Archive for the ‘Iran’s future’ category

International Responses to Iran’s Mass Protests are Beginning to Emerge

January 3, 2018

International Responses to Iran’s Mass Protests are Beginning to Emerge, Iran News Update, January 3, 2018

Perhaps equally important is the escalation in the overall tone of protesters’ messages, respective to the 2009 demonstrations. While the earlier movement was primarily focused on the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, current slogans include calls for “death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Khamenei and, by extension, the entire system of clerical rule.

It is reasonable to conclude that the suppression of previous demonstrations combined with the regime’s inability or unwillingness to address the underlying grievances is leading a growing number of Iranians to the conclusion that regime change is a necessary prerequisite for the improvement of their own future prospects.

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

INU – International coverage of Iran’s nationwide protests continued on Tuesday and began to display common narratives as the demonstrations entered their sixth day. The initial protests in the city of Mashhad, allegedly organized around economic issues by conservative opponents of President Hassan Rouhani, led to unexpected expansion in both the geographic and ideological scope of subsequent gatherings. This in turn led to highly predictable government crackdowns, resulting in numerous arrests and several deaths.

CNBC was among the outlets to report that nine people had been killed in the midst of the demonstrations on Monday night. One hundred people were reportedly arrested that night in the capital city of Tehran alone, after 250 others had been arrested in the same locality over the previous two nights. Figures for the total numbers of deceased and arrested protesters appeared more inconsistent as of Tuesday. It was generally agreed that the nine deaths from the previous night had raised the total to more than 20.

Al Jazeera placed the figure at 22 and also reported that at least 530 people had been arrested. But the National Council of Resistance of Iran, drawing upon its intelligence network inside the Islamic Republic, specified higher figures in both instances, saying that at least 30 people had been killed and 663 arrested. The NCRI also provided a breakdown on the location of a number of these arrests, in addition to the 450 that took place in Tehran.

That breakdown demonstrates one key fact that has been widely observed about the current wave of protests: they are different from the 2009 Green Movement and generally unusual among Iranian protest movements insofar as they are not geographically diffuse, involving a number of rural areas that are considered to be conservative strongholds rather than being focused primarily on socially progressive urban areas like Tehran.

In fact, Iranian officials appear to have responded to the growing protests in part by insisting that their original economic focus remained the only significant driving force and that the demonstrations held limited appeal in the capital and in other major cities apart from Mashhad.

Following the first day of protests, it was reported that Tehran officials had declared that only 50 people attended a local gathering and that most of them dispersed immediately following police warnings. Similar messaging seemed evident in quotations cited in the Los Angeles Times, with officials asserting that despite 450 arrests in three days, the demonstrations in the capital were naturally dying down. Those remarks went on to speculate that the rest of the country would soon follow suit.

The nearly simultaneous claims about mass arrests and waning popularity are not the only instances of self-contradiction in the regime’s response to the protests, Al Jazeera raised this issue in the context of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s personal response to the situation, which emerged for the first time on Tuesday. Khamenei sought to portray the protests as primarily the work of outside agitators. Business Insider quoted him as specifically blaming “wicked enemies backed by westerners, easterners, as well as reactionaries of the region”.

In the first place, his decision to weigh in is at odds with other officials’ attempts to downplay the significance of what is happening. At the same time, Al Jazeera notes that by giving credit to foreign infiltrators for such widespread demonstrations, Khamenei is contradicting the regime’s official position that such infiltrators have little real influence in the Islamic Republic. In fact, Al Jazeera asserts that the latter position is correct and that Khamenei’s claims regarding a foreign hand in the protests are not at all credible.

This, of course, is not to say that there hasn’t been an outpouring of foreign interest as the demonstrations have stretched on. Neither does this observation lead to the conclusion that foreign support for a domestically-driven movement hasn’t been welcomed by Iranian activists. Indeed, aBBC report consisting of direct commentary from Iranian citizens includes one quotation embracing the supportive remarks delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via Instagram.

The Iranian activist, identified only as Zahi, addressed Netanyahu directly and then turned his attention to other countries: “Thanks a lot for supporting the oppressed. I expect the same from all other countries. This cruel regime is harsh on its own people. We shouldn’t be under batons and bullets. This isn’t our destiny. We have the right to protest and we ask other countries to support us.”
Netanyahu’s use of social media to express support for the protest movement was predictably emulated on Twitter by US President Donald Trump, who has posted on the topic several times since the demonstrations started. His messages repeated familiar condemnations of the Iranian regime and praised the Iranian people for speaking out about the misappropriation of their wealth for terrorism and projects of regional intervention. These issues had previously been raised by many of the protestors themselves with slogans such as “forget about Syria; think about us!”

Apart from offering personal support for the protesters’ cause, Trump has also overseen responses from the White House that are passing through more official channels. ABC News reported on Tuesday that the administration was keeping up pressure to prevent Iran from blocking the social media platforms that have been used as effective organizing tools for the ongoing demonstrations. The Associated Press added that the White House was actively encouraging Iranian citizens to use virtual private networks in order to evade some of the new blockages that the Iranian government is imposing on specific websites.

Both outlets quoted Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein as saying that the US has “an obligation not to stand by.” He added, “We want to encourage the protesters to continue to fight for what’s right and to open up Iran.”

Much of the international press has criticized President Trump over his direct commentary on the protests, suggesting that any American effort to influence their trajectory would feed into the Iranian supreme leader’s efforts to discredit the demonstrations as the work of foreign agents. Nevertheless, many of the same outlets have expressed earnest support for what the Trump administration is doing at the policy level, as opposed to at the level of pure public relations.

The Atlantic, for instance, insisted that any active American interference would help hardliners, but then advocated for Western powers the help facilitate the free flow of communication within Iranian society. Also, in an interview with PBS NewsHour, Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recommended that the US could help to inhibit Iran’s ability to control communication, adding that one way of doing this would be by censuring any information technology companies that provide Iranian leaders with the tools to limit access within their country.

Sadjadpour also highlighted the considerable impact that the continued flow of information could have on the future of the still-emerging movement, which has reportedly been spreading in absence of centralized leadership or specific, across-the-board demands. He pointed out that whereas Twitter had been a highly successful organizing force in the 2009 Green Movement protests, those protests took place at a time when only one million Iranians could access the platform via smartphones. Today, 48 million Iranians have such devices.

The continued use of those devices as organizational tools would no doubt contribute to a situation that the BBC described as an “unpredictable challenge” for the ruling regime. The BBC also observed on Tuesday that momentum was still building for the grassroots movement. According to theIndependent, that momentum is such that protesters in some areas have actually overpowered security forces and members of the basij civilian militia, disarming and dispersing some of the forces that might otherwise have violently repressed the gatherings.

Of course, it is still widely expected that state authorities will implement a campaign of such repression on the orders of the supreme leader. Sadjadpour noted that the weeks-long protests in 2009 were a case study in the regime’s highly developed capacity for violent repression, which has likely grown since then. And the Washington Post described the office of the supreme leader as having “many loyal and ruthless troops at his disposal.”

This fact, combined with the lack of any notable defections near the top of the regime, leads the Washington Post to conclude that the current demonstrations are unlikely to lead directly to a political tipping point. But the same report suggests that the suppression of those demonstrations will lead to the later recurrence of the same. Other outlets agree with this assessment, and Reuters cited the likelihood of repression leading to further protests as one of the main points of interest for Western leaders who are watching the situation unfold.

Perhaps equally important is the escalation in the overall tone of protesters’ messages, respective to the 2009 demonstrations. While the earlier movement was primarily focused on the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, current slogans include calls for “death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Khamenei and, by extension, the entire system of clerical rule.

It is reasonable to conclude that the suppression of previous demonstrations combined with the regime’s inability or unwillingness to address the underlying grievances is leading a growing number of Iranians to the conclusion that regime change is a necessary prerequisite for the improvement of their own future prospects.

Finally, an Iranian Spring

January 2, 2018

Finally, an Iranian Spring, Al ArabiyaDr. Khaled M. Batarfi, January 2, 2017

Over 60 towns have joined the rebellion, so far. Iran is awakening. Iranians are demanding their freedom, democracy and rights. They regretted supporting a revolution that turned against them.

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

When Iranians protested, mostly in Tehran, for the best half of 2009, they were angry about the rigged presidential election in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated his “reformist” rival Mehdi Karroubi. The “Green Revolution,” was about the government —not the regime change. It was led by an elite, educated and well-to-do metropolitans supporting to the reformist movement.

Recent protests are different in many ways. It started in Mashhad, a conservatively religious city, and the birthplace of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, where some 160,000 angry investors lost their life savings in a fraud residential project.

Banks owned by the Revolutionary Guards suddenly closed down wiping out all deposits. And many companies haven’t paid salaries for up to a year! For a couple of years, after the burning of the Saudi Embassy, Shiite tourists from wealthy Gulf region ceased to come and hundreds of business closed down.

Poor, unemployed and hungry people went out to call for a new revolution. They were calling Khamenei a dictator who lives in luxury while his people suffer, wishing him and President Hassan Rouhani death, as both of the are two sides of the same coin.

The city is governed by two of Khamenei top allies, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda and Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi. The latter had participated and lost in the last presidential elections as representative of the supreme leader’s camp and the hardline movement.

Instead of calming the crowd, Alamolhoda advises the authorities: “If the law-enforcement agencies do not punish the troublemakers, the enemies will publish tapes and pictures telling the world that the regime of the Islamic Republic has lost its revolutionary spirit in Mashhad.”

These slogans summarize the sentiments of the Iranian people about their regime’s foreign policies and their devastating repercussions on development, economy and society

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

A religious and conservative town

Other cities followed. Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, after Tehran and Mashhad joined the ranks. Teachers and retirees came out demanding their salaries and money lost in the failing banks and projects. The city is also a religious and conservative town. Its support of the Khomeini revolution in the late seventies was a decisive factor in its victory. Tens of thousands of their sons were killed in the Iran-Iraq war.

One protester has lost four sons in Iraq, and a fifth in Syria. Instead of rewarding him, they took away his pension, he complains. Now, he cannot support what is left of his family. He is not alone, according to official statistics, 20 percent of the population is below poverty line and 40 percent of them need food aid, that is 60 percent of the 80 million Iranians.

Twenty millions live in shantytowns. Not to mention an inflation rate exceeding 20 percent, and a currency rapidly losing value. The result is a hike in rates of crime, drug addiction and prostitution.

The slogans raised in the demonstrations are telling: “Neither for Gaza, nor for Lebanon, my life is only for Iran,” “Forget Syria, remember us!,” “May your soul rest in peace, Reza Shah,” “freedom or death,” “Release political prisoners,” “Leaders live in paradise, people live in Hell,” “Death to Hezbollah.”

Sentiments of the people

These slogans summarize the sentiments of the Iranian people about their regime’s foreign policies and their devastating repercussions on development, economy and society. While austerity measures worsened an already tough life, the Syrian regime received $20 billion to kill its own people, and Hizbollah gets $1,200 billion a year to do the regime’s dirty business.

Not to mention other costly expenses to support militias in Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. As a protester put it, “We give an Afghan, Pakistani or Arab terrorist up to $1500 a month, with accommodation, food and transportation, while I live in a shack, and my hard-earned income of $250 is delayed or stolen.

Few former Iranian leaders sided with their people. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just revealed the existence of 63 bank accounts for the head of the judiciary Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani and the corruption of his brother Ali Larijani, the Parliament Speaker.

Others exposed the extent of criminality that reached the highest offices. Top bosses in ministries, banks, charities and religious institutions were found guilty of embezzlement, fraud, sexual harassment and child abuse. Worse, the leadership, including the Supreme Leader, has protected and defended the guilty and tried to hid their crimes.

If the large, industrial and commercial metropolitans groan, imagine the suffering in the remote and marginalized areas. The racist and sectarian regime has always ignored the mostly Sunni Kurdish, Baluchi, Kurdish, Azeri, Turkmen and Afghan communities. Shiite Arabs fared no better.

Over 60 towns have joined the rebellion, so far. Iran is awakening. Iranians are demanding their freedom, democracy and rights. They regretted supporting a revolution that turned against them. The world is watching, as it did in the spring of 2008. This time around it should interfere if the regime terrorizes its own people. Since they pretend to be a democracy, they should be held to its standards.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on January 2, 2018.
________________________
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi journalist and writer based in Jeddah.

One Less Brick in the Wall

January 1, 2018

One Less Brick in the Wall, PJ MediaMichael Walsh, December 31, 2017

(AP Photo)

So let’s all root for the Iranians who are, once again, trying to overthrow their reactionary Islamic regime. A victory against the mullahs in Iran would have beneficial results for everybody except devout Shi’ite Muslims and their allies of convenience on the American, largely atheist and most certainly anti-Christian, Left. By removing the source of Hezbollah’s support, pressure would be relieved on Israel and on American forces still in the dar-al-Harb theaters of war. By demolishing rule-by-mullah, Iran would pose much less of a nuclear threat to civilized nations. And by freeing the Iranian people to choose a new government, the Western democracies could find a valuable new ally in a strategically important part of the world.

For millennia, the people of Iran have been unable to decide where to cast their lot. In its attempts to move westward, the Zoroastrian Persian Empire was defeated repeatedly by the Greeks, by Alexander the Great, and by the Byzantines; later, Persia was conquered by the Muslim Arabs, by the Mongols (who really put paid to the “Golden Age”) and by Tamerlane, among others. If Iran can successfully overthrow the Islamic Republic, de-institutionalize Islam, rediscover its own genuine nationalism, and elect a real republic in its place, this historically pluralistic nation will likely find a warm welcome.

Islam has brought nothing but misery to Iran. Perhaps it’s time for Iran to try something different.

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

The end is near for the mullahs of Iran, which is bad news for the Islamic Republic of Iran, but good news for the Persian people, who have a chance to free themselves of the baleful effects of the Arab conquest and — finally — join the community of Western nations by casting off its imposed Islamic theocracy and, it is to be hoped, Islam itself. The late Shah of Iran attempted, in part, to de-Islamicize historic Persia of its foreign influences via the restoration of the Peacock Throne, but his revolution was overturned, in part via the Soviet-inspired meddling of the Iranian Tudeh Party, which left the gates open for the ayatollah Khomeini.

Both the Russians and the Americans lost when Khomeini came to power, and Iran shortly thereafter seized the hostages at the U.S. Embassy, precipitating (among other events, including the disastrous American economy) the fall of the Carter administration and the election of Ronald Reagan. Ever since, Islamic Iran has been unremittingly hostile to the United States, as well as to its schismatic co-religionists elsewhere in the Muslim-conquest world, especially Sunni Iraq and, of course, Saudi Arabia.

That’s been a triumph for Shi’ite Islam, but a disaster for the Iranian people, whose numbers include not only ethnic Persians but Jews, Assyrians, Kurds, and many others. The brief flowering of art, science, literature and poetry during the so-called “Golden Age” of Islamic Persia was soon enough snuffed out.  As I write in my forthcoming book, The Fiery Angel:

It is fashionable today to cite the Islamic “golden age” – a direct result of its contact with Christian Europe, we should keep in mind – as a model, not just for what Islam could one day again become (unlikely, since militant Islam explicitly wishes to return to its seventh-century purity), but also as an apologia for Islam’s many and violent sins against the international order.  But until Islam casts off Saudi-fueled Wahhabism and Irian Shi’a millenarianism, gives up its supremacist designs, and becomes willing to accommodate peaceful co-existence contact with West – beyond  its oil-driven importation of Mercedes-Benz and Maserati automobiles and Western firearms – this is unlikely.

As the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus — quoted by former Pope Benedict XVI in his controversial 2006 Regensburg lecture (controversial only to apologists for Islam, that is) — observed in 1391:

Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

Little more than half a century later, in 1453, Constantinpole fell to the Muslim Turks, marking the final end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the long night of darkness that has enveloped the Middle East pretty much ever since. Christendom lost control of the lands of its origin, including the reconquered Crusader states of the Levant (one of which still survives, barely, as Lebanon), and the battle line between Europe and Islam was drawn from Gibraltar to the Balkans — the beginning of a long, uneasy truce that lasted until Sept. 11, 2001.  As I wrote on Twitter (@dkahanerules) last week:

A lot has changed since then. For one thing, the Shi’ite-partial Obama is gone, having been replaced by his polar opposite in Donald Trump:

Ahmadinejad to Khamenei: There is Little Hope for Improvement in Regine’s Status

December 2, 2017

Ahmadinejad to Khamenei: There is Little Hope for Improvement in Regine’s Status, Iran News Update, Jazeh Miller, December 2, 2017

According to Ahmadinejad, “due to heavy economic, propaganda and emotional pressures as well as political and psychological ones, many people and families are subjected to serious harms and breakdown, and a bleak outlook has been formed in the minds of all people, the youth in particular. Considering the country’s current conditions, hope for a better future has reached bottom low.”

In another part of his letter, Ahmadinejad focuses on his conflict with regime’s judiciary, saying “irregular, unjustified, and unlawful insistence on sticking to personal and political stances and involving those viewpoints in judicial process while taking advantage of judicial power in political, personal, and family relations has stripped the judiciary of any chance to address and improve its status, avoid mistakes and injustice, attempt to resolve the country’s major problems and realize people’s rights.”

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

Revealing his recent letter to the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian regime’s former president has given new dimensions to the power struggle between regime’s rival factions while describing the country’s awkward situation.

On Monday November 27, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed a letter he apparently wrote two weeks ago to Ali Khamenei.

The letter was released a few hours after regime judiciary’s spokesman ‘Mohseni Ejei’ referred to Ahmadinejad’s attacks on the judiciary, describing him as a ‘thug who talks big’.

Although Ahmadinejad’s letter gives detailed description about the country’s current conditions, but he doesn’t mention how much his government and policies are responsible for today’s situation.

“Due to authorities’ ignorance and effectiveness of enemies’ plans, such crises like unprecedented economic slowdown, liquidity, banking problems, unemployment, poverty, wide gap between the rich and poor and production fall have reached such a critical level that could at any moment hit the country and people with unpredictable and unmanageable consequences”, says Ahmadinejad.

According to Ahmadinejad, “due to heavy economic, propaganda and emotional pressures as well as political and psychological ones, many people and families are subjected to serious harms and breakdown, and a bleak outlook has been formed in the minds of all people, the youth in particular. Considering the country’s current conditions, hope for a better future has reached bottom low.”

In another part of his letter, Ahmadinejad focuses on his conflict with regime’s judiciary, saying “irregular, unjustified, and unlawful insistence on sticking to personal and political stances and involving those viewpoints in judicial process while taking advantage of judicial power in political, personal, and family relations has stripped the judiciary of any chance to address and improve its status, avoid mistakes and injustice, attempt to resolve the country’s major problems and realize people’s rights.”

Ahmadinejad says he’s against Larijani brothers and their dominance over the country’s (judicial and legislative) branches.

He then refers to judiciary’s performance as the source of public discontent in the country, saying “having 17 million judicial cases means that an overwhelming majority of Iranian families are somehow involved in lawsuits. It clearly and totally mirrors the country’s conditions and the performance of different entities, and yet by itself is a proof and a clear sign of the judiciary’s awkward situation, judicial officials’ incompetence and real problems in the branch. Public discontent towards the status of the country and judiciary is unprecedented, so much so that the majority of people are shouting against injustice and improper relations.”

Ahmadinejad’s fierce attack on the judiciary is despite the fact that the branch played a key role in oppressing the 2009 uprising during Ahmadinejad’s second term. Nonetheless, Ahmadinejad never questioned or criticized the judiciary’s record at the time, nor does he refer to it now. But only now that the branch, amid clashes between regime’s rival bands, has targeted Ahmadinejad and those around him, he has started criticizing.

Regime’s former president, who never seriously opposed limitations and violating individual and social freedoms, now writes “any kind of criticism, protest, or freedom of expression is harshly blocked for different excuses while a few groups and known families seek to exclusively take the power and major positions stemmed from people’s revolution, so they can consolidate the rule of factions and owners of wealth and power.”

Considering the escalation of conflicts between regime’s former president and judiciary over the past few weeks, the release of Ahmadinejad’s letter to Khamenei could lead to even more heated conflicts.

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.