Iran can still turn losses into victories if it abandons its blatant bigotry – Middle East Monitor

The predominantly Sunni Arab and Islamic world has not viewed the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran through a sectarian lens. Ayatollah Khomeini was seen as a leader who opposed the Shah’s oppression, Western domination and Israeli influence. Despite the bitterness of the Iran-Iraq war, Iran’s complicity in the siege and war against Iraq, and its negative contribution to sectarianism, the regime has managed to be popular in the Arab and Islamic world, especially after the July 2006 war when Hezbollah pushed Israel out of southern Lebanon, without any sectarian involvement.

This popularity has now waned, and may even have faded altogether, due to the sectarian policies that Iran still pursues. Elections in Lebanon and Iraq have revealed the extent of anger towards Tehran, even among Shiite citizens and their allies. Iran’s policy in the region, among Sunnis and Shiites, reveals a mentality of domination and sectarianism, with little regard for the concept of a single and united Ummah. Iran has operated in Lebanon disregarding the idea of ​​a united homeland that decides who leads the Christians and who leads the Sunnis. It allied itself with Michel Aoun at the expense of its adversaries, such as the Lebanese Forces party, and contributed to the destruction of the Hariri leadership, the assassination of the father, as revealed by international investigations, at the headquarters of Saad Hariri and the creation of rival Sunni blocs.

Shiite Hezbollah intimidated Sunnis and overtook the Hariri family. It is rare to find a Sunni in Lebanon who is not angry with Hezbollah. These sectarian policies have helped to turn a number of angry Sunnis against Daesh and similar movements into a desire for revenge and a search for lost dignity and honor.

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Despite Saad Hariri’s calls for a boycott of the elections, the anger turned into a vote against Hezbollah. In Sunni areas, the party and its allies declined, and candidates from the Youth of Change party and opponents of Hezbollah prevailed.

There remains a sectarian odor in the party’s alliances against Sunnis, as it tolerates an alliance with General Aoun to the point of pardoning senior Israeli officials who have been implicated in the spilling of Lebanese blood through spy rings or the remnants of the South Lebanon Army. This tolerance is becoming stricter among Sunnis in dealing with security issues, as in the case of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Assir who was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor by a Lebanese military court last year.

People hold a protest against Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beirut on October 06, 2021 in Beirut, Lebanon. [Houssam Shbaro – Anadolu Agency]

Iran and Hezbollah paid the price for the mistakes made in Lebanon, not with the Sunnis, but with the whole country in general. Hezbollah viewed Lebanon the same way it viewed Syria, Iraq and Yemen: as a battlefield, not as an independent state with its own culture and personality.

In Iraq, the defeat was harder and clearer than in Lebanon, because the mistakes were bigger. Iran treated Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as its partner and let him deal with many issues, including Iraq and Yemen. His representative, Muhammad Kawtharani, decided with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leaders Qassem Soleimani and his successor Esmail Qaani the fate of Iraqi politicians. Like any absolute authority, it has led to absolute corruption. Kawtharani’s brother, businessman Adnan, turned his political and security influence in Iraq into business interests and opened a two-way street to buy influence, with those who wanted a position to share and those already in position with whom he would associate. In addition, Iran has established drug and arms smuggling networks that rely on Lebanese hashish and Syrian captagone.

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Iran has not dealt with its allies in Iraq as it has dealt with Nasrallah; it was a superior-subordinate relationship. He treated the Sunnis of Iraq through an ongoing sectarian war. Sunni leaders, including Sheikh Khamis Al-Khanjar, leader of the largest Sunni bloc known as the Alliance for Sovereignty, have attempted to turn over a new leaf with Iran-affiliated Shia leaders to build a partnership nation based on simple concessions from the popular party. mobilization forces. This included the return of displaced citizens and the release of prisoners and those sentenced to death unjustly, but it did not work. Sunni children, women and the elderly still live in IDP camps in their own country, while Hezbollah militias occupy – yes, occupy – their towns and the best of their young people are still in prison. Al-Khanjar was placed on the US sanctions list.

In last October’s elections, he and Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani allied themselves with the Sadrist movement. Iran has not treated this alliance with respect and viewed it as a threat to the Shia, even though it includes the largest Shia bloc, as if patriotism and dealing with the logic of the political majority rather sectarianism went against Tehran’s doctrine. This is despite the fact that Al-Khanjar and Muqtada Al-Sadr are the only Iraqi politicians who have a clear stance on normalization, and the US has accused them of supporting Iraqi resistance. If Iran dealt with the logic of partnership and political alliance, it would find no better than them, but its logic is based on subordination and annexation.

Iran was defeated in Lebanon and Iraq, and if elections had been held in Syria and Yemen, its proxies would have been defeated there as well. She still has the opportunity to turn her losses into victories, if she decides to act according to the logic of neighboring territories, partnership, nation and homeland. However, if he prefers sectarianism to all else, he will lose even those who remain within his own sect.

This article was first published in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on May 19, 2022

The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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