Forty years ago, in 1979, the story that deserves to be recounted over and over again, began with the expansion of Iranian influence in the Arab Mashreq. Let us be harsh to ourselves and admit that our illusions had the upper hand in that expansion - our illusions that found what feeds them in authoritarian and despotic ambitions that are far from being fictional.
The Iranian Revolution took place that year. A very large majority in the Arab world supported it and was enthusiastic about it. The reasons were many, but the most important of all was the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
In 1970, Gamal Abdel Nasser died without fulfilling his promise to liberate Palestine. Instead, the longed-for liberation diminished and was replaced by the demand to regain the territories occupied in 1967.
In the same year, the Palestinian resistance suffered a major defeat in Jordan. For those who consider the regional situation was limited to this issue, things seemed to be going from bad to worse. The “victory” of the 1973 war resulted in an Egyptian-Syrian conflict, and then an Egyptian-Israeli reconciliation in 1978-79.
Meanwhile, in 1976, Hafez al-Assad sent his forces to Lebanon, supporting the “Christian Right,” and terminating the Palestinian revolution. Khomeini’s revolution came to many as rain in the desert. The ally of Israel and America’s agent, the Shah of Iran, has fallen. The ayatollah severed relations with the Hebrew state and turned its embassy in Tehran into the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The US Embassy itself was stormed and its citizens abducted. Some young Iranians, who received military training in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, have become symbols of the new era.
Thus, we started to recite: They have their Sadat, who reconciled with Israel, and we have our Khomeini, who will pray in Jerusalem. At that time, Tehran was talking about an “Islamic unity” that transcended sects and groups.
But we failed to notice, or some of us missed that the Constitution issued by the revolution says in Article 12 of its first chapter that the “official religion of Iran is Islam and the Jaafari doctrine… could never be changed. The other Islamic sects, which include the Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki, Hanbali and Zaidi doctrines, are fully respected and their followers are free to perform their religious rites according to their jurisprudence.”
Soon many things began to change. It was indeed Saddam Hussein who started the foolish war hoping to stop Iran’s export of its revolution, but it was Khomeini who decided to continue with it. The human and material costs on both sides did not stop Khomeini. In the meantime, sectarian tension throughout the region has been intensifying. The two warring parties contaminated the Middle East with sectarian and racist feelings.
This policy was accompanied by adherence to the three Gulf islands that the Shah had occupied in 1971. Some have concluded that the new system was not the opposite of the former and that, contrary to its claim, it practices sectarian and national discrimination. The PLO attempted to withdraw the Palestine card from the grip of the Iranian system, by standing in Baghdad’s ranks. But Assad’s Damascus kept that card with the Iranian hand after organizing its revenue sharing.
In the first three years of the Gulf War, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were founded in the Syrian capital. But shouting about Palestine, Israel and the resistance did not prevent the exposure of the Iran Gate scandal or the Contra affair in the mid-1980s. Under Ronald Reagan’s second presidential term, the United States facilitated the sale of arms to Iran to finance Nicaraguan contra-fighters - which US law prevents them from funding - as well as to release Western abductees in Lebanon who were kidnapped by Iran’s allies.
Through Assad’s Syria and in the name of Palestine, the greatest ploy was founded in the history of the Arab Mashreq. Throughout the 1990s and the beginning of the new century, the efforts of the Israeli right combined with those of Tehran and Damascus, through their Palestinian followers, to destroy any progress that peace in the region might make.
Peace was also forbidden in Lebanon after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, but turning the ploy into an imperial project required the removal of the Iraqi buffer. The 2003 US war that overthrew the Baathist tyranny has also destroyed that buffer.
This was preceded by the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which reassured Tehran’s western front.
Tehran and Damascus have turned their staunch hostility toward Iraq.
Since then, there has been no national home in any of the Levant countries. Iran has become an active player in every region, always under the pretext of fighting Israel.
When the Syrian revolution exploded, and it was practically the greatest challenge to the Iranian system of deception and control, Tehran crushed it with the help of its Arab arms.
We remember these facts as we watch the developments of the Iraqi and Lebanese revolutions, and hear protesters in Iran reciting the chants of their “green” revolution in 2009: “Not for Gaza, not for Lebanon, my soul is for Iran.”
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