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The Fires in Iran - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There is no exaggeration in saying that the waters of the Arabian Gulf are set to reach a boiling point again.

Signs of a war between Iran and the US are looming on the horizon. Iran’s Supreme Guide is adopting a threatening rhetoric, while America has announced that it is setting up a military group called Checkmate, which is part of the United States Air Force. [Checkmate is a highly confidential strategic planning group whose task includes “providing innovative strategies for warfighting and assessing future needs for air, space and cyberwarfare”].

Only a miracle or magic can prevent this war from happening, such as Iran declaring absolutely and unequivocally that it has renounced its revolutionary policies and nuclear ambitions under [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and [Ali] Khamenei’s regime. The other alternative is if the US and the West were to completely surrender to Iran, which would make it the leader of the entire Gulf region.

Both options, realistically speaking, will not happen, which is why only a supernatural force can prevent this war from happening.

Iran’s crisis is a grave one. It is one that involves history, a specific role, and culture and nationalism  but this is another issue altogether. What is happening today is more modern than that; it is the crisis born of a fundamentalist regime that has reached a deadlock. Thus, the only option left is confrontation, here and there and between this party and that.

The war of statements has begun: media missiles have been launched and the battle of nerves has erupted. We find the Supreme Guide saying last Saturday, as reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), that the enemy’s reiteration of threats aims to intimidate and spread alarm and fear, furthermore adding that, “Contrary to the enemy’s expectations, we are increasing our level of preparation.”

Hossein Shariatmadari, media advisor to Khamenei and the editor-in-chief of the conservative ‘Kayhan’ newspaper, which is closely associated with the Supreme Guide (who personally appoints the publication’s editor-in-chief), was asked by an American journalist for the ‘New York Times’ if Bahrain was simply a part of Iran. The question was broached since it was Shariatmadari who had introduced that idea in an article previously published by ‘Kayhan’ mid-July of last year.

Shariatmadari laughed in response to the question and referring to the entire Gulf region, he said that it wasn’t only Bahrain but that, “these states are not even 200 years old,” and that, “they were small states where the sheikhs live a life of leisure.” Within the context of the media war, he accused most Gulf States of “compliance with the Zionist entity, cooperating with it whilst turning a blind eye towards the crime it has committed.” (al Qabas newspaper, Kuwait, 18 July 2007).

First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Iran, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, told the Lebanese As-Safir newspaper that threatening his country will lead to “setting the whole region on fire.” Meanwhile, former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Yahya Rahim Safawi, pointed out that Iran’s missiles were long ranging.

During this time, Ahmadinejad is traveling all over the world; he went to New York to beautify the face of the fundamentalist regime and to add a cosmetic touch. The Iranian government spokesman [Gholam-Hossein Elham] had stated that Ahmadinejad intended to visit the Ground Zero site in New York. But let us not forget that the ‘gracious’ Ahmadinejad had supervised over a military parade in Iran before traveling to the US in which Iranian forces flexed their muscles and announced that they possessed new missiles with a near 2000-kilometer range. The parade was drowned amidst the cheers and war cries of the audience present.

Iran is provocative; and with every passing day as the crisis deepens, the tension escalates amongst Tehran’s rulers, its Supreme Guide and his associates amidst the conservative mullahs and the ‘hawk’ president of their government Ahmadinejad.

Aside from the Iranian propaganda with all its psychological dimensions, Iran is capable of doing some things. It has repeatedly upheld that it will set the region on fire if it was deprived of its right to possess a nuclear weapon, which it publicly claims is for peaceful purposes!

In a previous interview with Hossein Shariatmadari, conducted by journalist Manal Lutfi for Asharq Al-Awsat (26 March 2007), he said that in the event of a strike against Iran that they, “were militarily ready and prepared for anything. I believe that if anything were to happen that the Americans and Israelis would regret it. Hezbollah is but a sample of what could happen; we can compare it with what we can do.”

This is an explicit statement that the fundamentalist Iran has been using the Lebanese party Hezbollah to serve its defense policy outside of Iran by virtue of its ideological ‘cloning’ and its tight arms and financial ties  secretly via Syria, of course!

But subordination to Tehran’s mullah system is not denied even among Hezbollah’s leadership. Suffice it to mention two examples; on one occasion, in March 1997, the official spokesman for Hezbollah, Ibrahim al Amin said, “we are not part of Iran: We are Iran in Lebanon, and Lebanon in Iran,” as published in ‘al Nahar’ newspaper.

Another example is when Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, previously said in al Muqawama (Resistance) magazine, which is the mouthpiece of the party’s military wing, that, “the religious authority there (Iran) constitutes the religious and legitimate cloak for our resistance and struggle.” (al Muqawama magazine, edition 27, p. 15-16)

If indeed as Shariatmadari says that the Lebanese Hezbollah with all its soldiers and arms and its ‘absolute’ ideological loyalty to the Supreme Guide is only a ‘sample’ of Iran’s capabilities  then what about other models?!

We must not, then, underestimate the gravity of the situation.

But some may say, “why go to war in the first place?!” Aren’t the Americans, along with Britain and France the aggressors? Didn’t the French Foreign Minister, [Bernard] Kouchner warn that the world must prepare itself for a war against Iran (19 September 2007).

The truth is that the regime in Iran is a ‘quandary’. Whatever honeyed words [Ali] Larijani and [Manouchehr] Mottaki use to gloss it over  it is a fundamentalist revolutionary expansionist regime that is based on the ancient concept of ‘imperialism’. To understand the extent of the regime’s detrimental nature, it is enough to remember what it has done to Lebanon and Iraq.

For Iraq, Wilayat al Faqih [Guardianship of the Jurists] expressed joy at the fall of Saddam’s regime at the hands of Bush “the fool”, in the words of Shariatmadari. This paved the way for unleashing “exceptional capabilities”, according to Shariatmadari, against the fundamentalist Iraqi Shia opposition.

“Presently, those who were exiled in Iran for decades are the people in power in Iraq today. This is an important factor, and a third advantage in our interest,” said the editor-in-chief of ‘Kayhan’ in the Asharq Al-Awsat interview previously mentioned.

Iran is dangerous, very dangerous, and this is without nuclear power  what will the case be if it did have nuclear power?!

However, away from the glossy words and courtesies, it is in the best interest of the Gulf States, and even Egypt and Jordan, that the revolutionary Iran does not gain power to that extent, especially since the region is witnessing upheaval and chaos caused by the fundamentalist forces which threaten “all” Arab states without exception. This includes the states that flirt with them and grant them a satellite television channel! It knows well that if Iran decided to set the Gulf on fire that it will be the first country to be set aflame in the east.

If wishful thinking could come true then we would wish that no war would happen. “Enough problems in the region,” like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said. We would also have hoped that Iran adopt a more moderate attitude and that it abandon the policy of sabotage and the agitation of radical extremist forces  but hoping is one thing and reality another.

If the guesses and expectations among the knowledgeable circles are accurate, then the winds of war presently carry clouds of fire. It might rupture and wreak havoc about a year from now, perhaps at the end of next summer at the latest. If this war were to take place, with all the ugliness entailed, it will serve to loosen the fist whose grip cripples Iraq and Lebanon. It is hoped that Lebanon and Iraq may be freed of all grips that seek to regress them, whether Shia or Sunni.

No one wishes for a war; it is reprehensible and harrowing. But history is full of wars, and despite the tragedies in their aftermath, they were responsible for guiding the course of history  whether we like it or not. We cannot envisage the world if World War II had not taken place and the Nazis had not been vanquished, or if the war that expelled Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait had not occurred, or if Napoleon’s war against the Mamluks had not happened, and the ensuing repercussions of this French intervention on all Mohamed Ali’s accomplishments in all fields. What would the world have been like if the Thirty Years’ War between Catholics and Protestants in Germany did not take place? It ended with the Peace of Westphalia [Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Osnabrück] in 1648, which was the paradigm that helped shape modern political thought in terms of the contemporary concept of the state.

War is sometimes bloody; however with the spilled blood an infection is purged, which if left unattended would slowly kill the rest of the body.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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