by Dr. Edy Cohen
Iran's efforts and attempts to destabilize Arab states with subversion and aid for Shiite groups (but not only) have been a great source of tension.
As Iranian diplomats invest immense efforts into striking a deal with the West over Iran's nuclear program, it seems the nuclear issue is only one of many on the ayatollah regime's plate. In fact, the Iranian nation is facing a plethora of challenges at the moment, coming mainly from the direction of Arab states.
Iran's efforts and attempts to destabilize Arab states with subversion and aid for Shiite groups (but not only) have been a great source of tension. Iran views itself as a regional superpower and has adopted a strategy that has allowed it to amass much power and influence in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. It is with this power that Iran believes it will be able to protect the Shiite minorities in Arab states while simultaneously sticking it to the "Zionist entity." The fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq presented Iran with a rare opportunity to expand its influence to other nations.
The "Iranian octopus" operates both out in the open and covertly in a number of Arab countries. It brands its activities "exporting the [Shiite] revolution" to the Arab world, and is especially active in countries with Shiite populations like Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. Iranians provide aid in the form of money and weapons to Shiite groups in those countries. They are helping the Houthis take power in Yemen, for example. It is no secret that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard trains Houthi fighters on Eritrean soil for a lot of money, which flows into the coffers of the country's corrupt leaders under the guise of bilateral treaties.
Iran created Hezbollah in Lebanon and provides the group with its most advanced weaponry. It brought the Shiite population from being oppressed to being one of the most organized communities and having the most powerful militia in Lebanon, one which poses a threat to the Lebanese army and to Lebanon's stability. Today Iran is a central player and has immense influence in Lebanon. Over the last eight months, Lebanese parliament members belonging to Hezbollah have been sabotaging efforts to appoint a new Lebanese president. Michel Suleiman, the previous president, completed his term in May. The aim is to stall until a candidate who would be agreeable to the Shiites and to Iran can be found.
Iranian involvement in Iraq includes funding, training and arming of Shiite militias. The political, economic and religious influence Iran has in Iraq has effectively turned it into a sponsor state. The shared border and the rise of Islamic State have increased Iran's involvement in Iraq. Syria and Hamas are Iran's non-Shiite allies. The Iranians are helping the Syrians fight Islamic State and other rebels in efforts to bring Syria's embattled President Bashar Assad, Iran's natural and preferred partner, back into full control. That is why, in the war against Islamic State, Iran admitted for the first time they were bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and were helping the Syrian regime fight rebels and Islamic State. With regard to the Palestinians, Iran sees a moral obligation to support Hamas in its fight with Israel and provides the terror organization with weapons and funding.
Iranian involvement also stretches to the Persian Gulf. Iran in 1971 captured the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa, which the United Arab Emirates saw as theirs. The takeover underscored the danger Iran poses to its Arab neighbors. Despite Arab League involvement, the dispute has not yet been resolved.
Iran also operates in neighboring Bahrain and is exerting efforts to increase its influence on the small kingdom. Iran actually claims ownership over Bahrain, no less. The Shiite majority in Bahrain provides legitimacy to the Iranian claim. The kingdom in Bahrain accuses Iran of subversion. Iran has said on more than one occasion that Bahrain is one of the Islamic republic's provinces.
With Iran's military, economic and religious influence posing a national security threat to Arab states, blocking the Iranian nuclear program is those countries' highest priority. A nuclear Iran would pose a much greater threat to Arab nations than it does today.
Dr. Edy Cohen
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