Under the pretext of political and historical grievances
Entrances to Iranian penetration of Arab neighboring states
What is weird about Iranian politics and strategy is that it looks at the world through its western Arab borders, whom it hates and hopes for their demise, while its depth, race, heritage and language extend east to Khorasan, Baluchistan and Uzbekistan, and not to the west where the Arabs of Iraq, the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula are located. It is an incomprehensible situation in the political dimension, yet it is s understandable in its historical dimension, and the inherited hatred that destroyed Iran before it destroyed others. Hence, while nations devoted themselves to progress and development and forgot their historical empires that history buried hundreds of years ago, the Persians still dream of restoring the throne of Khosrau one day, yet neither did they restore it, nor they developed from their own state.
Iranian ambitions are not a result of the defining political moment that followed the Iranian revolution in 1979. It is a moment that completely turned the Middle East region around and transformed it from an Arab-Israeli conflict into another Arab-Iranian conflict. Although the Arabs never thought of contacting or conflicting with Iran since its joining Islam during the reign of Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), yet it is the Iranians who carry greed and rivalry.
The Iranians are planning to expand beyond their historical borders, while the Arabs, unlike them, did not even try to recover their looted lands from the non-Arab border states in Ahvaz and Anatolia. However, this did not spare them as the greed for their lands and the fragmentation of their political and social structure is a major goal for the Iranians and others.
Political and historical grievances:
Iran is an expansionist state that lives on historical and political grievances because of the Arab victory in the Battle of al-Qadisiyah and the collapse of the king of Khosrau, thus the end of the Sasanian state forever. We find that this political grievance that bestowed the Iranian-Persian conscience later appears in the form of religious grievance. In the year (1500) and thereafter, after the Safavids spread the Twelver doctrine in its Persian form by force and reinforced through the religious grievance that they used, they are still using it to penetrate and capture the Arab conscience. In fact, it was nothing but a political movement to keep the battle open with the Arab opponents.
The Iranian war against the Arabs took two open paths; the first is revolutionary political and the other is sectarian, ultimately seeking to restore the dreams of the Persian Empire through these two bridges. In their expansionist ways, Persian Iranians were able to first seize the Arab coast of Ahvaz, with the help of the British, thus they controlled one bank of the Arabian Gulf. They are still planning to jump to the other bank that extends from Basra to Muscat, which is a solution that has turned into action on the ground through acting agents working in the interest of Iran, or by provoking regional chaos that Iran ignites whenever it is extinguished.
Nevertheless, an important question arises: Does the policy of the kings of Iran, whose rule fell with the departure of the Shah, differ from the mullahs?? The answer is: absolutely not. Bahrain, for example, and prior to the Iranian revolution, was the center of the ambitions of the Shah’s Iran. He almost swallowed it up and turned it into his territory under the pretext of recovering Persian property, as well as the Emirati islands that were occupied during the Shah’s era.
Soft or rough penetration:
Since its seizure of power in Tehran, Khomeini’s Iran has worked to crystallize the directions of its ruling political forces towards active participation in the region’s politics, which is confirmed by the future document prepared by the Expediency Council in 2005, to transform Iran into a central regional power.
On the legal level, Iranian constitution included provisions calling for the praise of Islamic Revolution as a new movement of change in the region, which contributed to the path of the authentic Islamic doctrinal renaissance. In its preamble, it also indicates clear texts on the importance of velayat-e faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) in Shiite world, fighting reaction and dictatorship, spreading Islamic values and helping the oppressed, as they claim. After the pillars of the rule of “guarding jurist” as a clear institution in Iranian political system after the death of Khomeini, two major political currents emerged in Iran calling for Iran to take its regional position.
First: the hardline conservative current, which is mainly represented by the clerics who control the institution of velayat-e faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist), the Expediency Council and the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, who rule by the method of the religious possessory system. Their hardline stances have emerged on the issues of presidential and parliamentary elections, the Iranian nuclear file, the Syrian crisis and support for the Lebanese Hezbollah. Their principles are based on the idea of using the ideological dimension based on revolutionary Islam concept as an influential factor in Iran’s foreign policy, rendering Iran the heart of Shiite Islamic world, rejecting foreign presence in the region.
Second: a current claiming diplomacy, calling itself a reformist, exchanging roles with the first and presenting an image of political reform to the Iranians.
Simultaneous nibbling policy:
Internal conditions that Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen went through played a major role in influencing their stability and continuity as national states. However, Iranian interventions and the deterioration of the economic and social structure in some of those states led to turning them into grounds ready to be tampered with by Iran, which worked to build a policy that we can call the simultaneous nibbling policy, i.e., intellectual expansion followed by a military expansion through local agents.
This was evident in Lebanon first, which was an important leap for Iran, where the civil war was already a factor in the 1980s, as well as the presence of a ready spearhead – i.e., parties with Iranian leanings such as Amal – which later helped build the terrorist organization Hezbollah that advanced to be an agent to Iran in Lebanon and was able to strangle the joints of the Lebanese state.
In Yemen, too, extremist Zaidis – they do not include the entire Zaidi sect – deceived Iran. However, there they were turned into agents and delegates who established the Houthi arm, which was initially formed as religious and sectarian schools, yet it was rapidly transformed into an armed organization.
In Iraq, which remained far from Iran until the fall of Baghdad in 2003, Iran embraced parties and organizations that it nurtured for two decades. Upon falling, it pushed them to the forefront of Iraq and, within months, those militias wiped out the face of Arab Iraq, or almost did.
This was not the only penetration into the Arab world. Iran intervened strongly in Bahrain and tried to overthrow the state with the help of extremist militias. Iran still insists on intervening in Bahrain and turning it into a liquidity zone that could collapse one day.
In his research published under the title “Iranian Expansion in the Arab World… Between Political Penetration and the Dream of the Shiite Expansion”, writer Safwat Jabr says: “Khomeini declared upon his arrival in Tehran in February 1979: We will export the ‘revolution’ to the whole world, so that everyone knows why we launched the revolution. Our goal was independence in the sense of liberation from restrictions and dependence on the East and West, and freedom. Our revolution must be exported to all parts of the world. Exporting the revolution is to wake up all peoples and governments” This is how Ayatollah Khomeini formulated the new Iranian ideology.
Arab transformations and revolutions helped Iran to interfere in the affairs of some Arab states. This is clearly evident in Iranian expansion in many Arab states. The more sectarianism and civil wars increased, the more active are the Iranian role and the Revolutionary Guards in the Arab world states. Meanwhile, the weakness of Arab institutions and organizations gave Iran a golden opportunity to replace the Arab role therein and replace it with Iranian one.
Transitions and revolutions helped Iran to interfere in the affairs of some Arab states.
Iran is good at the political hit-and-run game with the Arab side. At a time when it is expanding in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, killing its opponents of the Kurds and the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, we find it flirting with the Arabs through statements about reconciliation work or strategic agreements. However, it simultaneously supports the armed opposition in the Arab states through its militias.
- Khaled Al-Mutlaq, “The Iranian Invasion of Arab States… Plans, Destinations, and Solutions,” Hermon Center for Contemporary Studies website (2021).
- Safwat Jabr, “Iranian Expansion in the Arab World… Between Political Penetration and the Dream of the Shiite Tide! Iranian Foreign Policy Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979”, Adwaa Journal for Research and Studies, Baghdad (2021).
- Mahmoud Al-Jazi, “Iranian influence in the Arab region in light of the shifts in American sovereignty towards the region 2003-2011” (Amman. Academics for Publishing and Distribution, 2014).
- Wasfi Aqeel and Khaled Al-Dabbas, “Iranian Political Penetration of Arab Neighboring States… A Case Study of Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen,” Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences Studies, Yarmouk University – Jordan, vol.45, p.4 (2018).