Why Does the Shiite Axis Focus on Hostility to Israel?

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (left) founded the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. He hand-picked Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) as his successor for Supreme .Leader

By Ali Aziz:

Along with a religious and ethnic mosaic, the Islamic and Arab world is divided into numerous Islamic sects. There are two large sects that represent majority of Muslims: Sunnis and Shiites. The Sunnis are the majority, and according to many sources, the Sunnis constitute more than 85% of Muslims, while the Shiites constitute 10% or slightly more. This sorting has a long history that took shape since the beginnings of Islam, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

Briefly, after the death of the Prophet, most Companions, including Abu Bakr and Omar (the first two Caliphs) met in Saqifa (a place in Medina) and decided on the political system that the Umayyad and Abbasid empires had inherited, which later the Ottoman Turks became the inheritors of this Caliphate,extending over centuries. On the other hand, during the death of the Prophet, his cousin Ali bin Abi Talib, and some of their relatives, were busy shrouding the Prophet, and therefore they did not participate in the conference that was held in Saqifa, where Abu Bakr was appointed as the first Caliph of the Muslims, arranged by Omar and other companions who were originally from Mecca. Ali and his loyalists were not satisfied with the results of the conference and refused to acknowledge it, constituting an opposition to the resulting formation of the political system led by Abu Bakr, then Omar, and after them Othman (with whom the Umayyad Empire was established). Therefore, Ali became the first opponent of the Islamic Caliphate that was formed after the death of the Prophet. Ali’s family, implicitly the Prophet’s family, and those loyal to them, continued to oppose the political system throughout the ages and centuries. For this, Ali and his family paid a heavy price with their lives, as most of them were exterminated in extremely cruel and violent ways, most of them through assassinations. However, those loyal to the Prophet’s family (called Shiites) continued to oppose Islamic political system. However, Shiites formed powerful states and emirates too, but dominance remained with the Sunni states. Among the Shiite states come the Fatimid Ismaili state (annihilated by the Kurdish Ayyubid family), the Safavid empire (founded by a dynasty of Kurdish origin dating back to Sheikh Safi al-Din al-Ardabili, who was a Kurdish Shafi’i jurist), and currently the Islamic Republic of Iran as the most prominent political coronation station for the Shiites in history.

The Sunni countries were preoccupied with invasions and conflicts with the Romans, Persians, and later Crusader and then colonial Europe. These invasions and conflicts continued from the beginning of Islam until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the Ottoman Empire fell in October of 1923. This path created a noticeable and rich asset for the Sunnis, consolidating in them the belief that they are upon the correct path of Islam and the resistance to external forces. The Shiites, because of being subjected to oppression and persecution by Sunni states, and due to the conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites, the Shiites were unable to build a rich legacy in the conflict with external powers, especially Europeans. Most of the Shiite conflict and wars remained with the Sunni states, and a few of them were with external powers. This reality generated a historical-psychological complex among the Shiites which showed them among the Sunnis as a group complicit with external powers, forcing the Shiites to continually deny this accusation that was rooted in history. In contrast to this reality, and in our contemporary time, while Muslims and Arabs in general suffer from weakness and backwardness compared to the Western world, the Shiites, led by Iran, found an opportunity to correct this historical notion about them.

Two issues helped spread the distortion of the Shiite image. The first is that Iran is Persian and simultaneously the main hub for Shiites globally. This caused the Shiites historical hostility with the Arabs on a national level, and with the Sunnis on a sectarian level. The second is the cooperation of Iran and the Shiites with America to occupy Iraq in 2003. The year 2003, Khomeini’s slogan, “America is the Greatest Satan,” was subjected to severe ridicule, and then greatly diminished, making it lose credibility on the ground. Therefore, since 2003, Iran and the Shiites have been trying to correct the distortion and ridicule they were subjected to because of their support for America’s occupation of Iraq, an occupation that benefited them, as the Shiites took control of the government in Iraq that came under Iran’s influence.

There is an issue that we must pay attention to, which is that the concept of social shame with a major influence on the structures and circles of Eastern and Islamic societies. Social shame eliminates all the advantages of the individual and the group and exposes them to exclusion. Ultimately, this is what happened to the Shiites in Sunni circles. This shows us some aspects of the madness of the Shiites against Israel in the Palestinian issue. If something turns into a social or public phenomenon, not submitting to it, means excluding the objector from the public space and the acceptance, peace and harmony that comes under it. For example, most Muslims and Arabs sing praises about the Palestinian issue. In media and political circulation, it resembles hymns in holy temples. Who dares to stand against this psychological hegemony and oppose prayers in temples while they are held! For whoever dares to do so, will be exposed to alienation in a harmonious environment that rejects them and accuses of many charges such as disbelief, treason, and collaborating with enemies. Hence, the Shiites are very obsessed with removing the historical accusation that resembles a stigma, so we find their media talking with exaggerated enthusiasm about the Palestinian issue and what is happening in Gaza currently. This is because the Palestinian issue has become like sacred hymns in the temples, even if in reality is a great disaster for the people of the region and above all, the Palestinians. As long as this remains the case, everyone wants to invest in the Palestinian cause, and most of this investment passes through channels of hypocrisy that increase the region’s plight.

However, there is a political and international dimension in these contexts. Iran, which today is considered the political and military reference for the Shiites, has a very strong influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, with strong arms in other countries in its neighboring regions. Iran, with its current Shiite authority, crystallized in the wake of the Iranian revolution that struck the Shah of Iran in 1979. Since the Shah was known to Iranians, Arabs and Muslims, as America’s policeman, it was necessary for Khomeini, who led the revolution, to present himself in contrast to the Shah’s path (being America’s policeman), and this was the resounding slogan of Khomeini “America is the GreatestSatan.” The hostage crisis occurred at the beginning of the Iranian revolution, which established a tense relationship between Iran and America, a push and pull that continues to this day. In this context, Iran turned east, to the Soviet Union, China, and anti-Western countries, for political and media support, and to fulfill the need to acquire weapons in the eight-year war with Iraq. Although Iran benefited from Israel and America in obtaining weapons, Europe also did not hesitate to provide Iran with the required weapons, and for this and other broader goals, Europe turned a blind eye to the crimes Iran committed on European soil, such as the assassination of Iranian opposition leaders in Vienna (1989), Paris (1991), Berlin (1992). Iran’s power increased after America’s occupation of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), because Iran was the biggest beneficiary. Paradoxically, the tension and sensitivities in the relations between the two parties remained the same, and reached their peak when American planes bombed Qassem Soleimani and his assistant in Baghdad and killed them. However, the greatest crisis became like heavy clouds hovering in the sky between Tel Aviv and Tehran. Iran is the sponsor of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a supporter of the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad movements, Shiite militias and parties in Syria and Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen. Iran invests hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support these movements loyal to it. By supporting these movements, Iran is trying to achieve many goals, including:

First: Imposing its hegemony and influence in the region, through political and military arms that play important roles in the countries of the region.

Second: Imposing its conditions as much as possible regarding regional policy with influential and dominant parties, such as America and Israel, and to a lesser extent Turkey and European countries. These conditions are met by these parties in a way that serves their interests and the interests of Iran as a result.

Third: Exporting its crises beyond Iran’s borders, to cover up its many internal calamities, by heating up many fronts in the region that will cause major disasters. When there are disastrous examples in the region, such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine, Iran appears to be a stable and prosperous country by comparison in this miserable context.

Fourth: Sabotaging any political and economic project that would contribute to the stability, development, and prosperity of the countries of the Middle East, because that would diminish Iran’s standing and incite Iranians against the regime that suppresses their freedoms and increases their poverty and backwardness.

Fifth: Spreading the Shiite doctrine with the fanatical political tendencies of the Iranian ruling hierarchy, hostile to the countries and components of the region. Spreading the Shiite doctrine gives strength and cultural and media momentum to the many wings and parties supported by Iran in the countries of the region.

Sixth: Consolidating the relationship with Russia and China and benefiting from their conflict with the West, to gain support in confronting the Western project in the Middle East region. In this field, America has contributed to strengthening Iran’s political and military position on more than one occasion, for example, in 2003, when it overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime and handed Iraq over to the Shiite parties loyal to Iran, and in 2011, when it allowed Iran to play a major role in supporting Bashar Al-Assad’s regime against the Arab Spring in Syria, and in 2017, America and Britain colluded in handing over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to the Iranian Quds Force and Iraqi Shiite militias, after it was under the control of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

Seventh: Taking control of the Palestinian issue, so that Iran appears to be the sole sponsor of this issue, coinciding with showing the countries of the region as complicit with Israel or traitors to the Palestinian issue, which has turned in the collective mind of the region into a sacred issue, and has gradually begun to lose its sacred status in the last two decades, especially after the Arab Spring. In this arena, and among the desired goals, Iran and the Shiites are trying to correct some of the common historical concepts about them, such as their cooperation with external powers against the Islamic world.

Playing with the Palestinian issue on the religious and political tracks (international relations) is like a fig leaf that covers Iranian private parts for a while. But this card will inevitably fall, and it is just a matter of time. However, the impression left by history, that the Shiites colluded with external powers, is difficult to remove from the collective memory of the region’s history. Whether this is true or a historical fallacy, it is Iran and its arms that contributed to consolidating this concept in the region, due to wrong policies, full of contradictions, and the evil with which the Middle East region has been suffering since 1979 and to this day. The anti-Israel policy falls within these contradictions, the results of which we see today in Gaza, where disasters are affecting the people of Gaza, after they struck Israeli civilians who were not at fault. The axis of Iran and the Shiites, after the international changes following the Ukraine war and the escalation of the China-American conflict, has become a serious threat to Israel due to the emergence of new international poles, which have begun to draw new features in international relations, as America’s grip has begun to loosen, declaring that the unipolarity in international relations has begun to fade after remaining dominant in the last three decades. Iran, which leads the Shiites, will preserve its existing empire, and one of the pillars of this preservation is to stand against Israel and fight it (because Israel is an important axis in the Western alliance), as long as there are international powers (Russia and China) that support Iran’s back as an opponent of Israel. Iran has no other choice but to play this role because it has fallen into this axis with imperatives that Iran has no will and power to decide. Importantly, standing against Israel will undoubtedly be subject to the requirements of international relations. Iran’s interests as a centre for Shiites in the world, is to mobilize them to keep this centre alive and protected from the danger of collapse. This context does not care about the Palestinians if they are pawns or free victims, increasing the profits of others, and extending the life of their catastrophe in the series of catastrophes that afflict their generations.

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