Judging from Oct 2015, the confrontation between Iran and the United States is changing its format just to become even tougher. When it first started in the 1990s, many experts suggested that oil was not its only cause. In fact, this is a fight for influence in the Muslim world. All Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are doing today is aimed against Iran’s attempt to gain the upper hand in the Islamic world. So, it is important to know the limits of the American-Iranian diplomatic war.
This is not just Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain, where Shias have quite big communities and specific confrontation lines with local pro-American regimes. Shias also have communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Americans’ attempts to use the ethnic factor for ruining Iran have proved to be ineffective in the face of Tehran’s tough policy against Turkic nationalists and traitors, in general. The Americans have one more factor here – the Iranian Kurds. But this factor may also fail as Kurds have quite a strong historical and ethnic memory and they know that Turks and Arabs have been much crueler to them than Persians.
On Oct 14, the U.S. Department of State published an international religious freedom report for 2014, which points to violations in countries like Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. “Sadly, the pages of this report that is being released today are filled with accounts of minorities being denied rights in countries like Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, many others,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in his remarks on the report. The presence of Russia in this stupid list is easy to understand: the United States is simply displeased with that country’s strong and independent policies in Syria and elsewhere in the world. But Iran’s presence is a blunder: you will hardly find a more religiously tolerant nation. The Iranian Constitution guarantees political rights to all religious groups, even to Zoroastrians and Jews. It denies such rights only to totalitarian and other sects. But why then doesn’t the report mention France, who has a ban against Jehovah’s Witnesses?
So, Tehran’s Oct 16 reaction was predictable. The Iranian authorities called the report politically motivated and legally groundless. The statement was followed by two noteworthy incidents: a drive-by shooting at Shia ceremony in the Iranian town of Dezful (Khuzestan Province) and mass anti-Zionist demonstrations all over Iran. On Oct 19, the chief of the Iranian police Hossein Ashtari said that the Dezful attackers had been arrested and added that they had been trained at a U.S. base in Iraq and had a mission to organize terrorist acts in Iran. This may have a direct connection with the case of Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post’s American Iranian journalist indicted by the Iranians on charges of espionage and propaganda against the Iranian regime.
In response, during the Oct 19 P5+1-Iran meeting in Vienna, the U.S. delegation mentioned other U.S. citizens indicted in Iran, particularly, Saeed Abedini and Amir Mirza Hekmati. They also made it clear that despite Barack Obama’s promises, they would not hurry to lift the anti-Iranian sanctions. U.S. Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew said that the Americans would not start lifting the sanctions until the Iranians met all of their obligations under JCPOA. These contradictions will hardly be settled by the end of this year. In fact, they may grow even stronger if the Americans continue haggling for their spies in Iran and using the nuclear energy talks as a weapon to change the ruling regime in Iran and to give their citizens a free hand to act in that country.
Let’s go back to the terrorist act in Dezful. The province of Khuzestan is mostly Arab-speaking. So, it seems that when sending their puppets to Dezful, the Americans hoped to confirm the paragraph of their report about “discrimination against members of religious minority groups” in Iran. They were aiming to show that Arab Sunnis could no longer endure the anarchy of Shia ayatollahs. But they missed the aim as the Arab-speaking Khuzestanis are mostly Shias. The act has caused so much anger in the Iranian society that some organizations are even ready to counteract.
In order to see the real motive of the Americans in Dezful, we should consider the preceding anti-American demarches.
On Oct 7, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prohibited any further talks with the United States. The next day his advisor, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati said that Iran did not need the United States. Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Hossein Amir-Abdollahian added that Iran was ready for a regional dialogue but only if it was real and free from influence by any external forces. He obviously meant the Gulf monarchies and Israel. He also said that Iran would accept no peace plan on Syria unless it was approved by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. And the last straw was the Iranians’ warning that they might join the Russian airstrikes in Syria and might even use missiles. But that was not the end.
Immediately after, the Iranian President’s advisor Ali Younesi said that the recent tragedies during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia might have been plotted by the Israeli Mossad. Vice Chairman of the Iranian Majlis Mohammad Hassan Abu Torabi Fard said that the tragedy in the valley of Mina would give a start to changes in the Muslim world. On Oct 12, Secretary General of the World Forum for Proximity of the Islamic Schools of Thought, Ayatollah Mohsen Araki called for reforming the management of the Hajj due to “mismanagement" and "improper measures" by the Saudis. It was an attempt to question the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the Muslim world. So, we see that Iran is paving the way for a coup in the Islamic world. On Oct 13, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the West continued its “soft war” against Iran. So, they in Tehran have shown that neither JCPOA nor the West’s other steps can mislead the Iranian political, religious and military leaders.
So, now we can see why the Americans counteracted in Dezful and Vienna. But misled by their own destabilization schemes, they mistook the Shia Arabs of Khuzestan for Sunnis. They in Washington see that the Syrian crisis and the renewed conflict with Kurds have undermined the positions of one of its two key puppets in the Muslim world, Turkey. And now, if Saudi Arabia cedes its control of the Hajj to Iran, the Americans will lose the other puppet. And all this is happening amid Iran’s military plans on Syria and naval deals with China.
On Oct 19-20, the Iranians held military maneuvers near their border with Turkey. There they tested their drones and rapid reaction forces. In the meantime, Iranian war ships sailed off from the port of Enzeli for a two-week “peace and friendship” voyage to the Russian port of Astrakhan, with a Russian military delegation expected to visit Tehran by the end of this month.
This all proves that Iran is not just going to change the scene in the Muslim world but is also strengthening its military ties with Russia and China. As regards the incident in Dezful, it has proved that when trying to fuel a Sunni-Shia conflict in Iran, the Americans were not aware what a genie they were letting out of the bottle. What they did was just a miscalculated provocation.
EADaily’s Middle East Bureau