, political opponents and dissidents, human rights activists and lawyers, artists and authors, religious and racial minorities…all of whom are guilty of simply not being 100% in tune with the regime’s agenda. This is also true for Iranians who are not equal under Islamic law, specifically women and gays. As far as Islam is concerned, both these groups are inferior to the leading traditional male heterosexual stereotype and therefore are eligible for legitimate oppression.

In short, Tehran is very selective in defining which Iranians are liable to be “oppressed” and who aren’t despite its constitution’s clear cut denial of “any form of oppression” and will continue to oppress all Iranians who do not wholeheartedly support the regime.


Saving the Oppressed in the World

In article 152, Tehran rejects “all forms of domination” and places itself firmly in “non-alignment with respect to the hegemonist superpowers”. Article 154 clarifies that Tehran “considers the attainment of independence, freedom, and rule of justice and truth to be the right of all people of the world” and therefore, while Iran will “scrupulously refrain” from all forms of interference in the internal affairs of other nations, it supports the just struggles of the mustad’afun (oppressed) against the mustakbirun (oppressors) in every corner of the globe”. Both these articles are the foundations for the regime’s ideal of “Exporting the Revolution” as well as Khamenei’s own vision of a Global Islamic Awakening.

These two articles hold within them another glaring contradiction since they call for saving the “oppressed” from the “oppressors” in any country while refraining from interfering in internal affairs. When Khamenei reaffirms his support for the oppressed people of Yemen, Palestine and Bahrain, is he not interfering with the governments in these countries (the supposed “oppressors”)? When Khamenei stated his support for the “oppressed” African Americans in the US, is he not interfering with the US government? Is Tehran’s support of Shiite “oppressed” terrorists in Bahrain and Kuwait not direct interferences in the internal affairs of these countries?

Add to this the very tricky part of defining who are the “oppressors” and who are the “oppressed” and Tehran’s ability to redefine these to its advantage. Is Tehran’s support for Alawi-Shiite Assad in tune with supporting the “oppressed”? The predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels as well as all of Assad’s enemies would answer loudly and clearly “NO”. So, not only is Tehran interfering in the internal affairs, it is redefining the identities of the “oppressed”/”oppressors” to be in tune with its agenda of “exporting the revolution”.

Tehran may vehemently deny meddling in its neighbors affairs but it is constitutionally driven to do so in order to support the “oppressed” and will continue to do so as long as the regime is in power.


Tehran’s obsession the “oppressed” has lead it into two glaring contradictions: Its continued oppression of Iranians who stray from the ideals and laws of the Islamic regime and its continued meddling in its neighbors affairs in is effort to save the “oppressed” there. So much for Rouhani’s pride in Iranian “logic”.




Iran Not Big Enough For Tehran

tehran an diranIranians, 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.


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Nuclear Deal Requires more Intent and less Content

intent contentNuclear Deal Requires more Intent and less Content

Most people are trying to decide if a nuclear deal with Iran is good or not based on the contents of the deal: the number of centrifuges, the amount of uranium, the transparency of inspections etc…

God may be in the details but in this case, he/she can be found in the intentions of both sides. And since there is a huge lack of trust between both sides, the validity of the deal is not to be found in what is written but in what is intended and how it is communicated. Not the “what” but the “how” and the why”.

As it stands, this deal isn’t worth the paper it is printed on and much less the amount of time and money that has been invested in it.


What are the intentions of the West?

flag 2It’s evident that the West’s main intention is to stop Iran from militarizing its nuclear program. And although Iran signed the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), supporters of the regime believe that Tehran should not be subjected to such restrictions while its arch enemy, Israel isn’t.

Since 2003, the IAEA has repeatedly found that Iran is not complying to NPT guidelines in numerous manners (enrichment above the 5% cap, tests on weaponization, denial of access to nuclear and military bases etc…) as outlined in the IAEA reports on Iran. These fears of non-compliance by Iran in its nuclear program led the UN Security Council to slap on a multitude of sanctions on Iran in the hope that Iran would comply to all IAEA and NPT guidelines.

Tehran has repeatedly denied accusations of non-compliance to the NPT, calling them baseless and politicized, stating that it “has constantly complied with its obligations under the NPT and the Statute of the IAEA“. From this point of view, the sanctions seem unfair and cruel and the nuclear deal is seen to simply be a way to lift these sanctions.

But Khamenei doesn’t believe that the West’s intentions are focused only on blocking a militarized nuclear program. As far as he is concerned, the “sanctions imposed against Iran have nothing to do with Tehran’s nuclear activities” but instead are meant to prevent Iran from “reaching a prominent civilizational status”.  Furthermore, Khamenei feels his infamous “nuclear fatwa” – the use or threat of using a nuclear weapon is “haram” (a sin) – is more than enough to allay any fears in the West.


What are the intentions of Tehran?

iran-flagIt is next to impossible to understand what Tehran, or more specifically, what Khamenei really wants. Lifting the sanctions is obviously the first and necessary step to right what he believes is an unjust wrong enforced by the West on Iran.

But Khamenei’s rhetoric and Tehran’s actions go much further than simply lifting sanctions: Khamenei has been pushing for a long-awaited “Global Islamic Awakening” which would unseat the “hegemony” of the “imperialist/colonialist” and “arrogant powers” (USA = the Great Satan) who have dominated the world for the past two centuries and who have “humiliated the Islamic Ummah as much as they could”. In his vision, the coming century is to be “the century of Islam”, led by Iran through its experience in the Islamic Revolution.

Furthermore, Tehran is dedicated to export the Islamic Revolution, a vision developed by Khomeini himself and upheld by the IRGC’s elite Qods unit as is evident in this boasting statement by Qods chief, Qassem Suleimani: “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”

Tehran’s military and political involvement in Lebanon (de facto governing through Hezbollah), Gaza (de facto governing through Hamas), Syria (supporting Assad in the civil war in Syria), Iraq (installing a pro-Iran government in Iraq and fighting ISIS), Yemen (supporting Houthi rebels to overthrow the Yemenite government) and Bahrain (supporting Shiite extremists to overthrow the Bahraini government) are statements to Iran’s regional and global aspirations. Further evidence of “exporting the revolution” and “Islamic Awakening” have been identified in other Gulf States, Arab states in the Middle East as well as many states in Africa and in South America.

Seen in this light, a militarized nuclear program would greatly enhance the chances of bringing to fruition both leaders’ visions and is causing the West to distrust Tehran’s motives.


Motives will make or break the Nuclear Deal

kerry zarifThe biggest problem surrounding the nuclear deal is the lack of trust which is unsuccessfully replaced with a myriad of details. As such, any deal, if signed, is destined to fail due to the basic lack of trust.

So, what would make a good deal? Only one thing: a total about-face by Tehran in regards to its motives and behavior that will build trust.

Imagine if Tehran had approached the negotiations for a nuclear deal with complete acceptance to comply to all IAEA/NPT guidelines and manage a nuclear program within the boundaries of supplying electricity. No need for enrichment beyond 5%, for so many centrifuges, for heavy water plants, for blocking access to bases, for testing weaponization etc…Creating electricity, and nothing more.

Imagine if Tehran had given up on its efforts to meddle in neighboring countries and on its aspirations to lead an empire in the region. No involvement in civil wars and efforts to overturn governments, no more support to terrorist organizations, no more threats to destroy Israel…Thriving peacefully, and nothing more.

There would have been no need for sanctions or a nuclear deal since Iran would be treated like any other country with a nuclear program meant for peaceful purposes.


Unfortunately, Tehran wants to keep its cake and eat it: It wants to lift sanctions but also wants to maintain its nuclear program and its aspirations for regional dominance intact. As such, the nuclear deal is akin to a marriage by two people who don’t trust each other since they met – divorce is inevitable.


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