Discussing an alliance of minorities in Beirut with Iran's blessing

The Alliance of Minorities, as it is being prepared in Beirut, is the best cause for celebration in Iran today and a most heart-warming event for Israel.
Sunday 01/09/2019
A collection box featuring Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is seen at a house in the southern suburb of Beirut. (AFP)
Sectarian politics. A collection box featuring Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is seen at a house in the southern suburb of Beirut. (AFP)

The Iranian leadership has abandoned a slogan that highlighted its emergence on the world scene, especially in Arab and Islamic countries, that concerned Islamic unity versus Arab unity and of the concept the Islamic nation versus Western liberalism and socialism.

One of the most prominent slogans of Iranian ideological penetration of Arab and Islamic societies was: “Neither Eastern nor Western. An Islamic Republic.”

Iran is using a new label to refer to the Arab region: “West Asian countries.” It is a geographical term that underlies an Iranian desire to transcend the Arab identity and the Arab regional system. Iran is hoping that, by transcending the civilisational reality of the Arab world, it will be considered a potential partner in drawing up maps of the region.

Iran has used Islam to infiltrate Sunni-majority societies and promote Islamic ideology, using it to justify its intervention in all Muslim countries. This approach has been the base of Iranian penetration in Arab and Islamic worlds since the establishment of the Islamic regime.

With the US occupation of Iraq, Iran switched to the Shia identity to consolidate its influence in Iraq. It created and financed dozens of Shia militia groups and took control of ideological and sectarian centres. It controlled financing and managed the construction of many Shia shrines in Iraq to strengthen the Shia identity at the expense of the Iraqi national identity and Arab identity.

The Syrian revolution in 2011 was probably the biggest test of the Iranian project. Iran felt the danger of the shift of power in Syria from the rule of the Alawite minority to the rule of the Sunni majority. So, it quickly turned its back on political Islam -- the very ideology and discourse that it used all these years to penetrate Sunni Arab ranks -- because it threatened the Alawite regime, Iran’s ally in Syria. Suddenly, Sunni Islamists in Syria have become terrorists in Tehran's rhetoric.

Tehran went even further by inciting the Shia community in Syria with sectarian rhetoric that warned that the fall of the Assad regime would threaten their very existence.

An examination of the names of the symbols of Iranian militia power in the defence of the Assad regime reveals that all of the Iraqi, Afghani, Pakistani and Lebanese militia groups recruited by Iran to fight in Syria have names with Shia resonance, including Fatimid, Zaynabiyun and Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas, and no reference to universal Islamic icons or figures.

After the Syrian situation bogged down and region was also mired in regional and international struggle for influence and domination, Iran presented itself as a strong partner good at implementing a New Middle East.

Iran would be useful in chipping at the Arab identity and disintegrating national identities. Tehran would carry those tasks by targeting the Israeli and Western system of interests. It realised that its involvement in the New Middle East Project would rely on anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric, as long as the rhetoric is one thing and the reality of implementation of the project is another.

In fact, there would be no harm done when Iran openly and loudly spewed its anti-Israel rhetoric, as long as it was implementing what Israel has never been able to do in its confrontation with the Arab world. Israel has been encouraging religious and sectarian minorities in the Arab world to formulate and express their specificities in the form of their particular political and military projects to ignite internal contradictions and conflicts in the Arab environment hostile to it.

Now, Iran is competing with Israel for control of that project and, after achieving control of the card of the Shia minorities in the Arab world, it is working to become the international guarantor of the alliance of all minorities in the Arab region.

The Eastern Forum in Beirut that Lebanese President Michel Aoun is preparing will not be limited to representatives of Christian minorities in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon but will include some Kurds, Yazidis, Shias, Alawites and other groups that fall within the definition of minorities.

Iran is a partner in this forum. It is very likely that it is one of the most important supporters, considering that the declared organisers are Hezbollah's allies and Iranian political partners.

The danger of the conference does not lie in the fact that sectarian, racial and religious components of Arab societies are going to converge on Beirut to discuss religious or sectarian affairs but in the fact that its convening comes in the context of consolidating the political identity of these components in the light of the decline of the national identity in the Arab world and the breakdown of the Arab regional system and sense of belonging.

The Alliance of Minorities, as it is being prepared in Beirut, is the best cause for celebration in Iran today and a most heart-warming event for Israel. But it is also the biggest threat to national identities and Arab identity because the common denominator between the minorities invited to the Eastern Forum is their rejection of Arab qualification of their identity along with their feeling that the scourge of the region is the Arab majority and the Islamic majority.

This conference comes to say there is an oriental identity that extends from Beirut to Tehran and whose essential component is the Christian identity, with other minorities, be they religious or Islamic sects.