Friday, April 20, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: Syria, Iraq, the Gulf and the Iranian Tentacles


by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Angelo Pezzana)


The Islamic Minister of History is Laughing all the Way to the Blood Bank


We have all been watching the horrific events happening in Syria for more than a year now, and the media report all the time about conflicts between "Syrian security forces" on one side, and the "rebels", the "opposition" and the "Free Syrian Army" on the other. However, most of us are not aware that the "Syrian security forces" include no small number of foreign soldiers, a true foreign legion, which came to Syria by the order of their superiors in order to help Bishar Asad and his cronies to remain in power at any price. The foreign soldiers who came to Syria to shore up the regime are mainly Lebanese members of Hizbullah, and Iraqis who serve in special units composed entirely of Shiites, who are routinely used by Iran to carry out assassinations and attack missions.

In the beginning of April, the governments of Iraq and Syria signed an agreement to organize a patrol on the border between them, in the area of Dir A-Zur, in order to stop the flow of weapons and ammunition that the Sunni Iraqis send to their Sunni brothers in Syria, in order to stand up to the murderous attacks of the Alawite regime. The Syrian regime especially fears the activists of "Al-Qaeda in the land of the rivers", those who in the past, operated under the leadership of Abu Musab Al-zarqawi, and who might relocate the focus of their activities from Iraq to Syria, and turn their jihad against the Alawite infidels who are supported by the Christian Russians and Chinese idol worshipers.

Iman Al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's successor and head of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, also declared a few weeks ago that it is the duty of every Muslim in the world to enlist in the holy jihad against the regime of infidels in Syria. These announcements harm the Syrian rebels very much, because they justify the claims of the regime that it is fighting not against peaceful citizens but against armed terror gangs. Organizations of the Syrian opposition have stated that they strongly object to the Al-Qaeda announcements, and that their intention is to establish in Syria a democratic, civilian state, not a radical Islamic emirate.

In parallel, there are many reports of a large quantity of weapons that are streaming into the rebels' hands, including those stolen from the munitions warehouses of the Syrian military. These weapons include mortars, heavy machine guns, anti-tank missiles and even katyusha rockets, which will enable the Free Syrian Army to renew its attacks on the Syrian regime's military bases and its units, if and when - and apparently it will be very soon - it will decide to renew the fighting, since it is now clear that the cease-fire exists only "on paper" in the documents of Kofi Anan. In the field, the regime continues to slaughter citizens, and dozens of them are killed every day of the "cease fire".

The head spokesman of Sunni Islam, Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has also joined the chorus that supports the Syrian rebels. He recently published a Fatwa forbidding the purchase of Russian and Chinese goods, because of Russia's and China's support of the Syrian regime, which is murdering Sunni Muslims.

Iran is Very Worried

Iran watches all of these developments with great concern fearing the fall of the regime in Damascus. Because if it does fall, then Iran's whole sphere of influence in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and other places in the Arab world will collapse as well, since Syria is Iran's spring-board to them. General Qassem Suleimani, one of the heads of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, has entered the picture. It he who is responsible for the portfolio that includes Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He enlisted Iraqi Shi'a militias who were trained, armed and equipped in Iran in order to act against the American forces in Iraq, who have won for themselves the name "Asab ahl al-Haqiq" ("Teams of people of the Truth"), and commanded them to speed to Syria by way of Iraq to join forces with the Syrian military in the suppression of the Syrian rebellion. The operational battle experience of these militias, accumulated over hundreds of terror attacks carried out against Iraqi Sunnis, will be translated into similar "quality actions" against the Sunni rebels in Syria.

The head of this militia is "Abu Dara", a Shi'a mass murderer and one of the commanders of the "death squads" that belong to Muqtada Al-Sadr's "Mahdi Army". Born in 1970, his real name is Ismail Hafeth Allami, and he served previously in the Iraqi army. After he joined the "Mahdi Army" in 2003 he was assigned to hunt down officers, pilots, intelligence people and administrators who had served Saddam Hussein and the Baath party, and execute them without a trial. He took an active part in the mass attacks against Sunnis in Baghdad in order to rid the capital of the Sunnis and turn it into a Shi'ite city. In Islam, this act has very great significance, because for five hundred years, from 751 until 1258 CE, Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid caliphate, which was established upon the skulls of the Shi'ites. The transformation of Baghdad to a Shi'ite city would be sweet revenge upon the Sunnis, who slaughtered Hussein bin Ali, the Shi'ite leader, in Karbala in the year 680 CE. And now, Abu Dara is sent to Syria in order to support Asad, who participates in the activity of the Iranian Shi'ites, to continue ruling in Damascus, which was the capital of the Sunni Umayyad dynasty between 660 and 750. The minister of Islamic history is laughing all the way to the blood bank.

The ability of Iran to send Iraqis to fight on Asad's side and cause the Iraqi government to participate in the action with Syria in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons to the rebels, may be the biggest strategic surprise in the world, because it has become known that it is Iran who controls Iraq, and that Iraq functions today according to the interests of Iran. After all of the Western blood and treasure that has been spent on Iraq since 2003, and after the elimination of the bloodthirsty dictator who ruled Iraq, this torn and divided country has clearly fallen like ripe fruit into the hands of the Ayatollahs of Qum. It can be said ironically that Iran is the big winner in the war of the West against Saddam. Iran achieved this position even while the Americans were still in Iraq, but they were too frightened to act decisively against Iran.

The Americans in Iraq had a lot of information about the involvement of the Guardians of the Revolution and Iranian Intelligence in Iraq since 2003. The Americans were able to get their hands on lots of standard equipment, weapons and ammunition that had been smuggled from Iran into Iraq and was used in the guerrilla war led by people like Abu Dara, and militias such as the "Mahdi Army" against the forces of the coalition. Thousands of coalition soldiers were killed and wounded in Iraq since 2003, by Iranian weapons and Iranian ammunition smuggled from Iran to Iraq and used by Iraqi militias (even Sunni ones) that had undergone training in Iran. Despite all of this, the United States and the coalition never dared to place the responsibility on Iran for killing coalition soldiers, because they feared that making such a statement would obligate them to act against Iran within Iran's territory, while they had to continue to protect themselves against Iranian attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Iranian regime realized the Western lack of determination, and increased the attacks upon coalition soldiers, in order to force the members of the coalition to declare one after another that they are withdrawing from the hopeless war, the treacherous swamp called Iraq. Finally, the United States also escaped from Iraq, and left that hemorrhaging country to the mercies of the Ayatollahs, who do with it as they please: if it suits them, they launch attacks against Sunnis, or they allow the Arab League summit to meet in Baghdad and create the appearance of a free, liberated and serene Iraq, so that they can sneak the representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council (plus Germany) into Baghdad in order to extort from them more concessions and buy more precious time for the development of the military nuclear program.

Iran, which is suffering a difficult economic crisis and severe deterioration in the value of its currency because of the international sanctions , has found an easy way to support the collapsing Syrian economy: it pressures Iraq to supply Asad with cash to pay its military for protecting those faithful to Asad. Iran demanded from Nouri Al-Maliki, prime minister of Iraq, to also supply oil to Syria, so that it can fuel Asad's tanks and armored personnel carriers that shoot death bombs into the residential neighborhoods of Homs, Idlib and Dar'a. The payment for these services will arrive to Iraq when the hidden Mahdi will return to the world...

There are reports that Iraq is acquiring equipment that Iran is forbidden to acquire. And after this equipment arrives in Iraq, it is transferred to Iran. This is equipment and materials used in the infrastructures for oil and gas production, petro-chemical industries and factories that manufacture fertilizer and medicines. The concern is that Iran uses this equipment and material in order to produce chemical weapons, and that's why the countries of the world are forbidden to sell these items to Iran. Iraq serves as a legal cover for this Iranian acquisition. It may be that instrumentation and metals that are used in the weapons industries are also acquired today by Iraq in order to transfer them to Iran.

The Gulf is Burning

Along with the Iranian takeover of Iraq, Iran has also succeeded to frighten the states of the [Persian] Gulf to death by activating the Shi'ite noose: Shi'ite communities who live in all of the states of the Gulf serve as an Iranian fifth column. These communities undermine the internal stability in Iraq, and especially in Bahrain, the monarchy that is situated on an island opposite the coast of Saudi Arabia. This monarchy has mostly Shi'ite residents, but is ruled by the Sunni minority. And in this island-monarchy is situated the main naval base of the United States in the Persian Gulf. The goal of undermining the stability is to force the ruling family to demand that the Americans will leave, exactly as when the Saudis eliminated the American air base in Dhahran, in eastern Saudi Arabia in order to silence the Al-Qaeda propaganda, which stated that the House of Saud was collaborating with the modern crusaders who came from America and contaminated the land of the two holiest places to Islam. Eliminating the air base also served the purpose of depriving Iran of an excuse to incite the Shi'ite residents against the Saud family.

Iran is increasing its hold on the Gulf by emphasizing its control of the three islands that it conquered in the days of the Shah, Lesser Tunab, Greater Tunab and Abu Moussa. Last week Mahmud Ahmadinejad visited the Iranian base that was established on the island of Abu Moussa, provoking strong reactions in the Gulf states, which understand it as the first steps for Iran to begin the takeover of the Straight of Hormuz and other islands in the Gulf.

The fear of Iran that is harbored within the citizens of the Gulf states has increased in recent times as a result of the success that Iran has experienced in buying time in the negotiations with the West over its nuclear program. Increasingly, the states of the Gulf are convinced that the West, which is now very deservedly seen as weak and flabby, will not succeed in deterring Iran from taking practical steps against the Gulf states. Lately a discussion was held in the Kuwaiti parliament on the question of whether Kuwait should object to a possible future conquest of Kuwait by Iran or perhaps it would be preferable to surrender and accept it, because in any case, the West will not repeat the war of 1991, when Kuwait was liberated from the claws of Saddam. Needless to say that Kuwait does not not possess even the minimal the ability to stand up to an Iranian conquest; Iran will need only a few hours in order to conquer Kuwait, and will encounter little resistance.

However, Iran has no need to take dramatic military steps against its Arab neighbors West of the Gulf. It would be enough to take "soft" steps in order to bring them under the wings of its hegemony: elimination of an Emir here, buying off an Emir there, frightening a sheikh in one principality, a terror attack in a banking center, bringing down an office tower, a fire in an oil installation, sinking a ship of the Coast Guard or something of this sort such that everyone will know that Iran is responsible, will suffice to frighten the smug billionaires into thinking that it's better to cooperate quietly with their Eastern neighbor who has become the "landlord" of Iraq, rather than to experience what Iraq did until it was ultimately subordinated to the Iranian regime, and in order to keep the billions of petro-dolalrs in their accounts in Switzerland or other tax shelters.

The rich people of the Gulf have never been great fans of their countries, because had they wanted to preserve the character of their societies they would not have flooded the principalities with millions of foreign workers and business people, who have subsequently turned the citizens of the states of the Gulf into small minorities in their own states. And if they have sold out their countries in order to increase their personal wealth, why would they rebel against Iran? They have never had a real military force capable of defending them, and therefore the security forces in the Gulf states are composed of foreign soldiers, usually from Bangladesh or Balochistan. Will these foreign soldiers fight and put their lives on the line for a state that is not theirs?

The only state in the Arabian Peninsula that perhaps may have some ability to cope with Iran is Saudi Arabia, however the operational skills of its military forces are dubious, because they have never fought a real war on a national scale. From time to time they were involved in a border dispute with Yemen or Iraq, and performed an aerial bombing here or an artillery shelling there, but never in an actual war. It is reasonable to assume that without massive support from the United States, even the Saudis would not survive a war with Iran. A takeover of Saudi Arabia is especially attractive for the Iranians, because with Saudi Arabia, the holy places of Mecca and Medina would fall into their hands, and so the Shi'ites would again control Islam as it did in the days of the fourth Caliph, Ali Bin Abi Talib, the founder of Shi'a Islam, and all of the achievements of the Sunnis since the middle of the seventh century would be erased and it would be as if it never happened. And very sweet indeed would be the Persian revenge on the Bedouins, who left the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century and destroyed the Sassanid Persian Empire.

This geo-strategic balance between Iran and the Gulf, which is clearly biased toward Iran, turns the Gulf into easy prey for the Iranian conquest machinery. The political and economic gains that would occur in Iran from the control of the reserves of oil in the Gulf, together with those that are hidden in the ground of Iraq, are tremendous. Iran would become the controlling state of the greatest quantity of oil and gas in the world, something that would buy it the ability to play with the prices in a way that, whenever it wanted, it could bring down states with poor economies like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. And in order to placate Iran, the whole world might be offered as a potential sacrifice to the Ayatollahs, including Israel. Therefore, Iran, as it sees itself, does not need to attack Israel, because the West will shun the Zionist entity anyway, and abandon her to her fate, and she will certainly fall.

On the other hand, Israel in the current situation is not yet a superpower of either oil or gas, and therefore getting mixed up with Israel serves no useful purpose for Iran. The damage that Israel might cause to Iran might be fatal to Iran, because there are rumors going around by means of "copy and paste" on Internet sites that claim that Israel has between 200 and 300 nuclear warheads. I don't know if Israel has even one, but on the Internet there are reports about hundreds. Moreover, Israel has proved in Lebanon (2006) and in Gaza (2008-9) that sometimes it loses its cool and fights back "disproportionately". The Iranians fear that it may be too dangerous to mix with a state that may have between 200 and 300 nuclear warheads and sometimes loses its cool, and in comparison to the Gulf, nothing good will come of war with her. Therefore, in my opinion, Israel will not be listed on Iran's list of targets, anyway not among the primary ones. The states of the Gulf are on this list, though, whether because of the profits that Iran can earn from taking them over, or because of the low price that Iran would pay for taking them over. Israel is on the list of secondary targets, together with Turkey, North Africa and Europe.

Israel understands this consideration and so - in my opinion - there is no immediate reason, and therefore no chance that Israel will attack Iran. Iran is a problem for the Gulf and the world at large well more than it is a problem for Israel. Therefore Israel will not sacrifice itself on the altar of the Ayatollahs in order to rescue the Gulf and the world from the Iranian problem. The Iranians also do not believe that there is truly an argument between Dagan, Barak and Netanyahu about attacking Iran. They are sure that this whole public argument conducted in the media in Israel whether to attack Iran or not is intended only to ring the world's alarm bells in order to wake the napping Europeans as well as those sleeping in the White House, and that actually, Dagan, Barak and Netanyahu have divided up the work between them, like "the good cop and the bad cop". Since when does Israel conduct a public discussion about a military plan?

And speaking of short-term goals, there is another strategic goal that Iran is planning to execute in the near future: Afghanistan, its neighbor to the East. The moment that the foreign forces leave this failing country too, Iran will take control of it using its well-known methods - murder, terror, bribery and fear - and all the treasures of Afghanistan will fall into the hands of Iran, exactly as it happened in Iraq. This takeover as well would be a delicious historical plum for the Iranians, who will have succeeded to take over a country that the British, Russians and Americans, each in its own turn and its own time, failed miserably in its attempts to conquer and to take over its assets.

And when Iran will have nuclear weapons in its hands they will succeed to intimidate the whole world, they will complete their takeover of the Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Afghanistan, and will continue their journey westward to Egypt and North Africa, Israel, Turkey and Europe.

Syria today is the key to the future of Iran: if Asad's regime survives, Iran will be encouraged and will continue in its global octopus-like plan; and if Asad will collapse, Iran's progress westward will be halted and it may sink into internal disagreements about the question of who is to blame for the failure in Syria. These disagreements might split the ruling class and bring it to total collapse. Therefore, for Iran, the war over Syria is critical, with a character of "to be or not to be", which explains the massive Iranian investment in the shoring up of Asad.

Whoever who wants to bring down Iran must support those rebelling against Asad. Erdogan in Turkey, King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Hamed al-Thani in Qatar and King Abdullah in Amman, have understood the matter and what they are doing for the rebels in Syria may save them and the Gulf from the Iranian octopus. The question is how much time it will take for the sleeping Europeans and the dreamers in the White House to understand the reality of this complicated Middle East, and when they will begin to take action in order to bring Iran down.

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Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:
Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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