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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Arabs must tackle Iranian threats head on

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

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Few would dispute that the Islamic Republic of Iran is actively engaged in expanding its military capabilities, developing its nuclear potential, arming and funding Shiite minorities and disseminating its ideology throughout the region. As each month passes, Tehran becomes more powerful and influential. Chances are that we may wake up one day to find it has become a nuclear-armed state on our doorstep despite denials from the ayatollahs. If and when that happens, Iran will be empowered to dictate terms and unless the international community is willing to risk nuclear Armageddon, the Gulf will be enveloped in the same Shiite flag that currently flies over Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

Iran’s tentacles have spread far and wide. Last month, two Iranian agents were arrested in Kenya after they had been spotted casing the Israeli embassy, the British High Commission and a golf course as potential targets in an alleged bombing plot. Iran is courting Algeria and is currently seeking political and economic relations with Egypt’s new government on the lines of those it enjoys with Sudan and Eritrea.

In Morocco, the mullahs have been funding “Tashyeeh” institutes for the purpose of converting Sunnis; in Yemen they’ve been arming Houthi rebels. A non-state actor, an Iranian surrogate, dominates Lebanese politics while Syria has witnessed a marked increase in Iranian “pilgrims” who also happen to be military advisors or Iranian Guard, inserted to lend support to Al-Assad’s crimes against humanity.

Moreover, according to the author of “A Time to Betray” Reza Khalili, a former CIA operative who successfully infiltrated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, “Iran has expanded its terror network and now has tens of thousands of agents in Latin America”. Khalili quotes a member of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution in Iran as saying this on Iranian state television: “We must get ready for global operation...Our fellow fighters are present in all five continents of the international jihad must be provoked; we must fear no one.”

When the pieces of the Iranian jigsaw are fitted together a disturbing big picture emerges. The danger it portends for my part of the world has been clear to me for years. I’ve penned numerous columns warning GCC leaders and Arab governments about this but it seems to me that no serious steps are taken yet. I have also expressed my suspicions, supported by certain facts that Israel and Iran have been cooperating in various areas under a US umbrella.  But, again, no reaction from Western authorities, no attempt to contradict my thesis.

Superficially at least, the US and its premier ally in the Middle East - Israel - are Iran’s sworn enemies. Both Washington and Tel Aviv have vehemently condemned Iran for its terrorist activities and its insistence on enriching uranium. If the Israeli media is to be believed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is contemplating bombing Iran’s nuclear sites later this year, but he’s beginning to sound like the boy who cried wolf.

The Obama administration has, indeed, been relentless in instituting anti-Iranian sanctions on banking and the country’s oil sector knowing full well that their impact will be minimal as long as major powers such as Russia, China and India along with Iran’s main trading partners find ways of circumventing them. Europe is even considering lifting some of its sanctions against Iran in light of the P5 + 1 group’s so-called fruitful negotiations with Tehran on the nuclear issue. And it is well known that Western banks and corporations have been working with Iran via intermediaries to market Iranian oil and launder its proceeds.

The US and Europe are good at talking the talk when it comes to the atrocities being perpetrated on Syrian civilians by their own government. They’ve organised ‘Friends of the Syrian People’ conferences, attempted to censure the Al-Assad regime in the UN Security Council and have provided humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees. But when it comes to walking the walk, they’ve consistently buckled.

I’m appalled by their lack of action, especially when they were so swift at bypassing the UN to invade Iraq on false pretexts only to gift that Arab heartland and cradle of civilisation to the ayatollahs. If this is ‘the New American century’ it certainly isn’t the one envisaged by George W. Bush’s neoconservatives. The US can no longer be considered a superpower when it is so easily intimidated by the likes of Russia and its partners in crime Iran and Syria. Obama’s credibility is being eroded when he has been applauding popular uprisings in Arab republics while ignoring the struggles of the Iranian people who also seek freedom from oppression and poverty that quashes the dreams of the 85 per cent of Iranians subsisting below the poverty line.

Of course, the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton gives a good impression of being actively involved. Her latest ‘amazing’ discovery was so impressive I couldn’t help laughing. She says Hezbollah is engaged in assisting Al-Assad within Syrian territory. So much for her intelligence sources; I could have told her that. I hope I’m wrong but America’s inaction has forced me to consider whether the US is coordinating with Russia and Iran on Syria.

Kofi Annan, who was appointed as the UN’s envoy to Syria, was so fed up of the Security Council’s paralysis that he resigned. Word is that he is being replaced by 78-year-old Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian Foreign Minister, favoured by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. A strange choice given that Mr. Brahimi takes a dim view of peace prospects; even stranger is the fact that the UN’s Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman invited the Syrian ambassador to the UN to deliberate on Brahimi’s appointment.

Such ineffectual rearranging of the deckchairs as a substitute for action might be amusing if it weren’t for the continuous spill of innocent blood. Sadly, the Arab League is no better. Its member countries include well-intentioned GCC States that want to do something tangible but they are thwarted by countries under Iran’s thumb or some are too caught up in their own internal problems to go out on a limb for the Syrian people.

Where did our famous courage go? What happened to our dignity? Why have we become so complacent that we won’t defend ourselves against Iran’s hegemonic ambitions let alone protect our brothers and sisters in Syria? Our ancestors, from the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) to the Rightly Guided Caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, and one of the greatest of all leaders Khalid ibn Al Walid, were brave men who never hesitated to battle on the side of right and, with God’s help, were always victorious. They never shirked their duty to rescue anyone who asked for their help even those far away in Bilad Al Sham, the Iberian Peninsula or parts of Asia. They would be ashamed of their descendents who lounge on their sofas doing nothing but helplessly shake their heads watching the corpses of Syrian women and children pile up before them on their TV screens.

Enough meetings, enough conferences, enough delegations and envoys! Enough pretending to ourselves that the Iranian threat to our region will magically fade away!  Enough clinging to our comfort zones! We need action!

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