Opinion

Claims Iran is not an aggressor refuted by the facts

Claims Iran is not an aggressor refuted by the facts

Author
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's regime has a long history of aggression. (AFP)

Iranian politicians have repeatedly insisted that Iran has not started a war or invaded any other country in centuries. They claim that the last war waged by Iran was in the 18th century, when it invaded India under Nader Shah. These statements are made to highlight the claim that Iran seeks peace and is not an aggressor. Responding to comments by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Iran’s belligerence, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in September tweeted that Iran is a “millennia-old nation that hasn’t attacked anyone for centuries.” Similarly, Zarif claimed in a 2016 Twitter post that Iran hasn’t attacked any other country in 250 years.
This article aims to decisively refute these false claims in order to expose the Iranian regime’s typically underhanded and deliberate play on words. I will focus on the theocratic regime that took power after the popular 1979 revolution that toppled the shah. Almost immediately after the revolution, the Iran-Iraq War broke out, lasting for eight years from 1980 to 1988. Although Iran claims that the Iraqi regime was responsible for starting the conflict, realities suggest that this war was planned before the revolution and was instigated by the Iranian side. There are undisputed historical incidents proving this. 
The war with Iraq served many objectives for the theocratic regime in Tehran, in particular to “export the Iranian revolution” and its hard-line ideology to neighboring countries, as well as to heighten Iranian nationalism and impede the growth of any domestic resistance — opposition had begun to grow soon after the clerics took power, as they failed to fulfill the promises they had made to the Iranian people. For the then-Supreme Leader and founder of the “Islamic Republic” Ruhollah Khomeini, this war was a perfect opportunity, which he was keen not to waste despite regional attempts to end the conflict very early on. 
Throughout the war, Khomeini continued repeating the slogan that “the road to Jerusalem passes through Karbala” — a clear indication that the Iranian regime was attempting to occupy Iraq and Jordan in order to reach the occupied Palestinian territories and annex those as well. Eight long years after the bloody conflict began, Khomeini, having failed to achieve his goal, was forced to sign an agreement to bring the war to an end. He said that acceding to this agreement was akin to “drinking the cup of poison.” This war of attrition led Iranian politicians to realize that it would be impossible for them to export the Iranian revolution via the army or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) alone. 

All these militias across the region are fully controlled by and take their orders from Iran, receiving financial, military and logistical support.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

As a result, the leaders looked for alternative strategies to achieve their expansionist project in the Arab region. One possibility emerged with a theory devised by Mohammed-Javad Larijani entitled, “The Theory of Umm Al-Qura.” This suggested that the city of Qom be designated as the global Islamic capital and Tehran as the political capital of the Islamic world. Unfortunately for the regime, this theory was stillborn in terms of practice and implementation: There was and is no way to convince 1.5 billion Muslims around the world to accept Qom as an alternative to the sacred Islamic capital of Makkah. Without being able to achieve this ambitious objective, the aim of making Tehran the political capital of the Islamic world could only be a daydream. 
The Iranian leadership wasted no time in coming up with a new strategy: Shiite geopolitics. This depended on exploiting Shiite minorities in the Arab world to help implement the regime’s expansionist agenda; with this strategy achieving significant success in Lebanon via Hezbollah. Tehran worked to recreate the Lebanese Hezbollah model in several other countries, including Hezbollah Al-Hejaz, the Wefaq militias and others in Bahrain, and some of the more easily influenced clans in Yemen, notably the Houthis. Iran’s regime enlisted the services of Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi and then his two sons Hussein and Abdel-Malik. After the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Iran worked to establish several militias there. It also formed militias in Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Nigeria. 
The foremost mission of these militias is to implement the Iranian expansionist project in the Arab region. Through the use of these proxy militias, Iran kills two birds with one stone. As well as providing the regime with a useful pressure card, these sectarian militias destabilize targeted countries, weaken their social fabric and play on sectarian fault lines. These militias also provide Iran’s regime with “plausible deniability,” enabling it to avoid direct blame for their nefarious activities. This strategy is also less costly than relying on the Iranian army. More importantly, from the regime’s perspective, it avoids risking Iranian lives as it did during the Iran-Iraq War. Instead it uses gullible Arabs to kill fellow Arabs and serve the Iranian expansionist project under different guises. 
All these conclusively proven facts affirm without a doubt that the Iranian regime’s claims, promoted by its officials and affiliated media, that it has not invaded any nation or initiated aggression in centuries are false and a distortion of realities on the ground. All these militias across the region are fully controlled by and take their orders from Iran, receiving financial, military and logistical support, as well as training from the IRGC, as part of the regime’s larger plan for regional expansionism.
Some years ago, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, admitted that the movement is a part of the Islamic Republic of Iran under the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, i.e., the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Recently, Nasrallah admitted that the movement’s edibles, salaries and weapons all come from Iran. Furthermore, a senior commander within the IRGC, Nasser Shabani, admitted that the Iranian regime had asked the Houthis to target two Saudi ships in the Arabian Sea, which they did. Similarly, Watheq Al-Battat, who heads the so-called Hezbollah in Iraq, said recently that, if a war breaks out between Iraq and Iran, “I will be on the side of Iran.”
One of the Iranian regime’s senior regional agents is Iraq’s Hadi Al-Amiri, a close associate of Qassem Soleimani and who now heads Iraq’s Badr Organization. Al-Amiri led an IRGC infantry regiment during the Iran-Iraq War and subsequently became a senior official in the IRGC’s intelligence department, taking part in its Badr operations in 1985. Al-Amiri also took over managing the Iranian regime’s movements inside Iraq under Soleimani’s guidance and, until recently, occupied a senior position within the Popular Mobilization Units, the Iraqi edition of the IRGC.
Bearing in mind all of the aforementioned facts and given the Iranian regime’s more overt involvement in ongoing regional wars, such as in Syria and Yemen, can the Iranian regime seriously claim that it has never invaded any country or initiated aggression in centuries? The answer to this is up to the honorable readers. 

  • Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Iran spy agency leaks reveal Tehran’s ‘horrifying’ grip on Iraq

The leaked documents reveal the unique role of Qasem Soleimani in Iran's aggressive policy to dominate Iraq. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 19 November 2019

Iran spy agency leaks reveal Tehran’s ‘horrifying’ grip on Iraq

  • Leaks ‘provide cast-iron case against Soleimani and associates for complicity in war crimes,’ Mideast expert says
  • The new reports served to confirm the sentiment of protesters across Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south

JEDDAH: Hundreds of leaked Iranian intelligence documents have shed light on a shadow war for regional influence.
Monday’s reports on a trove of leaked cables expose Tehran’s vast influence in Iraq, detailing the painstaking efforts of Iranian spies to co-opt Iraqi leaders and infiltrate every aspect of political life. Tehran’s influence has fueled ongoing anti-government protests in Iraq.

The trove consists of roughly 700 pages of reports and cables written mainly in 2014 and 2015 by officers in Iran’s version of the CIA who were based in Iraq.
“These documents are horrifying,” Baria Alamuddin, a writer and expert in Middle Eastern affairs, told Arab News.
“Yet in a sense there’s almost nothing here that Iraq experts didn’t know very well already: That most of Iraq’s leadership, whatever their affiliation, is wholly in Iran’s pocket; that Iran bankrolled the mass murder and sectarian cleansing of sizable areas of Iraq under the pretense of fighting Daesh; and that Iran today is bribing Iraqi politicians in order to extend its dominance over the Iraqi economy. None of this is any longer deniable.”

The documents were sent anonymously to The Intercept, which shared them with the New York Times. Both publications verified the documents’ authenticity but do not know who leaked them.
In encrypted messages, the anonymous source said he or she wanted to “let the world know what Iran is doing in my country Iraq.”
Rahman Al-Jobouri, a senior fellow at the Institute of Regional and International Studies at the American University of Iraq Sulaimani, told Arab News: “Nothing new has been revealed by the New York Times’ report. The men of the Iraqi government are openly associated with Iran.”

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He said: “Actually, some of them consider Iran their first state, and any action they do (in its favor) is legitimate and legal, and nothing should be hidden from it.”
The leaked documents “are introductions to penalties that would be imposed on certain persons,” he added.
“It’s also a message sent by the US to say everything is being monitored by us in Iraq. We watch and use the information as and when we need.”
Alamuddin said the evidence “provides a cast-iron case against (Iranian Maj. Gen.) Qassim Soleimani and his associates for complicity in war crimes, in addition to recent evidence about his oversight of the deliberate killings of Iraqi protestors.”
She added: “Iraqis deserve to see these figures hauled before the International Criminal Court, perhaps in addition to the establishment of a special commission to investigate Iran’s role in sponsoring paramilitary violence and compromising the sovereign independence of multiple Arab states.”
Alamuddin said: “The only question here is what the world will do with this information — from the horse’s mouth — which provides irrefutable proof of Iran’s ambitions to dominate the entire region.”

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Palestinian strawberry farmers hope for rich pickings as export markets open up this season

Updated 5 min 44 sec ago

Palestinian strawberry farmers hope for rich pickings as export markets open up this season

  • “This season may be different in terms of production volume and quality.”

BEIT LAHIA/GAZA: Farming in the Gaza Strip can be unpredictable at the best of times, but for strawberry grower Akram Abu Khousa years of toil under Israeli restrictions are starting to bear fruit.

The Palestinian farmer is celebrating the success of the first major export of his crop from Gaza to Gulf markets, business he hopes will compensate him and his fellow growers after years of heavy financial losses suffered due to Israeli blockades and restrictions on border trade crossings.

“Over past years we have faced problems with marketing, which was almost confined to the local market. This forced us to reduce prices significantly and inflicted heavy losses on us, as a result of the deteriorating economic situation in the Gaza Strip,” Abu Khousa told Arab News.

“This season may be different in terms of production volume and quality.”

The blockade imposed by Israel following the success of Hamas in the second Palestinian legislative elections in early 2006, led to huge losses for strawberry farmers, and caused the areas of cultivated land to be reduced to only 450 dunums (111 acres) in 2015.

However, Israel increased the export allowance in 2017, reviving hopes among farmers of a more prosperous future.

The strawberry harvest season begins in early December and continues until the end of March.

This year Abu Khousa planted an area of more than eight dunums (almost 2 acres) of strawberries in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, seven dunums of which were in the traditional way and one using hanging pots.

“The trend for hanging planting has increased the rate of production. One dunum cultivated in the modern way gives more than three times the traditional cultivation,” he said.

The soil and climate of Beit Lahia contain characteristics that distinguish the area from the rest of the Palestinian lands, making it ideal for the cultivation of high-quality strawberries.

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The blockade imposed by Israel led to huge losses for strawberry farmers, and caused the areas of cultivated land to be reduced to only 450 dunums in 2015.

At the beginning of December, Abu Khousa and other strawberry farmers began the process of harvesting and exporting their crops to West Bank cities. The Ministry of Agriculture had asked them for samples, and after testing their quality, the daily average of trucks allowed to leave Gaza was determined by the Israeli side.

The price of 1 kilo of strawberries locally, usually at the beginning of the season, was about 10 shekels (nearly $3), but gradually decreased, reaching four shekels at peak periods.

“If the export process does not continue, we will suffer a major setback and loss,” added Abu Khousa. He pointed out that local sales did not cover the basic cost of production.

He noted that the vast experience of the farmers of Beit Lahia made them capable of producing crops to meet strict international specifications.

The strawberry season provides hundreds of work opportunities during harvest times, helping to alleviate high unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip.

According to the latest data from the Palestinian Statistics Center, jobless rates were running at 53 percent, and 67 percent among youth.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, Adham Al-Basyouni, told Arab News: “Israel has tried over the years of the blockade to control the export of strawberry products in particular, because it knows that it is one of the distinct crops that come out to the West Bank and European and Arab markets.”

The success of the experimental export of strawberries — which included 8 tons going to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — had been a major boost for farmers and the local economy in Gaza, said Al-Basyouni, and he hoped it would be a prelude to further shipments of strawberries and other crops.

Strawberries are exported through Kerem Shalom, the only commercial crossing in the Gaza Strip, and then moved on to Jordan via King Hussein Bridge, and from there to the Gulf states.

The director of the Agricultural Cooperative Society in Beit Lahia, Mohamed Ghaben, said: “Gaza strawberries have very high-quality specifications and compete with the global product.”

There were 1,700 dunums planted with strawberries this season, compared to 1,100 dunums last season, and he expected production levels this time round to reach 5,000 tons, half of which were planned for export, he said.

The cultivation of strawberries in the Gaza Strip began at the end of the 1960s, with an experimental area estimated at one-and-a-half acres, and after achieving remarkable success, it gradually expanded until it reached 2,500 dunums in 2005.