Khomeinist Iran was founded on the pillars of sectarianism and exclusionary ideology not only towards its regional environment but towards citizens of the country within the borders of the so-called Iranian geography. Therefore, we find that Tehran asserts its sectarianism in the text of its current Constitution, specifically in Article 12 which defines Iran as a Shiite state. This article is not subject to any form of change. Thus the Iranian regime enacts sectarianism as a general platform for its internal and foreign policy.
Iran is well aware that exploiting the theme of Shiites and Shiism is the only means which can allow it to interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries and to intervene there. Despite this being open knowledge, the regime continues to deny this fact and to claim, implausibly, that it is instead supporting what it refers to as “oppressed peoples” regardless of their religious affiliation. This is a desperate effort to escape from reality. In order for Iran to succeed in its project, Iran relies on redirecting the blame away from itself, accusing others of sectarianism. To avoid incurring the wrath of the Muslim majority, however, the regime does not dare to accuse all Sunnis of sectarianism but instead refers to dark conspiracies to sow disunity by those who it refers to as “Wahhabis”, “Salafis” and “Takfiris/extremist groups”- all of whom are, non-coincidentally, Sunni.
When you ask the followers of the regime, “Who are the moderate Sunnis from the viewpoint of Iran?”, however, you will never find an answer.
A major problem resulting from this policy is that the intensification in Iran’s allegations targeting others with accusations of terrorism and sectarianism is that it has found fertile ground among some Western nations for several reasons, with this article probably not the best place to investigate these in depth. Suffice it to say that there is harmony between the Iranian regime and the West in regard to sectarian policies in the ‘War on Terror’, whose targets are exclusively Sunni, amongst other things
But, for how long can Iran continue this policy?
From the beginning, Tehran was well aware that these games would not last forever but was waiting for the right opportunity to unmask its true face and to uncover its sectarian objectives and policies.
The Syrian crisis, and the situation in Iraq after 2003, under a clear Russian orientation towards strong, effective presence in the Middle East, combined with the US’ phased retreat or gradual withdrawal under the Obama administration, were the principal catalysts for the Iranian regime to finally reveal its sectarian policies and to call a spade a spade.
Observers of Iran’s regional movements have been aware for some time that the regime began quietly forming sectarian militias in Iraq some time ago, accelerating the pace of this military build-up in recent years by sending a number of these militias, including the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade amongst others, to fight in Syria, with at least 54 Iranian-backed militias currently fighting in Iraq.
In light of the significant advances made by Syrian rebels, Iran found that it needed, even more, fighters inside Syria, forming two more Shiite militias – the Afghan Fatimid Brigade and the Pakistani Zainabion Brigade – who were recruited by intelligence services affiliated to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in those two countries.
The Iranian regime was not content to stop there, with its security forces then hitting upon a plan to exploit Afghan refugees living in Iran, many of whom live there illegally after fleeing the wars ravaging their country in recent decades.
The Iranian authorities certainly know how to exploit the weak points of the Afghan people in its territories, offering to amend their status and improve their situation in various ways such as accepting their children at schools and providing medical treatment for them, in return for sending the menfolk to an IRGC military base in Isfahan north of Iran for basic training before flying them to Syria to fight.
Iran has also increased the amount offered to those hesitant to take up this offer with financial rewards of $500 per month, a considerable sum for destitute refugees, as well as additional promises of other optional bonuses, including the possibility of residency in Syria once control is restored by the Assad regime.
It is noteworthy that many of these militia members fled to Europe from Syria along with Syrian refugees, revealing the details of the Iranian military’s coercion to Western media.
The recent most nakedly sectarian part of Iran’s sectarian project for the region is the creation of a regional copy of the Basiji forces via “ideological mobilization”, as well as the formation of an Iraqi militia based on the Revolutionary Guards, with this policy also to be extended to Syria in the future.
The establishment of the so-called ‘Popular Mobilisation Forces’ or Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and regional director of the regime’s military operations, was based on wholly sectarian lines as a hostile retaliatory force.
After extending their reach within Iraq via militias who kill based on sectarian identity, particularly targeting Sunnis, Iran moved to the second stage of implementing its sectarian policy by announcing that the leader of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Falaki, is set to establish a regional so-called ” Shiite Liberation Army” comprising Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Yemeni elements, led by Iran.
Iran will thus effectively use Arabs to target Arabs, both in their own nations and across the rest of the region.
More seriously, however, Iran has been working to implant sectarian sleeper cells via its mercenaries in the Arab Gulf states, who will act as additional proxies in acting on its orders and helping attain its objectives.
It is a given, of course, that Iran does not care at all about international laws on the formation and deployment of mercenary groups; the more pressing question is, where are the international bodies and organizations that condemn Arab and Gulf nations whilst their own media refrain from mentioning what Iran is doing in broad daylight? Aren’t Iran’s actions, by the formation and support of sectarian militias perpetrating acts of terrorism, in clear and explicit violation of the United Nations’ founding charter, more especially the ‘International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries’?
This Convention defines a “mercenary” as an individual who is specially recruited locally or overseas, to fight in an armed conflict, who is not a national party to the conflict, nor a resident in the territory under the control of the party to the conflict, nor a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict.
According to the fifth article of the Convention, states and parties must not recruit mercenaries or use, finance or train them, and, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention’s prohibition of such activities, the United Nations must take appropriate action, in accordance with international law, to prevent the recruitment of mercenaries or use, financing or training for that purpose. Finally, the article in the third paragraph stipulates the need to punish those states or parties to the crimes of breaching this Convention by appropriate penalties which take into account the serious nature of these crimes.
After all this, we wonder again about the UN and its human rights’ organs’ feeble and sluggish attitude towards the activities practiced by the Iranian regime, from the recruitment of mercenaries, sectarian and deployment, and support of terrorist groups? Is Iran somehow a unique exception to international law?
Finally, is not it time for the General Secretariat of the Cooperation Council for the Arab Gulf States, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to expose these Iranian actions in front of the world, and through international media, and international conferences, and demand serious and swift diplomatic and political steps to stop Iranian interference in the region?
Translated Material: Al-Watan Newspaper
Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of The Arabain GCIS