Archive for the ‘Iranian expansion’ category

Iran in the US Backyard

May 8, 2018


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (left) meets with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on August 27, 2016 in Caracas, Venezuela. (Image source: Euronews video screenshot)

by Judith Bergman May 8, 2018 at 5:00 am Gatestone Institute

Source Link: Iran in the US Backyard

{You ever get the feeling the world would be a better place without Iran’s current regime? It’s long past time we enforce the Monroe Doctrine. – LS}

Iran and Hezbollah have been operating in Latin America since the 1980s, effectively undisturbed. During this time, Iran and its proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah, have been Islamizing Latin America, seemingly to create a forward base of operations for the Islamic Republic in the backyard of the United States.

No Latin American country has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization: Hezbollah can operate with relative impunity there. In April 2017, a Hezbollah operative, Mohamad Hamdar, arrested in Peru, was acquitted of all terrorism-related charges. The Peruvian court found that Hamdar’s role within Hezbollah was in itself insufficient to consider him a terrorist[1]. This legal vacuum regarding Hezbollah might also be why Islamic terrorism, drug-trafficking and organized crime in the region is frequently underestimated.

According to testimony at a United States House of Representatives panel hearing on Iran’s global terrorism network on April 17, 2018, Iran and Hezbollah have converted and radicalized thousands of Latin Americans to Shia Islam. In some Latin American countries, such as Venezuela, Iran’s and Hezbollah’s efforts have even been promoted by local political elites. Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami — of Lebanese and Syrian origins and with ties to both cocaine trafficking and Hezbollah — oversaw the illicit sale and distribution of at least 10,000 Venezuelan passports and other documents to persons from Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. These reportedly included Hezbollah terrorists and members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. More than a decade ago, a US congressional report warned that Venezuela was providing support to radical Islamic groups, including the supply of identity documents. El Aissami could, in the foreseeable future, become president of Venezuela.

Not only has Latin America’s passive acceptance of Iranian infiltration also allowed the Islamic Republic to create large networks of mosques and cultural centers across the region; in addition, Iran and Hezbollah operate in multiple areas and across multiple sectors, both licit and illicit, apparently to strengthen and expand their influence in Latin America and to enrich Hezbollah as a way to finance its growing terrorist and paramilitary activities.

These areas of operation encompass diplomacy, commercial enterprise, religious dominance, and perhaps most significantly, substantial criminal activity. Iran has employed diplomacy to evade sanctions imposed on it before the Iran “nuclear deal.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then president of Iran, visited Latin America six times during 2005-2012, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif went on a tour of six Latin American nations in 2016. These diplomatic efforts resulted in, among other things, access to the use of Venezuelan territory to advance Iran’s solid rocket-fuel production.

Culturally, Iran has helped Hezbollah establish itself as the dominant force among Shia Muslim communities throughout the region, and has taken control of their mosques, schools and cultural institutions. In 2012, there were 32 Iranian cultural centers across Latin America the purpose of which is to facilitate the spread of the Iranian Islamic revolution; today, less than a decade later, the number of centers has grown to more than 100. Among other ways of presumably spreading its influence, Iran also runs a Spanish-language 24-hour news broadcast, HispanTV — operated by IRIB, Iran’s state-owned public broadcasting corporation — which broadcasts across Latin America.

Hezbollah has become a substantial international crime syndicate, which utilizes its position in Latin America to deal in drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, human trafficking, trade in counterfeit goods and money laundering, the proceeds of which it uses to finance its activities.

Drugs, such as cocaine, are funneled into the United States to be sold there. Some investigators believe that Hezbollah amasses $ 1 billion a year from its criminal activities, which involve close cooperation with Latin American drug cartels and criminal syndicates. Together, these create havoc in Latin America and contribute to driving immigration into the United States. One expert recently described Hezbollah as “the gold standard” of the crime-terror convergence.

In 2008, the US began a secret law enforcement project, Operation Cassandra, to stop Hezbollah’s activities in Latin America. According to an exposé in Politico, however, the Obama administration obstructed that operation:

“In practice, the administration’s willingness to envision a new role for Hezbollah in the Middle East, combined with its desire for a negotiated settlement to Iran’s nuclear program, translated into a reluctance to move aggressively against the top Hezbollah operatives, according to Project Cassandra members and others.”

After Israel’s revelations on April 30, 2018, that the Iran deal was based on Iranian lies, it is probably safe to conclude that the Obama administration empowered Iran and its proxy in Latin America to ensure the Iran deal, which has apparently turned out to be nothing but a smokescreen for Iran’s nuclear plans.

Having a seasoned and generously state-funded terrorist organization such as Hezbollah in the US’s backyard unsurprisingly poses a genuine threat to the US homeland. According to Emmanuel Ottolenghi, speaking at the April hearing on Iran’s global terrorism networks:

“A survey of cases prosecuted against Hezbollah operatives in the past two decades shows that the terror group remains a threat to the security of the U.S. homeland and the integrity of its financial system. Iran and Hezbollah sought to carry out high casualty attacks against U.S. targets multiple times. Additionally, they built networks they used to procure weapons, sell drugs, and conduct illicit financial activities inside the United States.

“operatives blend in; they nestle within existing expatriate communities; they find spouses; and set up seemingly legitimate businesses, acquiring permanent residency and citizenship in the process – all attributes that are part of their cover story”.

One recent example of Hezbollah operatives in action in the United States was the arrest of Samer El Debek and Ali Mohammad in New York. Both held US citizenship and had been trained by Hezbollah — including in the use of weapons such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns — and acted on its behalf in the US. The two were charged with serious terrorism charges, such as conducting surveillance of potential targets in America[2].

The question is, whether the US government will adopt a comprehensive strategy to counter the ongoing efforts of Iran and Hezbollah to solidify their base of operations in Latin America against the United States and US interests. Such a strategy, as pointed out by several experts at the April 17 hearing, does not currently appear to be in place.

Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.


[1] The prosecution appealed and Hamdar will be tried again this year on the same terrorism charges in the Peruvian Supreme Court. If convicted he will be the first Hezbollah operative to be sentenced in Latin America, amounting to a de facto designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group in Peru.

[2] These included military and law enforcement facilities in New York City, as well as conducting missions in Panama to locate the U.S. and Israeli Embassies and to assess the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and ships in the Canal.

 

Satellite image said to show new Iranian military base in Syria

February 28, 2018


A picture of the alleged Iranian base in Syria. The white hangars can be seen at the bottom center. (Google Maps) {Google? – LS}

Source Link: Satellite image said to show new Iranian military base in Syria

By Times of Israel Staff February 28, 2018

{This won’t end well. – LS}

Hangars seen in picture, reportedly housing missiles, similar to building at site identified as Revolutionary Guards base and allegedly struck by Israel last year.

Satellite images of an area near Damascus appear to show an Iranian military base which could house missiles capable of hitting Israel, according to a report early Wednesday.

A picture of the reported base, in an area known as Jabal al-Sharqi some eight kilometers (5 miles) northwest of the Syrian capital, shows two recently constructed buildings which are similar to those seen at another base in Syria thought to have been used as a base for Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps troops, according to Fox News, citing information from Israel-based geospatial analysis outfit ImageSat.

On Wednesday morning, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman downplayed the report, telling Israel Radio there was “nothing new here.”

“Don’t take every report in the media, even from a respected outlet like Fox, as an absolute thing,” the defense minister said.

“We have the full picture of what’s going,” he added.

The buildings were identified in the report as possible hangars housing short- and medium-range missiles.

Their shape and size, 30 meters by 20 meters, is identical to a building at a site also identified as an Iranian base, reportedly targeted by an Israeli strike in December.

However, an ImageSat report on that site, at al-Kiswah some 13 kilometers (8 miles) south of the Syrian capital of Damascus, identified that building in November, before it was struck, not as a missile silo but rather as a probable mosque or dining room.

A BBC report on the same base also indicated analysts did not believe it was designed for storing missiles or other large arms, but rather for housing soldiers and vehicles.

On Wednesday, though, ImageSat revised its understanding of the al-Kiswah building targeted in December, identifying it too as a possible missile silo. No reason was provided for the altered assessment.

An earthen berm is also visible around the Jabal al-Sharqi site, indicating a likely military use.

Israel has been warning for years that Iran is seeking to entrench itself militarily in Syria, including establishing missile bases. According to Israeli political and military assessments, Tehran, which has shored up Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, has been working to create air and naval bases in Syria, from which it can arm the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah and other Shiite groups, as well as carry out attacks of its own against the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on February 18 that Israel could strike the Islamic Republic directly and cautioned Tehran not to “test Israel’s resolve.”

“Israel will not allow Iran’s regime to put a noose of terror around our neck,” he added. “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”

A report earlier this month alleged that Iran is operating 10 military bases in Syria and is training militias loyal to Assad’s regime for a possible battle with Israel, with two key facilities located near the Golan Heights border.

On Tuesday, the head of US Central Command Joseph Votel warned Iran was increasing the quality and quantity of missiles it was supplying to groups in Syria and Lebanon.

“Iran is generating instability across the region, and the Iranian Threat Network continues to increase in strength, enhancing its capacity to threaten US and partner nation interests,” he said.

Returning from a trip to Israel Tuesday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters that Iran was “testing” US President Donald Trump in Syria and in Lebanon, where Israeli officials fear Iran is helping the terror group Hezbollah build precision-guided rockets for us against the Jewish State.

“They are testing Trump,” Graham said, according to Bloomberg News. “They are testing the international community.”

Graham also predicted there would soon be war in southern Lebanon, over the missiles.

“They’ve told us in no uncertain terms that if this threat continues — they keep making rockets that can hit the airport and do a lot of damage to the state of Israel — they are going to have to go in,” Graham said.

New Iranian weaponized drone deployed in Syria and likely handed to Hizballah

February 7, 2018

Debka File February 7, 2018

Source: New Iranian weaponized drone deployed in Syria and likely handed to Hizballah

{With a range of 900km, I’d say Israel was well within striking distance. Putting them into the hands of Hizballah just adds to Iran’s deniability, something they’ve done time and time again. – LS}

Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami said in a speech celebrating the new mass-produced weaponry Monday that the new drones, dubbed the Mohajer 6 (Migrant) are “equipped with smart Qa’em precision-striking bombs and different electro-optical explorers and different warheads, [and] can trace, intercept and destroy the target.” Before the ceremony, the new drones were delivered last week to the Revolutionary Guards for their war efforts across the Middle East, especially in Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have attacked US troops. DEBKAfile adds: The new weapons, which have a range of more than 900km, have reached Syria and most likely Hizballah as well. Their main purpose is to arm Iranian and Hizballah forces in Syria with their own air force capability and so reduce their total dependence on the Russians for air support. Iran recently gave the pro-Iranian Shiite militias fighting ISIS in Iraq a fleet of Shahed 285 light fighter jets, to boost the autonomy in battle of the forces deployed by the Revolutionary Guards.

Russia to the Rescue…for Iran

January 31, 2018

by Reuters Wednesday Jan 31, 2018 12:35pm Via The Foreign Desk

Source: Defying U.S., Russia says no case for U.N. action against Iran

{Seeing is believing. – LS}

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia does not believe there is a case for United Nations action against Iran, Russia’s U.N. ambassador said on Wednesday after traveling to Washington to view pieces of weapons that Washington says Tehran gave Yemen’s Houthi group.

The Trump administration has for months been lobbying for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program if “disastrous flaws” are not fixed.

“We only heard some vague talk about some action,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Wednesday. “If there is something (proposed) we will see. How can we pass judgment prematurely before we know what it is about?”

Asked if there was a case against Iran at the United Nations, Nebenzia answered: “No.”

{How can he say ‘No’ prematurely before he knows what it is about? – LS}

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley took her 14 Security Council colleagues to a military hangar near Washington on Monday to see remnants of what the Pentagon said was an Iranian-made ballistic missile fired from Yemen on Nov. 4 at Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, as well as other weapons.

A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. Iran has denied supplying the Iran-allied Houthis with such weaponry and described the arms displayed in Washington as “fabricated.”

“Yemen hosts a pile of weapons from the old days, many countries competing to supply weapons to Yemen during the time of (former) President (Ali Abdullah) Saleh, so I cannot give you anything conclusive,” Nebenzia said. “I am not an expert to judge.”

Independent U.N. experts reported to the Security Council in January that Iran had violated U.N. sanctions on Yemen because “it failed to take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” of ballistic missiles and other equipment to the Houthi group.

Nebenzia questioned whether there was conclusive evidence. He said it was up to the Security Council’s Yemen sanctions committee – made up of diplomats from the council’s 15 members – to address the report by the U.N. experts.

Kazakhstan U.N. Ambassador Kairat Umarov, Security Council president for January, also suggested the evidence shown to council envoys in Washington may not be enough for U.N. action.

“Unfortunately we don’t know how this weaponry was delivered to Yemen,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Haley has said the United States was considering several possible U.N. options for action against Iran, including tightening ballistic missile restrictions on Tehran or imposing targeting sanctions on Iranian individuals or entities.

Diplomats have said Haley has not signaled which accountability option she might pursue or when.

On Mideast visit, US house speaker vows to confront Iran

January 25, 2018


U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., listens onstage during an event at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Ryan said Thursday that more needs to be done to challenge Iran, a message that was welcomed by his hosts in the UAE, where he is leading a Congressional delegation. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

By Associated Press Published: 08:17 EST, 25 January 2018 | Updated: 08:18 EST, 25 January 2018

Source: On Mideast visit, US house speaker vows to confront Iran

{While Speaker Ryan seems to saying all the right things and pushing all the right buttons, I feel he should be more concerned about the funding and legislative support needed to confront Iran and leave the foreign policy up to the big boys at the State Department and the White House.  However, I do remember seeing some articles about Ryan not running for reelection.  Seems he may want to be a candidate for POTUS.  That could explain this appearance on the foreign policy stage.  – LS}

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that more needs to be done to challenge Iran, a message that was welcomed by his hosts in the United Arab Emirates, where he is leading a Congressional delegation.

In an address to the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, the Wisconsin Republican said the U.S. wants to challenge Iran’s ability to threaten the region with ballistic missiles and stop its expansion across the Middle East.

Emirati Ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba was so pleased with Ryan’s comments, he said the speech could have been his own.

Some 5,000 U.S. soldiers are based in the UAE, and its Jebel Ali port is the U.S. Navy’s busiest foreign port of call.

The delegation visited Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and met with Saudi King Salman.


U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., center, speaks while onstage with Emirati Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba, left, and Bernardino Leon of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy ,during an event at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Ryan said Thursday that more needs to be done to challenge Iran, a message that was welcomed by his hosts in the UAE, where he is leading a Congressional delegation. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

The Axis of Moderation vs. the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East

December 1, 2017

The Axis of Moderation vs. the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East, Gatestone InstituteNajat AlSaied, December 1, 2017

(Please see also, Saudis Fed Up: “Palestinians Milking Us for Decades.” — DM)

“We are just returning to the Islam we are used to… The moderate Islam”. — Saudi Crown Prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on October 26, 2017.

Saudi Arabia’s complaints against Iran’s interference and spreading extremism cannot sound credible if extremism is being practiced inside Saudi Arabia.

There urgently needs to be a unified American position to confront the Axis of Resistance. Iran continues to be the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, empowering these armed militias and extremist groups — the basis of terrorism both in the region and across the world. It makes death threats, cooperates with a nuclearized North Korea, and all the while races toward nuclear weapons capability itself.

The dispute between the Arab states, often known as the Axis of Moderation, and the officially designated terrorist regime in Iran often known as the Axis of Resistance, is no longer just a political disagreement but a threat to the national security of Arab countries.

While the Arab states seem pro-statehood and work with other states, Iran and the Axis of resistance seems not to. Even though Iran calls itself Republic, it has a militia mentality and rarely deals with states. In general, rather than dealing with governments, it instead establishes militias, as it has in Lebanon and Yemen. Even in Iraq, where the government is considered its ally, Iran has established more than 15 militias. Qatar, by supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as Syria under the Assad regime, seem to have the same mentality as Iran. If you trace the Axis of Resistance, all of them appear to have adopted the concept of supporting militias and extremist groups under the slogan of “resistance.”

The Iranian regime’s long history has now culminated in Saudi Arabia being targeted by Iranian missiles located in Yemen. They are coordinated in Lebanon by the Hezbollah militia, who train the Houthis in Yemen. It is important to understand that these violations and proxy wars carried out by the Iranian regime not only threaten the Arab Gulf states but also pose a threat to a regional and international security.

The Axis of Resistance is led by Iran, and includes Syria, Qatar, Hezbollah, Hamas, Arab Shiites loyal to Wilayat al-Faqih (“The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist”) in Iran and Arab nationalists. Its slogans consist of fighting imperialism, empowering the (supposedly) vulnerable — mainly Muslim Shiites — and furthering “Arab nationalism,” which usually manifests itself in support for Palestinians against Israelis.

The expansionist objectives of the Axis of Resistance — in its drive to build a “Shiite Crescent” from Iran to the Mediterranean, are clear, compared to the objectives of the Axis of Moderation, which have not announced any specific aims, except to denounce Iran’s interference in the Arab countries’ affairs.

The Axis of Moderation comprises Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Arab Gulf countries, except for Qatar. The great mistake that the Axis of Moderation has made in confronting the Iranian regime — to try to curb its export of the its “Revolution” — has been to fall into the trap of propagating sectarianism. While Iran portrayed itself as the defender of all the Shiites in the world, Saudi Arabia, as a result, acted as the defender of all the Sunnis in the Muslim world — accordingly, sectarianism was propagated. This polarization, however, has only furthered the interests of the Iranian regime, whose chief objective seems to be to continue igniting this division in an apparent policy of divide and conquer. Instead of the members of the Axis of Moderation confronting Iran politically or militarily, they challenged it on religious and sectarian grounds, such as publishing countless books against Shiites that describe them as the enemies of Islam and labelling all Shiites as subordinate to Iran, as if all Shiites were Iran’s puppets, which not all of them are.

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump join King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in the inaugural opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, May 21, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This divisiveness has brought extremism and terrorism to the region, and has only harmed everyone.

Now the Axis of Moderation has become shrewder in its confrontation with the Iran and has employed a greater number of experts in Iranian affairs. The Axis of Moderation, especially Saudi Arabia, has realized that it cannot face down the threat of Iran without radical internal reforms. Saudi Arabia’s complaints against Iran’s interference and spreading extremism cannot sound credible if extremism is being practiced inside Saudi Arabia. These internal reforms, and liberalizing the society, are important internally: they will boost the economy by creating an attractive investment environment, especially for foreign investors. As importantly, reforms will stop any adversary from saying that Saudi Arabia is a state supporter of terrorism or a land that exports terrorists.

The most obvious changes are Saudi Arabia’s internal reforms that cover “social openness” in the form of concerts and festivals, coordinated by an entertainment body, and the country’s attempts to undermine clerical control, both by arresting extremists and establishing a committee at the Islamic University in Medina to codify the interpretation of Quranic verses that call for extremism, especially against other religions.

Saudi Arabia has also clamped down on corruption by arresting suspected businessmen, princes and former ministers. The kingdom has also raised the status of women by giving them more of their human rights, such as the recent lifting of the ban on women driving. In another important change, Saudi Arabia will also allow women to be clerics to confront all the patriarchal interpretations of verses in Quran related to women. Eventually, that could mean that lifting the ban requiring male guardians for women might also coming soon. The Saudi crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has also said that he will allow women to take sports classes in school, attend sporting event for women and to permit music. His wish, he has said, is to “restore Islam.”

The most important matter of all was pointed out by the Saudi Crown Prince, at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on October 26, 2017: “We are just returning to the Islam we are used to… The moderate Islam.” He also said, “We will not continue to be in the post-1979 era.”

This is essentially a confession that the approach that Saudi Arabia followed after 1979 to try to oppose the Khomeini Revolution was not helpful, and that now it is time for real reform to face both internal and external challenges.

What Saudi Arabia is doing will eventually contribute towards clarifying the aims of the Axis of Moderation, which will be to support countries whose primary objectives are development, modernity and stability. The most important goal is to stamp out terrorism by supporting a “moderate” Islam or, more specifically, supporting the approach that Saudi Arabia took before 1979. This approach was echoed by the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, who said that the moderate countries boycotting Qatar are heading towards secularism — in contrast to Qatar’s support for Islamist militias such as Hezbollah, and radical groups in the Axis of Resistance, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

What has complicated the situation has been an exploitation of the conflict in the United States between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party over how to fight terrorism by countries in the Axis of Resistance such as Qatar.

The double face of Qatar is revealed in many ways. Al Jazeera in English, for instance — as mentioned the article, “Al Jazeera: Non-Arabs Should Not Be Fooled” — is totally different from Al Jazeera in Arabic.

Ahmed Mansour, for example, one of Al Jazeera’s anchors, tweeted about Hurricane “Irma” in Florida by citing a Koranic verse to say that what is happening in America is God’s curse: “Twenty million Americans fled out of fear from Hurricane Irma,” he wrote; then he cited a verse from Quran saying,

“And He shows you His signs. So which of the signs of Allah do you deny?” (40:81, Sahih International)

After his tweet in Arabic was read by American journalists, he apologized in a very sweet tweet in English.

Qatar also pretends to the US that it is supportive of its values, but in fact has close ties with all the enemies of the US. Sultan Saad Al-Muraikhi, Qatar’s permanent envoy to the Arab League, for example, has called Iran, which the US has officially designated as a terrorist state, an “honorable state”. Qatar also disagrees with designating Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations and calls them, instead, “resistance movements” against Israel.

Qatar has, moreover, used that dispute for its own ends by way of an alliance with the Democratic Party’s allies and supporters.

Many Qatari writers and Qatar’s supporters, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have written articles against the Trump administration, as opposed to the previous administration which clearly had a soft spot for the Muslim Brotherhood. From the beginning, the administration of US President Barack Obama overruled Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, by insisting that the Muslim Brotherhood attend Obamas speech in Cairo, thereby setting the stage for the fall of Mubarak; and also strongly supported the subsequent regime then Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood). Obama also openly counted the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, among his “best friends.”

These opinion-makers in the US, evidently nostalgic for the previous administration, and known, especially during the Iran Deal, as not exactly alignedwith the Axis of Moderation, seem to have been exploiting the rift between the Democrats and Republicans, apparently hoping for the impeachment of Donald Trump. As a Saudi academic and researcher, Ahmad Al-faraj, wrote in his article, “Qatar: The dream of isolating Trump!,” they possibly think that a Democrat President, like Obama, would again support them.

While Qatar makes itself out to be tolerant and a supporter of democratic Americans and Westerners, anyone who watches Al Jazeera in Arabic will find nothing other than pure hatred of Western values and enormous support for armed militias such as Hezbollah and terrorist groups such as Hamas.

There urgently needs, therefore, to be a unified American position to confront the Axis of Resistance. Iran continues to be the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, empowering these armed militias and extremist groups — the basis of terrorism both in the region and across the world. It makes death threatscooperates with a nuclearized North Korea, and all the while races toward nuclear weapons capability itself. The United States would also do well to advocate a unified European position, and draw support from across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, European governments, for their own economic interests, have turned a blind eye to all the terrorism, extremism and sectarianism that Iran is fomenting. European countries should be warned that if they continue to put these economic interests ahead of global security, not only will the decision undermine the already-fragile national security of their own countries but also those of the region.

It is in the interest of the United States and world peace to support the pillars of an Axis of Moderation that would:

  • Eliminate political Islam because it exploits religion for radical political goals in both the Sunni and Shiite sects. The Shiite version of political Islam failed in Iraq and the Sunni version of the Muslim Brotherhood failed in Egypt and Tunisia. In both versions of political Islam, violence and terrorism are exacerbated.
  • Undermine Iran’s influence among armed militias in the region such as the militia Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi in Yemen and the sectarian militias in Iraq. These should be classified as terrorist organizations. Hamas in the Gaza Strip has already been classified as such by the United States on October 31, 2001. Any country that supports Hamas or defends it, even in its media, should be classified as terrorist too.
  • Prevent the existence of armed militias operating as a state within a state; they are the beginning of the collapse of states and therefore a serious threat to peace and stability.
  • Consolidate the principles of secularism in internal and external dealings. Incitement to sectarian and racial hatred must be prevented as well as the use of Quranic verses to spread violence and extremism. To keep Iraq out of Iran’s control, non-sectarian neighborly relations need to be maintained.
  • Instill the principles of tolerance and respect for all religions and sects and guarantee the free practice of religions and the protection of minorities.

Moderate countries will not promote the rhetoric of a fight with Israel, as does the Axis of Resistance, led by Iran; instead, the Axis of Moderation is now committed to the principles of peace, which are based on the common interests of states to ensure the security and prosperity of all citizens.

The region and the world as a whole have suffered from the actions of the Iranian regime and its allies. There should be no justification for the existence of militias and extremist groups under the banner of resistance or similar pretexts. The international community needs to be firm in challenging states that allow or support such groups and should stress that states can only protect themselves with armies and armed forces, not with militias. A unified American and European position needs to help the Axis of Moderation to prevent countries in turmoil from becoming cantons of militias and extremist groups. That seems a more constructive way to fight terrorism and build global stability.

Najat AlSaied is a Saudi American academic and the author of “Screens of Influence: Arab Satellite Television & Social Development”. She is an Assistant Professor at Zayed University in the College of Communication and Media Sciences in Dubai-UAE.

This article was first published in Arabic at Al Hurra.

How Iran Tried to Turn Arab States into Fading Ghosts

November 12, 2017

How Iran Tried to Turn Arab States into Fading Ghosts, Gatestone InstituteAmir Taheri, November 12, 2017

Tehran also exerts political influence through at least part of the Ad-Daawa (“The Call”) party. However, Iran’s hope of creating a second Lebanon in Iraq has not succeeded because many Iraqis resent Iranian domination while the grand ayatollahs of Najaf regard the Khomeinist regime in Tehran as an abomination.

The mullah’s scheme in Syria has also run into trouble because of Russian intervention and President Vladimir Putin’s determination that Syria’s future is decided in Moscow and not in Tehran.

Hariri’s resignation may be a sign that the Arabs are no longer prepared to grin and bear it as Tehran dismantles their state structures by creating doubles to their armies and transforming their governments into puppets with their strings pulled from the Iranian Embassy.

Tehran’s scheme for dominating the Arab states may have reached its limits; the rapid advance of the mullahs may now be followed with a roll-back. And that could mean the return of political frontiers and loyalties based on citizenship not religious sect.

*************************************

If history is a stage on which the fate of nations is played out, knowing when to step in and when to bow out is of crucial importance. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time and, even worse, in the wrong context, could lead to loss and grief.

These may have been some of the thoughts that Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri may have had in mind when he decided to throw in the towel rather than pretend to exercise an office without being able to do so in any effective manner. Hariri realized that he was in office but not in power.

Whatever the reason for Hariri’s departure, I think he was right to withdraw from a scenario aimed at turning Lebanon into a ghost of a state with a ghost of a president and ghost prime minister and parliament.

Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister, Saad Hariri. (Image source: kremlin.ru)

That scenario was written in Tehran in the early 1980s with the creation of the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah by then Iranian Ambassador to Damascus Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-pour. The original idea had taken shape in 1975, when Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari created the first branch of Hezbollah in Tehran to fight the Shah. By 1977, clandestine branches had been created in Turkey and Kuwait.

The hope was to fade out political frontiers, often created by accidents of history or designs of empires, and replace them with religious frontiers. The aim was to create an archipelago of Shi’ite communities across the Middle East, linked together through a network of religious-political organizations controlled by Iran.

The rationale for this was that throughout Islamic history, the element binding people together was allegiance to a version of the religion (Arabic: Mazhab) rather than political concepts such as citizenship of a state.

The fall of the Shah and the seizure of power in Tehran by mullahs gave the scheme a new impetus by putting Iran’s resources at its disposal.

However, very soon it became apparent that the grand design could not be realized without destroying or at least weakening Western-style state structures already in place. The states targeted had more or less strong armed forces that would resist an Iranian takeover.

This was precisely what happened in Turkey, where attempts by the Hezbollah branch to make a splash were crushed by the army.

In Iraq, a premature takeover bid by Khomeini gave Saddam Hussein an excuse to invade Iran and start an eight-year war.

In Syria, according to the memoirs of General Hussein Hamadani, who led the Iranian military contingent there, the national army did all it could to prevent Tehran from creating power bases of its own. The situation in Syria changed only when the nation was plunged into civil war by President Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless repression of peaceful protests.

The mullahs learned from their experience in Iran.

Soon after they seized power by a combination of freakish circumstances, Khomeini realized that he would never win the loyalty of existing state structures, while being unable to destroy them altogether.

Thus, he developed the strategy known as “parallelism” (movazi-sazi in Persian).

He created the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a parallel to the national army. Islamic courts were set up as parallels to state courts based on laws inspired by the Napoleonic Code. The Majlis (parliament) found its parallel in the Assembly of Experts.

Applied to other Middle Eastern countries, this strategy was known as tohi-sazi or “emptying of content”.

The first place this was put into practice was Lebanon.

Iran created a Shi’ite militia to “parallel” the regular Lebanese army. Then, through Hezbollah, Tehran also recruited allies among other Lebanese communities and transformed the Lebanese parliament into a toothless bulldog. Finally, Tehran succeeded in propelling its candidate into the presidency, and secured effective power of veto in the Council of Ministers.

All that costs a lot of money.

According to the current Iranian national budget, Iran is spending an average of $60 million a month in Lebanon, most of it through Hezbollah. Consequently, as President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech last month, nothing can be done in Lebanon without Iran’s say-so.

The Lebanese branch of Hezbollah has given Iran value for money to the point of sustaining thousands of casualties in combat in the 2006 mini-war with Israel and, more importantly, the campaign to crush Assad’s opponents in Syria.

In Iraq, the Iranian scheme has had partial results.

Tehran created the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of 17 Shi’ite militias, plus the Islamic Peshmergas (Kurdish fighters hired by Tehran) to parallel the Iraqi national army and the military force of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region government.

Tehran also exerts political influence through at least part of the Ad-Daawa (“The Call”) party. However, Iran’s hope of creating a second Lebanon in Iraq has not succeeded because many Iraqis resent Iranian domination while the grand ayatollahs of Najaf regard the Khomeinist regime in Tehran as an abomination.

The mullah’s scheme in Syria has also run into trouble because of Russian intervention and President Vladimir Putin’s determination that Syria’s future is decided in Moscow and not in Tehran.

Tehran’s scheme has had partial success in Yemen.

Iran’s surrogates, the Houthis, succeeded in creating a parallel army in the shape of Ansar Allah, but failed to fully clip the wings of the regular army. The Houthis also reduced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to a shadow of his past but could not fully get rid of him. On top of that, the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention has dealt a decisive blow to Tehran’s hope of doing another Lebanon in Yemen.

In the case of Qatar and Oman, Tehran used Finlandization, allowing them to enjoy tranquility in exchange for splitting the Arab ranks and toeing the mullahs’ line on key issues.

When Muhammad Morsi took over as Egypt’s elected president, Tehran tried to sell its scenario in Cairo as well.

Former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati was sent to Egypt with a letter from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In it, Khamenei called on Morsi to disband the Egyptian army and create a parallel military force to “guard the revolution”. The proposed scheme was never applied either because, as Velayati and Khamenei claim, Morsi rejected it or the Egyptian army pre-empted it by deposing Morsi.

Hariri’s resignation may be a sign that the Arabs are no longer prepared to grin and bear it as Tehran dismantles their state structures by creating doubles to their armies and transforming their governments into puppets with their strings pulled from the Iranian Embassy.

Tehran’s scheme for dominating the Arab states may have reached its limits; the rapid advance of the mullahs may now be followed with a roll-back. And that could mean the return of political frontiers and loyalties based on citizenship not religious sect.

Amir Taheri, formerly editor of Iran’s premier newspaper, Kayhan, before the Iranian revolution of 1979, is a prominent author based on Europe. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.

This article first appeared in Asharq Al Awsat and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.