The shrinking of Iran’s expansionist project
Contrary to what some people might believe, Iran didn’t come out victorious in Syria. The reality tells a different story: Iran has contributed to the destruction of Syria rather than bringing it back to life. Iran is an accomplice in the project aiming at ripping Syria apart and nothing more.
The reality shows that Iran’s crisis is not limited to Syria but includes the slow death of Iran’s expansionist project. This is why Iran is trying to take advantage of the referendum in Kurdistan to breathe life into its project. Iran wants to turn the Kurdish referendum into an excuse to tighten its grip on Iraq through its sectarian militias within the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).
These militias are tools by which Iran wants to control the future of the region. Iran’s game plan is no longer a secret despite having the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the Iraqi parliament use the war on the Islamic State (ISIS) as an excuse to confer legitimacy on the PMF.
ISIS was simply one of the weapons of the Iranian and Syrian secret services. There were two objectives behind its creation: Allowing the Syrian regime to look like it was fighting terrorism and finding a use for the PMF as a replacement for the legitimate Iraqi Army. This is how we can explain why the government of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which was totally subservient to Iran, handed on a silver platter the city of Mosul to ISIS in June 2014.
Iran has no alternative model to offer to countries it wishes to enlist except that of its own Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The religious oligarchy in Iran has not trusted the regular Iranian Army since the fall of the shah in 1979. So the IRGC took over the army’s role.
In 1980, when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein engaged in all-out war with Iran, little did he know that he had given the Khomeini regime the perfect excuse to keep the army out of Iranian cities and on the front. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini feared the army and did everything to replace it with the IRGC.
The militias created by Iran in the region are clones of IRGC. Iran’s expansionist plans are contingent on replicating the IRGC everywhere. The best example is Hezbollah in Lebanon. This party has subjugated most of the Shia population in Lebanon and is constantly trying to dictate its will, and that of Iran of course, on the Lebanese government. Lebanon continues to resist the culture of death brought in by Hezbollah and life always triumphs in Lebanon.
In Syria, Iran did its best to plant its sectarian militias everywhere. It was an accomplice to the Syrian regime in its campaigns against the major Syrian cities. The cities were targeted because they were, first and foremost, Sunni cities. Iran contributed to the regime’s actions to fundamentally change the nature of Damascus. These were actions against life itself in an open-ended war.
In Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and two Shia personalities, Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim, openly expressed annoyance with Iran. Baghdad decided to get close to the Arab countries and Saudi Arabia in particular.
Iran is taking advantage of the general outcry against the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan to try to recapture the initiative in Iraq. The truth is that Iran will not be able to triumph over the Kurds, not even the Kurds of Iran. The latter openly celebrated along with their Iraqi cousins the referendum result. It was proof that the regime of the Islamic Republic is far from working for the well-being of all Iranians. It’s a dictatorship with no future. Who can guarantee that there is a new supreme leader for Iran once Ali Khamenei is gone?
Iran is doomed to fail in Syria and in Yemen as well. Its proxies in Yemen, the Houthis, are finding nothing better to do than to bug their ally, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
For its expansionist project to work, Iran will need more than its death-obsessed sectarian militias, more than American complicity and definitely more than its alliance with Russia for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s sake.
No matter how wily Iranian leaders are and no matter how much they hate the Arabs, they can never win hearts with what they are offering. Iran is good at destroying but has nothing to offer instead. It is only natural that its expansionist plan is shrinking.
A country in which half of the population lives under the poverty line can only offer death, hollow slogans and controversy. Consider Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s latest speech in which he called upon Jews “to leave occupied Palestine and return to their countries of origin to avoid becoming fodder for the upcoming war. They might not have enough time to leave.”
Is this really the time for this kind of discourse, which harks back to pre-1967? Can these sectarian militias still claim victory for Iran?
Iran’s expansionist project is dead and Lebanon is the only country left where Iran can flex its muscles. Nasrallah might be able to turn it into an Iranian colony after all.