Opinion

Op-Ed

The Expansionist Role of Iran

World powers are known to advocate a policy of "divide and conquer," a military strategy that relies on the theory that nations broken into lawless entities are prone to fall into control of expansionist nations.

As we know, the twenty-first century is a period that has been replete with political advancements and shortcomings alike. An activist may agree that one such avenue of discussion is that of the expansionist role of government in today's war-stricken atmosphere. Take for instance, the role that Iran is proposing to play in Iraq as of this year. In January, Iran inexplicitly revealed that it will try to bring about increasing economic and military ties with Iraq.

Let us begin by reviewing the political structure of Iran. In 1979 the Republic, under Constitution, named Ayatollah Sayyid Rudolph Musavi Khomeini as "faqih" and ultimate decision maker. The executive branch included an elected president responsible for selecting prime minister and cabinet, which had to be approved and re-examined periodically by parliament, or a congressional Majlis (an elected legislative assembly). There was a Judiciary independent of both executive and Majlis. Iran's Council of Guardians, consisting of six religious scholars appointed by faqih and six lawyers approved by Majlis, ensured conformity of legislation with Islamic law. On this account, most Western nations consider Iran a threat to world peace — a superficial concept that I have never understood.

Moreover, each county in Iran has a clerical "imam jomeh" chosen from among its senior clergy. Now here is one of the organizational features that are in turn sometimes perceived by Western nations as a threat: this senior clergy actually serves as a direct representative of the faqih. In my opinion, democracy works at the level of the people, whether rule is by religious clerics or liberal politicians. There is no reason for Westerners to fear this privilege just because it exists in Iran; it is not affecting the people living outside of Iran in any expansionist way.

The political scheme drawn up after the fall of Saddam Hussein created concern regarding the potentially dangerous strategic grip soon to be lost by Iran. In response, Iran has adapted a defense strategy that basically represents a major expansion of the country's military strength. President Ahmadinejad has since increased the defense budget, which was already partnered with other powers such as Russia and China. The military changes that Iran has undertaken have caused it to be able to reach further into the Gulf region and possibly control the export of oil. A giant new military framework would counter any expansionist ideas that the United States and its allies have been engaged in since 2003.

The American obliteration of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan had already sheltered the pro-Western and rather sensitive government of Kabul. Though the Sunni factions in Afghanistan seemed somewhat of a threat, Iran would be more upset if the United States crossed the eastern border. Therefore any significant power changes in Baghdad (or even Afghanistan for the matter) would cause Iran to think it could be caught in between the Iraq and its neighbors well before it might be actively involved in the war. Iraq's resultant failure to reconstruct can therefore be used as an excuse for the United States to alter Iran's internal structure.

The possibility of civil warfare and fragmentation

Iran can however become more aggressive than what many may think at the present time. There could be militia and arms supplied to a wider group of ethnic Iraqis than most critics currently perceive. For all we know, Iran could be transforming peaceful areas of Iraq into civil battlegrounds. However, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Feb. 13: "[This] does not translate to that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in [supplying arms,]."

World powers are known to advocate a policy of "divide and conquer," a military strategy that relies on the theory that nations broken into lawless entities are prone to fall into control of expansionist nations. If the entire Middle East is divided into smaller ethnic or sectarian mini-states due to Iran's actions for instance, which would include not only large stateless nationalities like the Kurds, but also the Maronite Christians, Druze, Arab Shiites, a direct threat would be presented to Pan-Arab nationalism. Numerous factions will have joined with tribal, urban, and rural settings for many generations.

The risks with Iran are notable and stakes are getting higher by the year. Therefore, even a small change in the local Iraqi government, such as creating a new ethnic or sectarian state, would most likely result in forced population transfers, genocide, and other types of suffering. The Los Angeles Times stated on Feb. 26, "The outlines of a future Iraq are emerging: a nation where power is scattered among clerics turned warlords; control over schools, hospitals, railroads, and roads is divided along sectarian lines, and foreign powers exert influence only over a weak central government."

I am quite sure the present situation of the Iraq War is already under fervent discussion in local Tehran municipalities and expert assemblies. In the midst of an ideal "divide and conquer" scenario conducted by the United States towards Iran, Sunni Arabs in Iran would be restrained from supporting Iraqi Sunnis. Iranian factions may not just stand by and watch Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shiite militia force Sunni Arabs out of the region. If Iran expands its operations into the region because of this, then thousands, if not millions, of refugees will be spilling out of Iraq and into parts of Syria, Jordan and other Middle Eastern nations.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Naheed Ali.

Advertise with Worldpress.org