Nigeria blocks Tehran’s efforts to “Export the Revolution”

If there’s one thing the mullahs in Tehran take very seriously, it’s the “revolution”, meaning the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, is a self-professed “revolutionary” who places “revolutionary ideals” above the welfare of the Iranian citizens. One would think that since the revolution happened over 37 years ago, the regime in Tehran would have moved on but the power of the regime lies in keeping its revolutionary ideals alive or as FM Javad Zarif claimed, “without revolutionary goals we do not exist …our revolutionary goals are what distinguish us from other countries”. Perhaps this is what Henry Kissinger meant when he said that Tehran was acting less as a country than a cause.

But the revolution doesn’t end within the borders of Iran: Tehran is duty–bound by Ruhollah Khomeini’s vision to “Export the Revolution” in order to save the “oppressed” from the “oppressors” in all corners of the world. This vision, as Zarif claims, is meant to “change the international order”. This may sound naïve, dangerous, incredible, ambitious etc… to anyone looking from the sidelines but to the governments of the countries who are targeted to “Import the Revolution”, this is definitely worrisome because none of these governments want to be deposed by a revolution.

The mechanics of exporting a revolution are actually quite simple: Set up and support Shiite “cultural” centers in order to recruit and empower local Shiite leaders who are then trained in Iran to “sell” the Islamic revolution to their followers through a mixture of democracy and subversion with the aid of Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s part in the exporting the revolution is to militarize the struggle. Of course, on the way, the local revolutionaries will have to deal with the resistance of the governments which they want to overthrow and people are bound to be imprisoned or killed on the way, but, hey, what’s a revolution without casualties?

Nigeria was targeted by Tehran as a potential country to which the revolution might be exported to and Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky was the Shiite cleric to spearhead it. Zakzaky watched in awe as the Islamic Revolution replaced the Iranian monarchy with an Islamic regime in 1979 and felt that such a revolution might be feasible for Nigeria. Zakzaky founded the Islamic movement in Nigeria in order to “to ensure more stringent application of Islamic legal and administrative systems…then ultimately to create an Islamic state in Nigeria” and claimed that “there is no government except that of Islam”. The fact that only half of Nigerians are Muslim and only a small portion of these are Shiites might make Zakzaky’s goals seem out of touch but this only served to impress Tehran.

Zakzaky, a frequent visitor in Tehran, was making progress…too much progress in the eyes of the Nigerian government. After a number of arrests for “civil disobedience” the Nigerian government finally had enough and in December 2015, Zakzaky’s compound was raided, hundreds of his followers were killed and Zakzaky himself was wounded (he lost one eye and is partially paralyzed) and arrested. Furthermore, Shiite organizations were banned in certain areas of Nigeria as fears spread that a revolution really was under way.

Tehran shifted gears and began to apply as much diplomatic pressure as it could in order to free Zakzaky and to reignite the revolutionary ideals. Tehran claimed that the crackdown on Zakzaky was “Illegal and unfair” and that Nigeria should focus more on “Takfiri terrorism” (Boko Haram) and less on “legitimate” Shiite organizations. The attack on Zakzaky and his followers was, in the eyes of Tehran,  an act of “genocide” and the Nigerian government was responsible for Zakzaky’s welfare. According to Tehran, Zakzaky’s “posed no danger” to Nigeria despite his numerous claims to lead a revolution in Nigeria.

The Iranian ambassador in Nigeria, Saeed Koozechi, increased the pressure by claiming that Zakzaky’s Islamic Movement was a “peaceful religious group that has no connection to extremism” and Zakzaky was imprisoned only because he was “fighting corruption”. “The Shiites are a small minority group in Nigeria. They engage in peaceful religious activities and they are not harmful to anyone. We have never heard of unrest and extremism from the Shiite followers in Nigeria”. Furthermore, he pontificated that “the Shiites are Nigerians too and they have rights like other citizens. The government shouldn’t pour fuel on fire” and that the Nigerian government should compensate “for the damage on those who suffered losses during the bloody clash”. Koozechi’s statements were obviously not welcomed in Nigeria and earned him a one-way ticket back to Tehran.

Tehran didn’t stop the pressure and steered the narrative to issues of religious freedom and democracy. Tehran went further to claim that the Nigerian government’s aggressive acts were “violent and brutal measures by extremists and Wahhabi-affiliated forces against Shias”. Tehran, which claims to try to unify all Muslims all over the world, returned easily to the Sunni-Shiite divide. Meanwhile, more Iranian diplomatic pressure was focused on Nigeria as Zarif visited Nigeria but the Nigerian government made it clear that Zakzaky was an internal issue which did not merit any foreign intervention, least of all from Tehran. The Nigerian government, just like the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen, made it very clear that it doesn’t want to import Tehran’s Islamic Revolution.

But if there is one thing that can be learned from Tehran’s efforts to export the revolution, is that Tehran is persistent and patient. As long as there are Shiites who feel oppressed by local governments, Tehran will continue to instigate an Islamic revolution. And as long as Tehran keeps on trying to export the revolutions, local governments will be forced to continue to block the import of such a revolution by imprisoning or killing the leaders of the local revolutions.

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Saint Rouhani doesn’t need facts

Following on the path of Javad Zarif’s op-ed in the New York Times to “rid the world of Wahabbism”, Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the NAM meeting in Venezuela was filled with cynical half-truths and lies which are totally irrelevant of the facts. In fact, he sounded as if he is the president of a neutral country such as Sweden or Switzerland and not a country which is fueled by a strategy of expansionism, is involved in two proxy wars, is accused of numerous efforts to meddle in its neighbors affairs, is openly supporting terrorist organizations, is increasing the sectarian Shiite-Sunni divide, is oppressing women and sectarian/religious minorities etc…

Rouhani’s speech is all “peace and love” but is devoid of being factual:

  • Tehran is fighting “against extremism and terrorism” – Anyone mention Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and even al-Qaeda and the Taliban? OK, so one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, but doesn’t it bother Rouhani that Hezbollah is designated as a terrorist organization even by the Arab League? And doesn’t it seem strange that Tehran is supporting al-Qaeda (before and after 9/11)?
  • Tehran rejects the “hegemonic and domineering inclinations” of superpowers – OK but this obviously doesn’t include Moscow, of course, which has become Tehran’s BFF . Rouhani obviously knows that Russia is a superpower and yet, he doesn’t have qualms in allowing Russia to support Assad in his civil war while incessantly warning the US to stay out of the conflict. Perhaps what he really means is “Western superpowers”…that makes more sense.
  • Tehran rejects the support of the “West together with the East” – That was Khomeini’s motto to keep Iran unaligned and independent. Since then, the regime in Tehran has never looked to the West but wait, isn’t Moscow in the East? And isn’t Beijing, another superpower being wooed by Tehran also in the East?
  • Tehran is always ready to help out the “righteous” – Ahhhhhhhh…define “righteous”. Tehran’s definition of the “righteous” just happens to be Shiites and anti-Americans wherever they may be. That doesn’t include Syrian civilians who sided with the rebels against Assad (184,000 deaths to date). It also doesn’t include Yemenites who sided with the government against the Houthis. That doesn’t include the members of the Iranian resistance wherever they may be.
  • Tehran does not interfere “in the internal affairs of “other countries” – Yeah, yeah…Let’s start with Lebanon which has become a satellite state of Tehran through the empowering of Hezbollah. Move on to Syria in which Tehran chose to support Assad who doesn’t represent all of the Syrian people since the start of the civil war which was sparked by his unwillingness to hold free national elections. How about supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen to overthrow the government there? Or empowering Shiite militants in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait,  and Nigeria? Not interfere? Tehran is the king of the “Meddle East“.
  • Tehran is avoiding “wounds inflicted every day on innocent bodies” – Wow…he obviously forgot about include the hundreds of thousands of civilian victims of Assad, Hezbollah, the Iranian army and Russia in Syria and the thousands of victims of Houthi rebels in Yemen. It also doesn’t include the 30,000 political prisoners who were massacred in 1988 by the regime. Oh, and the thousands of Iranians who are imprisoned, interrogated, tortured, flogged and executed for not toeing the regime’s line.
  • Tehran operate on a “policy of moderation, prudence and interaction to settle conflicts” – So that’s what it’s called. “Moderation” and “prudence” explain Tehran’s military involvement in Syria and in Yemen. They also explain Tehran’s meddling and subversive efforts in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Wait…Saudi Arabia…yep, “moderation” and “prudence” explains the latest vicious rhetoric by Khamenei and the rest of the regime vilifying the Saudi leadership and the Saudi religion.
  • Tehran is a “pioneer in engaging in dialogue and talks” – OK, that really depends when the “pioneering” began. Until Rouhani was elected, Tehran consistently rejected any dialogue with the West since 1979. Ahmadinejad’s presidency was notorious for ignoring calls to negotiate and antagonizing possible negotiating partners. Tehran ignored the calls of the IAEA and the UN to hammer out a nuclear deal for years. Perhaps Rouhani should have said “pioneer since 2013”. That’s about right.
  • Tehran is trying to create a “new order” through “cooperation and the collective participation of all the neighbors” – What “new order”? Well, as Zarif pointed out, Iran is different from all countries because it wants to change the “international order”. By this he was referring to the goal and duty, imbedded within the Iranian constitution, to Export the Revolution to the “oppressed”. And then there’s the Global Islamic Awakening against the West or the New Islamic Civilization Khamenei loves to fantasize about. And how about the “cooperation and collective participation”? The people of Syria didn’t ask to import the new order, neither did the government of Yemen and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States aren’t exactly “cooperating” with Iran in developing such a “new order”.
  • Tehran is against “interference of outside powers” in internal affairs – Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? Tehran? Against interference? What’s really peculiar is that Tehran doesn’t see itself as “interfering” nor does it see itself as an “outside power”. And yet Tehran is “interfering” as an “outside power” in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia etc…. Hell, it even invited the “interference” of an “outside power” when it agree to allow Moscow to support Assad in his civil war. Seriously, how can “Exporting the Revolution” not interfere with governments who do not want such a revolution to occur in their countries?

Are you getting the picture here? Rouhani is telling the NAM states what they want to hear: That Tehran is run by a peace-loving regime, is unaligned with any super-power, is fighting extremism and terrorism and is averse to interfere in any country’s internal issues. With such a great message, who cares about the facts?

Mr. Rouhani, it’s OK to believe that if you repeat the same lies enough times, people will believe you. But if you don’t take responsibility for your problems and weaknesses, at some point, your credibility is bound to plunge. Just as in the case of Zarif’s attack on Wahabbism, it’s easy to agree with many of the points that you shared in your speech – if all nations, including Iran, would act according to how you described your regime’s purported guidelines, the world would definitely be a better place to live in. Until then, remember, you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all the time.

 

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Hezbollah Becomes the Defining Factor

hezbollahLast week, Hezbollah became a defining factor for choosing whose side you are on: the side which thinks that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization or…the other side. And of course, if you happen to think that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, then it’s just a skip and hop away to designate its patron, Iran, as a supporter of terrorism.

But what’s at stake here is much more than the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization or not: it defines who are whose allies in a regional conflict which might embroil the superpowers in the not-too distant future.

Saudi Arabia decided to make Hezbollah a defining factor – now everyone has to choose sides and it could get very ugly.

 

Tehran redefines terrorism

For the past two years, since President Hassan Rouhani launched his War Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) initiative, the identity of a terrorist became a slippery notion. Timing is everything and Rouhani’s timing was perfect: ISIS redefined terrorism by upping the level of atrocities and sharing them with the world through the media and youtube. The terror incited by Qods/IRGC forces of Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, Hamas etc… and local Shiite militias suddenly looked all too tame.

Add to that the fact that Iran/Hezbollah sided with Bashar al-Assad to fight his civil war against a myriad of legitimate rebels, terrorist militias and…ISIS. Add to this the fact that the US and its regional allies had both played a critical part in the development of al-Qaeda and…once again, ISIS. Washington decided to take a step back/out of the conflicts in Syria and in Yemen and Moscow took a step forward/into the battlefields of Syria.

Qassem Suleimani, the chief of Iran’s elite Qods unit in charge of conflicts outside the borders of Iran, not only seemed in control of Syria/Iraq/Lebanon, he was even supported by Russia and many Westerners as the guy who will destroy ISIS.

Rouhani’s WAVE made sense to a lot of people who held anti-US sentiments: the war on terror moved away from Tehran/Shiite-based terrorism to Wahhabi/Sunni-based terrorism. Rouhani’s second initiative took a long time but it ended in a nuclear agreement which supposedly “solved” the nuclear issue, lifted sanctions, opened Iran for business and, most importantly, strengthened Rouhani’s image of Iran/Syria/Russia/Hezbollah as the “good guys” to the US/Israel/Saudi Arabia “bad guys”. The road from being a terrorist state to a partner/champion seemed complete. But not completely…

 

Tehran’s meddling kindles doubts

tehran an diranThe rebranding of terror obviously was a great success in many parts of the world judging from the number of diplomats who compliment Iran on its efforts to eradicate ISIS. But the rest of the world remained doubtful. Old accusations of Iranian-sponsored terrorism in Argentina, Nigeria, Thailand, Bulgaria etc… still bothered many people and new accusations of subversive efforts to overthrow or control governments in Yemen, the Gulf States and lately even Iraq, Lebanon and Nigeria fanned the flames of suspicion.

Tehran’s Modus Operandi in meddling is actually relatively simple: Identify Shiite fundamentalists, organizations and militias critical of their governments and support them under the guise of Shiite cultural centers and military/political “advisers” to take control or to strengthen their control of the local governments. This happened long ago in Lebanon, as Iran backed Hezbollah into taking over the government. It then happened in Iraq and in Syria as Iran backed the local governments against local opposition. It temporarily succeeded in Yemen as the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels overthrew the Yemenite government. Spy-rings were busted in most Gulf States, Baghdad made a big deal of creating a distance between itself and Tehran and even Beirut suddenly became hostile to its patron. Clashes between the Nigerian army and Shiite militants, backed, of course, by Iran, showed an expansion of Tehran’s meddling ways.

The accusations of Tehran’s meddling were met with obvious denials and counter-accusations of sectarian violence based on Iranophobia and anti-Shiite sentiment as well as “juicy” descriptions of racism, radicalism, genocide, propaganda etc…It became harder to decide who was the real “terrorist”. Who was worst? Tehran or Riyadh? Moscow or Washington?

Back in Syria, a big row erupted when the P5+1 tried to make a list of terrorist organizations vs. legitimate Syrian rebels and the US pushed to include Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Tehran countered that the CIA should also be designated as a terrorist organization and the list got stuck and the world looked still undecided who to believe.

 

Riyadh called Tehran’s bluff

Riyadh watched on as the nuclear negotiations brought Tehran out of the cold into the warmth of the approval of the P5+1, and most of the world. Riyadh watched on as delegations from all over the world landed in Tehran in the rush for the golden opportunity of doing business in Iran right after the lifting of sanctions. Riyadh watched on as Tehran continued to support Shiites in Syria (Hezbollah and Assad who is an Alawite, closely related to Shiism), in Iraq (Shiite government), in Yemen (Houthis) and in Lebanon (Hezbollah).

Riyadh watched on…and then called Tehran’s bluff and declared war on the Houthis in Yemen, effectively neutralizing Tehran’s influence there. Suddenly there were two mirror wars in two countries: Iran was actively helping Assad in Syria to fight Saudi-backed Sunni rebels, but the Saudis weren’t fighting in Syria. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia was actively helping the Yemenite government to fight Iranian-backed Houthi/Shiite rebels, but the Iranians weren’t fighting in Yemen.

The busting of Iranian-backed spy rings and terrorist cells in the Gulf states increased and then Riyadh executed 47 “terrorists” including one prominent Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, and all hell broke loose: Tehran denounced the execution, Iranians stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Riyadh cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran followed by a coalition of Gulf States and other Islamic states supported by Riyadh who did the same. Tehran went on a campaign to delegitimize Riyadh in any way it could and even tried to call for Muslim Unity in an effort to isolate its regional rival.

Riyadh’s next move pointed to Damascus but although it warned that it would send Saudi troops to fight ISIS (and help legitimate rebels against Assad), Saudi boots have not hit Syrian soil yet. Instead, Riyadh decided to hit Tehran at its weak link: It led its allies to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Westerners might not want to accuse Tehran of terrorism, either because they want to make money or because they hold anti-US sentiments, but Hezbollah remained a terrorist organization with or without Tehran’s support. To drive this point home, Riyadh also withdrew its financial support for Lebanon, effectively under Iranian/Hezbollah rule, which led to a number of Lebanese leaders who openly accused Beirut’s Hezbollah government of serving Tehran before the Lebanese people.

Another blow hit Tehran as Israeli intelligence managed to convince Moscow that the S-300 missiles to be sold to Tehran would make their way to Hezbollah to be used in a war against Israel and the deal was frozen because Moscow may want to be associated with Tehran but not with Hezbollah.

 

For two years, Tehran had successfully mixed up the definition of terrorism for many. Now Saudi Arabia wants the world to choose between Hezbollah being a terrorist organization (and Tehran a supporter of terrorism) and between Hezbollah being a freedom fighter (and Tehran a supporter of freedom). It’s an “either, or” time to choose sides.  Not only you as a reader, but all the heads of states involved either in Iran or in Saudi Arabia or both.

 

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