Another Iranian-backed terror cell in Bahrain

As reported in various news agencies, Bahrain recently announced that they busted a terror cell, which has clear links to Tehran. This is not the first time that a terror cell linked to Iran is uncovered in Bahrain.

According to the statement released by the Bahraini interior ministry, Bahrain uncovered a terror cell consisting of at least 10 people, seven of which have been arrested. It was also reported that 127 kilos of high-grade explosives, chemicals, automatic weapons, grenades, detonators and additional ammunition were seized. The terror unit was led by Hussein Ali Ahmed Dawood, who is believed to have found sanctuary in Iran. He is alleged to be the leader of the Ashtar Brigade, the terrorist wing of the Al Wafa Islamic movement, which claimed previous terrorist activity and bombings in Bahrain. According to the release, Dawood has already been sentenced to life imprisonment in three terrorism-related cases, in addition to a sentence of 15 years imprisonment in relations to another case, and he has clear links with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Already in March of this year it was reported that Bahrain arrested a terror cell linked to the IRGC, Hezbollah and Iraq Brigades. That cell plotted to assassinate senior government and community figures. According to a separate report by al-Arabiya, women played a role in these Iran-backed Bahrain terror groups.

There are a few lessons to be learnt here:

  • Tehran is still active in the terror cell operating business, and even in countries in its “back yard”.
  • Even after they are uncovered, Tehran is not ashamed to give safe sanctuary to these terror operatives.
  • Due to this long-term subversive activity in Bahrain, it is not surprising that Bahrain was one of the first to join the Saudi axis in the Gulf-Qatar crisis.
  • While women are scrutinized and even blocked from sports and being teachers (if they suffer infertility or facial hair, for instance), they are cleared for being terrorists.

But most important of all, the use of terror cells, just as the use of proxy military organizations such as Hezbollah and the Shiite militias, exemplifies Tehran’s aspirations to “export the revolution” to other countries through non-state proxies.

 

Related articles:

tehran-continues-to-meddle

tehrans-selective-terrorism

tehran-king-of-the-meddle-east

tehrans-cynical-reaction-to-terror-attacks

iranian-irony-over-bahraini-sheikh

Advertisements

Tehran defiant in face of sanctions

North Korea and Iran are often compared to each other, and for good reason. One of their similarities is the display of aggressiveness and defiance of current norms. Even though Iran does not spread nuclear threats, like North Korea, it does breed a special kind of action-reaction syndrome.

In response to the renewed sanctions enacted by the US congress against Iran, announced by the US department of the treasury, Tehran didn’t try to address the reasons of the sanctions. The regime in Tehran could have tried to make the case that the sanctions are unfounded but instead, it poured more fuel on the already raging bonfire. As reported in Newsweek, the responses were mainly a threat that it could be enriching Uranium to 20% (there’s a 5% cap in the nuclear deal) within five days, chants of “death to America” in the parliament and an increase in the military budget by 800 million dollars – 260 million intended for the ballistic missile program, 300 million to the IRGC Quds force and an additional 240 million for other military projects.

As reported in The New York Times, the bill goes further and calls upon the Rouhani government to prepare a strategic plan to confront the threats, malicious, hegemonic and divisive activities of America in the region. It also seeks to impose sanctions on the entire US administration and all CIA personnel. The NYTimes adds: “Iran’s armed forces, controlled by hard-liners, have been responding to American pressures with more, not fewer, missile tests — just as North Korea has”.

The problem is that Iran and the US play a bitter game of action and reaction. The new sanctions come from a different context. Not nuclear. Alongside the US sanctions are a list of defiant behaviors deriving from Iran, which led to US reactions. Tehran bragged of killing Americans, stating “America has suffered more losses from us than we have suffered from them”. Tehran continued to arrest and imprison dual Iranian-American nationals, leading to the necessity of a US Iran travel warning, cautioning any travel to Iran due to this risk. Tehran attempted and continues to attempt to infiltrate US universities, showing the way for the call on the federal authorities to investigate Iran’s subversive activity in American institutions. This all parallel to “muscular signals” directed by Iran against the USridiculing US demands, ruling out inspections of its military sites, continued engagement in dangerous navy altercations and conducting provocative rocket for satellite launches breaching UN resolutions.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the renewed sanctions focus on “Iranian malign activity”, despite certifying nuclear compliance. Action leads to reaction, leading again to further reaction.

Related articles:

irgc-is-gowing-stronger-under-rouhani

the-nuclear-deal-and-the-fall-of-aleppo

extended-us-sanctions-do-not-breach-nuclear-deal

 

Tehran’s selective terrorism

Iran is an active partner in the fight against ISIS, and as a result boasts that it is a “champion against terrorism”. But, observing its record on the sponsoring of terrorism reveals that they do not have a problem with terrorists, they have a problem with terrorists who are not on their side.

The July 2017 state department country reports on terrorism 2016 defines Iran as “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2016, as groups supported by Iran maintained their capability to threaten US interests and allies. The Iranian IRGC – Quds force – along with Iranian partners, allies and proxies, continued to play a destabilizing role in military conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen” (pg. 12 and pg. 304). The report names the terror agents on behalf of Iran, among them the Hezbollah, Iranian affiliated Shia militia forces, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, cyberterrorism and even extended support to al-Qaida operatives.

Tehran’s selective definition of terrorism is also evident in their own words, like the distinction they make between ISIS and the Taliban. As reported in Tasnim news agency, a senior advisor to Foreign Minister Zarif, Seyed Rasoul Mousavi, differentiated between ISIS and the Taliban, claiming that the Taliban is an “Afghan group totally different from Daesh”. His message was clear – while ISIS is a terrorist group, the Taliban are just militants fighting a cause. They may be different organizations with different ambitions, but for the victims of the Taliban, there is no difference.

Only recently Kuwait expelled Iranian diplomats over a terror cell, convicting 21 people of belonging to a terror cell that had been formed and trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The recent boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and affiliates was due to Qatar’s support of terrorism and “deep ties with Iran”.

In the final analysis, Tehran isn’t hiding its support for terrorist organizations, it conveniently defines them as non-terroristic. Problem solved according to Tehran. Except that the problem isn’t solved: Many of these organizations are designated by the West as terrorist organizations and as proxies of Tehran. All these countries should therefore recognize Tehran for its support of terrorism. It should be that simple.

Related articles:

tehrans-duality-on-terrorism-democracy

tehrans-cynical-reaction-to-terror-attacks

the-nuclear-deal-and-the-fall-of-aleppo

aleppo-at-the-front-of-a-growing-proxy-war

nigeria-blocks-tehrans-efforts-to-export-the-revolution

 

Tehran vs. Riyadh: the Battle for a New World Order

Whether we like it or not, the war for a New World Order is taking place at this moment in the Persian Gulf between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The regional tensions between Tehran and Riyadh have existed since the Islamic Revolution in 1979: Saudi Arabia is a Sunni state governed by a royal family and the last thing they want is a revolution instigated by Shiites. On the other hand, the leaders of Tehran, beginning with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, are duty-bound to “export the revolution” to any place where revolutionary seeds could grow (preferably where there are “oppressed” Shiites).

But tensions have mounted distinctly since Hassan Rouhani ascended the presidency. Paradoxically, Rouhani is not hell-bent on exporting the revolution: he is more of a politician than a revolutionary and he seems focused on the welfare of the Iranian people more than on the welfare of people in another country who might be deemed “oppressed” enough to merit a revolution. But Rouhani’s election, and specifically his engaging foreign policy, radically changed the balance of power in the region.

Unlike his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was content to keep Iran isolated and maintain relations only with the few countries who were fans of Tehran, Rouhani reached out to the West in an effort of “constructive engagement” in order to bring Iran out of isolation. His efforts paid off with a nuclear deal which promises to lift the crippling sanctions and create an economic boom.

It is this change in the balance of power that has simultaneously strengthened Tehran and weakened Riyadh that is at the core of the mounting tensions in the region.

A Regional Rivalry

iran saudiBut Rouhani’s foreign policy, however benign as it might seem, doesn’t exist in a vacuum and what could have had a simple and happy ending turned into another nightmare: The nuclear negotiations reshuffled the definitions of allies and enemies and the long and winding road to the JCPoA raised suspicions, accusations and questions regarding the true motives of the parties involved. Meanwhile, the Saudis were significantly left out of the talks while Tehran’s ongoing efforts to export the revolution to Syria, Iraq and Yemen took on a military nature through the raging civil wars in Syria and in Yemen as well as the fight against ISIS in Syria and in Iraq.

Syria and Yemen are vaguely mirror situations for Tehran and Riyadh: In Syria, Tehran supports and fights for the Assad government against the Syrian rebels who want to oust him and who are supported by Riyadh. In Yemen, Riyadh supports and fights for the Mansur Hadi government against the Houthi rebels who are supported by Tehran and succeeded in ousting him out temporarily until Riyadh retaliated. Although Tehran and Riyadh have not yet met each other on the battlefield, they are getting dangerously to doing so through their proxy wars (Riyadh supplies weapons to Syrian rebels fighting Hezbollah and Iranian troops in Syria, while Tehran trained and supplies Houthis fighting Saudis in Yemen) and taunting explosive rhetoric emanating from both sides.

Every move by either Tehran or Riyadh is scrutinized by the other side in an effort to find a point of weakness or a point of aggression to merit a new verbal volley: The Saudi bombing in Yemen, the death of an Iranian general in Syria, the Iranian support to Syria, the pilgrim tragedy in Saudi Arabia, the Tehran-backed terrorist cells in Bahrain…all feed the animosity between the two nations.

A Global Rivalry

It’s true that Tehran has repeatedly stretched its hand to Riyadh in an effort at diplomacy but Riyadh is too weary of Tehran’s regional aspirations and its new found friends. The nuclear negotiations and the deal itself resulted in Tehran being wooed by the P5+1 (Russia & China, US & EU) as well as numerous other countries through politicians and trade delegations who have come to court the regime and make a lot of money. These countries, which had once ignored Tehran and visited Riyadh are now sending an endless stream of politicians and trade delegations to Tehran and, on the whole, ignoring Riyadh. In fact, a recent survey in Saudi Arabia found that the Saudis are more worried about Iran than they are about ISIS.

But for those who view this as some far-away conflict that is regional in its nature, here’s the bad news. The conflict between Tehran and Riyadh has the potential to go global within milliseconds since both nations are at the front edges of the battle between the Old World Order and a budding New World Order. Tehran, as Zarif so eloquently explained, aspires to change the global world order and its new status following the nuclear deal, specially vis-à-vis Russia can be a springboard to make these revolutionary visions materialize. Zarif also explains how such a change can come about following the nuclear deal: Tehran wants to “bring about conditions of such a type that the world economy is so entangled with our economy that other countries do not have the power to sanction us“.

Riyadh traditionally belongs to the OWO historically backed by the West and the large Sunni countries in the region (the GCC, Egypt, Jordan and now Sudan) while Tehran is betting on the backing of the East (Russia, China), the EU (which is distancing itself from the US) and the Non-Aligned-Movement countries (NAM). A war between these two nations is bound to light up warning lights in all the major capitals of the world. It is exactly because of this that Rouhani, backed by all the global players should begin a new round of “constructive engagement” with Riyadh…the consequences of a war between these two countries could be nothing short of disastrous.

Related Articles:

Persian Gulf On the Brink

For the past two years, Rouhani has kept on hammering his four “commandments”, which, taken together, are meant to change the perception/brand of Iran from a religious, extremist, aggressive, subversive and isolated country to a country everyone (well, nearly everyone) would want to be friends with:

  • Thou shall not build nukes: The long-awaited JCPOA seems to justify this commandment and Tehran is now pushing for a global banning of nukes in the hope of denuking Israel – Critics will note that the JCPOA is not “water-tight” that it does not effectively bar Tehran from building nukes in the future.
  • Thou shall fight against terrorism: Redefining terrorism, terror-bashing and fighting ISIS in Iraq and in Syria are posed as “proof” of Rouhani’s WAVE initiative to fight terrorism and extremism – Critics would counter that Tehran continues to support terrorist militia such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas etc…and continues to support local Shiite militia in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia etc..
  • Thou shall lead Iran out of isolation: The nuclear deal, the numerous trade delegations and the popularity of Rouhani/Zarif in the West are all bridges meant to legitimize Iran – Critics would point out that the nuclear deal is far from being implemented and that any breach of the deal, from either side, will place pressure on all of Tehran’s new partners.
  • Thou shall not meddle in thy neighbors’ affairs: The repeated calls for Islamic unity are meant to turn this commandment into a fact although the truthfulness of this call and its practicalities remain questionable – Critics will say that Tehran is still dutifully trying to “export the revolution” by infiltrating governments through pro-Shiite/Tehran groups.

Rouhani may have been able to successfully sell his new brand of Iran to its proxies/allies (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq), to the NAM countries it represents, to the EU and even to the US, but some of its neighbors, specifically Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and now, Yemen, are not buying in. Instead, they are breaking diplomatic ties and getting ready for more proxy wars or even the possibility of a direct war with Tehran.

 

Tehran-Riyadh Rivalry


Tehran and Riyadh have been regional enemies since the Islamic revolution. Tehran, keen on “exporting the revolution“, wants to oust the ruling monarchy in Saudi Arabia in favor of an pro-Shiite Islamic government. The Saudis look on Tehran as the meddling neighborhood extremist which has to be brought to order.

The rhetoric between Tehran and Riyadh, which has always been fiery in the past is reaching explosive levels: The last incident to spark some fiery rhetoric is Tehran’s politicizing of the pilgrim tragedy in Mina, Saudi Arabia. Tehran is not only accusing Saudi Arabia of mismanagement, it is hitting home in many different ways that the tragedy a) was pre-planned by the Saudis to kill Iranian pilgrims, b) proves that Saudi Arabia is incapable of managing the Hajj and c) is worthy enough to spark a war. Whether Tehran really believes that the tragedy was not an accident or whether it is ready to begin an out-and-out war with Riyadh is questionable but the message is clear: Tehran feels strong enough to butt heads openly with Riyadh.

The Saudis have been on edge since the beginning of the nuclear negotiations have retaliated with their own fiery rhetoric ranging from threatening to enter the civil war in Syria, accusing Tehran of trying to arm the Houthi rebels in Yemen, purchasing its own nuclear weapons and more.

 

Choosing Sides

Tehran’s neighbors have always been subject to its meddling on political and military levels. In some countries (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq), Tehran has succeeded in becoming the de facto leaders the countries while in others (Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan), it is still striving to do so.

Tehran’s methods of subversion focus mainly on identifying and supporting defiant, and predominantly pro-Shiite, factions in neighboring countries. These factions or militias receive money, weapons and training by Tehran or its proxies (mostly Hezbollah) in the hope of overthrowing the local government. In the case of Yemen, they actually succeeded in doing so for a while until the Saudis began an open war against the Tehran-backed Houthi rebels.

The targets of Tehran’s meddling and subversive nature have to take sides and it is no surprise that Yemen, Bahrain and the UAE have chosen Riyadh over Tehran, recalling diplomats from Iran.

Kuwait hasn’t severed diplomatic relations yet but has also been targeted by Tehran’s meddling and is currently in the process of a trial of 26-man Iranian-backed terror cell this month.

Even Lebanon, which has long been under Tehran’s rule is accusing Tehran of medlding in its presidential elections, an accusation that was, of course, dismissed by officials in Iran.

Tehran, riding high on its new-found popularity with Russia, China and the EU is testing the limits of its power in the region. Its new friends are attracted to the huge potential economy a sanction-free Iran will represent but its neighbors are less interested in the potential economic boom with Iran. Instead, they are worried that Tehran’s regional and global aspirations, guided by the will to “export the revolution”, will mean an increase in  meddling in their governments’ businesses. The nuclear deal, which was supposed to bring peace to the region has only “deepened” the existing “battle lines”.

Does Iran Want Peace or War?

peace or warThe upcoming nuclear deal with Iran has optimists and pessimists clearly on two sides of a fence with barely any remaining middle ground.

Optimists are betting on two and a half outcomes from a nuclear deal:

  • 1) Iran won’t INCREASE its meddling
  • 2) Iran won’t BUILD a nuclear bomb
  • 5) Iran won’t USE a nuclear bomb

Pessimists, or realists, depending on the outcome, don’t buy into any of these premises…here’s why.

 

Iran Will (not) Increase Meddling

iran saudiAt the base of Iran’s tendencies to meddle in its neighbors politics is Ayatollah Khomeini’s insistence to “export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry ‘There is no god but Allah’ resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle. Establishing the Islamic state world-wide belong to the great goals of the revolution“. Khamenei’s vision an imminent global “Islamic Awakening” reflects his predecessor with his promise that “this century (21st) is the century of Islam“.

But this isn’t just some religious edict, it is a military one. According to General Jaafari, the chief of the IRGC, “the mission of the Qods Force is external, to help Islamic movements, to expand the revolution and to provide “assistance” to suffering people across the world and to people who need help in such countries as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq“. The Qods leader himself, Suleimani, is quite happy to take on this task: “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa“.

Iran is meddling in neighboring countries by supporting factions which are closer to the Islamic Revolution – Assad in his civil war in Syria, the Houthis in their civil war in Yemen and Hezbollah in all its fronts.

But meddling requires cash: Estimates of Tehran’s meddling in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen are estimated at $30 billion a year while under heavy sanctions. Once those sanctions are lifted and hard cash fills up the state coffers, one can only surmise that the extra cash will not only be funneled to the Iranian citizens but will be directed to citizens of other countries who might influence their governments to support Tehran. The first countries on Tehran’s short list will probably be Bahrain (73% Shiites), Kuwait (40% Shiites), and then the UAE and Saudi Arabia (15% Shiites). From there, Tehran will most probably look East (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and North (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan).

 

 

Iran Will (not) Build a Bomb

circlesIran’s nuclear program symbolizes Tehran’s ability to conquer science. Science, once a forte of the Arabs in the past, has been dominated in the past few centuries by the West. But not for long, warns Khamenei: “They (the “arrogant powers” = the West) kept us scientifically backward for many years. They destroyed our independence. Today we have awakened and we will conquer the arenas of science one after the other“. Furthermore, oil and gas exports may put Iran on par economically with Western countries but it is science that will place Iran on par intellectually: “In an economy which is based on underground resources, no need will be felt to identify or attract the elites. Therefore, no real progress will be made in the country”. ” Instead, Khamenei believes that “Iran should be run with its domestic and surface resources which are the intelligence and talents of its young generation and elites as well as by producing science and knowledge in the country. In that case no world power could play a game with our economy.”

Science is progress, independence and power that exemplifies the minds of those who master it and building a nuclear bomb is the pinnacle of progress, independence and power.

The nuclear deal will not be able to prevent Iran from dashing to the bomb at any time and with a sunset clause in effect, Iran may “legitimately” build a bomb within ten years. The extra money from the relief of sanctions, the increased trade with Russia and China and the inability for IAEA inspectors to monitor military or hidden bases will only contribute to achieve Khamenei’s vision. Khamenei himself may not be alive by then but he can rest assured that no “arrogant power” would ever “look down its nose” at Iran ever again.

 

Iran Will (not) Use a Bomb 

PeaceBombsWould Iran use a nuclear bomb if it had one? Firing a nuclear weapon on a country with nukes is bound to trigger a reprisal which could lead to the mutual destruction of both sides. This fear had kept the Russians and the Americans from pulling the trigger during the long cold war. Nukes, it seems, are meant more as a form of deterrence than a form of attack.

Once Tehran will have a bomb, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries will be forced into obtaining their own nuclear weapons as well. Were Iran to fire a nuclear device at Israel or the Gulf States, the retaliation would be fierce and the destruction in Iran, horrendous.

But then again, the Islamic Revolution idolizes martyrdom. According to Khamenei, martyrdom is “the zenith of courage and bravery…the pinnacle of a people’s honor” and, perhaps more importantly, “this is what frightens the enemy“. In this context, losing a few hundred thousand Iranian lives to martyrdom would be a small price to pay for eradicating the Zionists (Israel) and the terrorists (Saudi Arabia). As we wrote in an earlier post, “Nuke and Wannabe Martyrs Are Scary“.

 

Of course, nobody knows how Iran will look like in the future. Perhaps by then, Khamenei’s vision will seem like a horse buggy on a highway. But if his vision will live on, the pessimists will have the unfortunate luck to be right about what a nuclear deal with Iran can lead to.

 

 

 

Younesi is Scapegoat for “Persian Empire” Statement

younesi2

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

PeaceBombsFor 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

crescent dominationsAs 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

islamic awakeningYounesi’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”

non-aligned-movementAdd to all of this Iran’s repeated call to all NAM states to overthrow the “oppressive” forces of the West.

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.

Iran Turns Meddling Into Method

yemen iran

Last Wednesday, the last nail in the coffin that was old Yemen got hammered in, as the US state department announced it is closing its embassy in the country, effectively forfeiting the battle on the Yemen to Iran (for now).

The establishing of a new Houthi ruling council on February 6th, was the culmination de facto of a coup d’état in Yemen. The Houthi are a group of Shiite Zaydi fighters led by Abdul Malik al-Houthi backed by Iran.

This process, of Iran getting in the back door and the US getting out of a territory in the Gulf, so close to Saudi Arabia, is a perfect example of Iran’s modus operandi of foreign affairs, or in other words – how it expands its influence beyond its borders.

 

The Saudi Situation

Iran-saudiSaudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a decade-long strategic rivalry for power and influence in the Middle East. It is built mostly along sectarian and ideological lines – Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, and Iran as the leader of the Shia Muslim world.

Yemen’s fall to Iran raises the stakes for the Saudis in the event of a US-Iranian nuclear deal. It could deepen the kingdom’s current independent streak, convincing them to further flood the global oil market to undercut the Iranian economy, or to accelerate its possible nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.

 

Iran’s Method

hezbollah militiaThe Islamic Republic wants to export its Islamic Revolution, a goal that Ayatollah Khomeini considered as “imperative”. To do so, it spans its influence as far as South America and Africa, and closer to home, its neighbors in the Middle East – most evidently in Syria, in Lebanon and in its close neighbor Iraq.

But Yemen, with its decade long Houthi rebellion, is a perfect example for this, because Tehran’s relentless interference has been most visible: All the way back in 2007, Yemen was pointing fingers at Iran for meddling in its affairs while in 2009, Iran was supplying the Houthi with arms and setting up a quasi-Hezbollah proxy militia. After Saudi Arabia imposed blockades on Houthi-controlled coasts, Iran sent war ships to the Gulf of Eden, allegedly to fight Somali pirates.

But only now, when Iran is the sole international supporter of the Houthi ruling council as the sovereign, all those “hints” and “allegations” were given actual proof.

 

Bottom line, Iran’s MO looks something like this:

  • Identify pro-Shiite leaders, factions and militia within targeted countries.
  • Support them “culturally” and financially while meddling in local politics.
  • Increase meddling by introducing direct and indirect military strength.
  • Establish Hezbollah-like militia with allegiance directly to Tehran.
  • Help the Shiite factions to overthrow the government and reap the political, economic and military benefits.

Tehran Doesn’t Invade, It Infiltrates

infiltration

Supporters of Tehran like to repeat that Iran hasn’t initiated a war for hundreds of years (since 1798), idealizing Iran as a peaceful country, while pointing out the US is a country which has initiated numerous wars.

And although this makes statistical sense, it is profoundly misleading. Tehran’s modus operandi is not invasion but infiltration and subversion.

The proof lies in Iran’s military and political influence in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, Iraq, Yemen and to a lesser extent (for now), in Afghanistan, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Sudan, Egypt etc…

 

And proud of it too

suleimaniThe Iranians are (justifiably) proud of the power they exert: Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently boasted that Iran’s influence spreads from Yemen to Lebanon adding that Iran’s “current power was unsurpassable for anyone in the world”.

Iran’s military forces outside of its borders are masterminded and managed by one Qassam Suleimani, the chief of Iran’s elite Qods, a formerly shadowy master puppeteer who has finally stepped into the spotlight for doing what he stated already back in 2007: “you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan“.

Since then, he has his own offices in Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad with key local representatives and is constantly on the move from battle to battle.

Suleimani enjoys the full support of Supreme Leader Khamenei who urged him to increase terror attacks against the West and its allies.

 

Lebanon (Hezbollah + Qods) & Gaza (Hamas)

lebanon palestineIran’s ties with Lebanon and Gaza date back from the Islamic revolution and the wish to fight a mutual enemy – Israel.

Formal ties escalated with the signing of a treaty in 2008 which guaranteed Lebanon military and financial support ($10 Billion in trade and $100-$150 Million to Hezbollah yearly). Since Hezbollah rose to power in Beirut, Iran’s political influence has increased to the point where the Lebanese government has openly requested for Iranian military aid on Lebanese soil. Tehran cordially agreed, Beirut reneged and then recapitulated under pressure from Hezbollah.

But is Iran welcome by the Lebanese people? A poll from 2012 shows that only 39% of the Lebanese view Iran favorably while 74% approved of tougher sanctions against Iran.

Likewise, Iran’s influence in Gaza dramatically increased following Hamas’s rise to power in the 2006 elections. Iran supplies Hamas with rockets/ammunition and funding  to the tune of $30-$50 Million a year. On the whole, Iran’s influence is welcomed in Gaza by all Hamas supporters but Fatah leaders are ambivalent – they fear Tehran but they understand that without Iran, their cause would fizzle out. And although Hamas suffered a fall-out with Iran by choosing the “wrong side” in the Syrian civil war, relations are warming up to normal as a Hamas delegation recently was welcomed warmly in Tehran enjoying meetings on highest levels.

So did Iran invade Lebanon and Gaza? No.

Have they turned both of these states into satellite Shi’ite entities of Iran’s influence? Definitely yes.

 

Syria & Iraq (Hezbollah + Qods)

syria iraqImmediately following the breakout of the civil war in Syria, Iran sent “humanitarian aid” and warned the West not to get involved while doing exactly that – got involved: Iran financed Assad to the tune of approximately $10 Billion and placed its Hezbollah/Qods troops at his disposal, allowing Suleimani to echo Colonel Kurtz’s from Apocalypse Now: “The Syrian army is useless! Give me one brigade of the Basij, and I would conquer the whole country“. Regardless of Suleimani’s criticism of the Syrian army, Assad owes his power to Tehran and supports Iran politically and militarily without hesitation.

Iran’s involvement in Iraq began with its support of the Shi’ite Prime Minister El-Maliki but it received a huge boost following ISIS’s rampage in Syria and Iraq. Hezbollah troops were immediately reassigned to deal with ISIS on Iraqi soil while Suleimani mobilized the Iranian army directly against ISIS on Iraqi soil.

Much like it does in all other regions with large Shi’ite populations, Tehran strengthens its high level military and political pressure with grassroots organizations and local militia.

And just as in Lebanon and Gaza, Baghdad placed formal requests to Tehran for military support offering Iran the chance to turn Iraq into a satellite state as well.

Foreign minister Zarif made Iran’s stance vis-à-vis Syria and Iraq very clear: he maintains support for both while urging the West to stay out.

So, did Iran invade Syria and Iraq? Again, no…not literally.

Has Tehran turned Syria and Iraq into satellite states? Syria, definitely yes. Iraq? On the way.

 

Yemen and the Gulf States

yemen plusUnlike Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and Iraq, Iran’s influence in some states is still in its infancy.

Two months ago, Iran backed a mini-revolution in Yemen and managed to wrestle Yemen out of the Saudi hands. This event followed half a year of tense relations between Iran and Yemen regarding a kidnapped Iranian diplomat and repeated efforts by Tehran to mobilize Shi’ite supported Hoothi troops. These efforts were finally successful.

Meanwhile, Tehran continues to try to infiltrate its Gulf neighbors by operating spy rings and subversive organizations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

 

So, no, Iran doesn’t officially invade countries or initiate wars.

It’s smarter, cheaper and more effective to simply infiltrate countries through a volatile cocktail of money, military and religious support. Reminds us somewhat of the Roman peace – it also claimed that it only acted out of peaceful intentions, until they conquered most of Western hemisphere.