Asharq Alawsat – In both the Arab and Western worlds, voices are becoming louder saying that the power or influence of Iran in the region, specifically in Iraq, is in decline. These attitudes have emerged with the announcement by Washington to withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of this year. In order to determine whether the Iranian role is truly in decline, we must ask the fundamental question: Where does Iran’s power lie?
If we know the true nature of Iran’s power in Iraq, or the region, then we can gauge whether its influence has actually declined or not. To answer this question, the real power of Iran lies in subversion, through Shiite militias in Iraq and other Shiite religious parties affiliated to Iran in Iraq and the wider region, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Huthis in Yemen and al-Wefaq in Bahrain, alongside other groups, whether in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia and so on. The strength of Iran throughout the reign of its ruling regime after the Khomeini Revolution does not lie in Iran’s economy or culture, or what is known as “soft power”. It does not even lie in its military capabilities, for example, but rather its subversion. When Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Salehi, in an interview with this newspaper, defended the commander of the Quds Force, General Qasim Sulaimani, saying that he does not possess the staff of Moses in Iraq, especially against 150,000 U.S. soldiers, this is typical of the Iranian political premise. The U.S. forces’ objective is to impose security and order in Iraq, whilst the objective of Iran’s Quds Force is to create unrest and chaos. As the proverb says: “a stone thrown by one crazy person can hinder the work of hundreds”. The Iranian stone thrower is not crazy, but the objective is clear, namely to fragment the Iraqis and ignite the flames of sectarian strife between them. Here we find the answer to a specific question which is: Why have pilots, university professors, political elites and tribal leaders been targeted, ever since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, alongside those who objected to al-Qaeda such as Abu Risha, and even national Iraqi Shiite leaders, such as [Abdul Majid] al-Khoei?
Of course, there is nothing in this story that comes as a surprise. Anyone who follows Iran’s methods in the region finds that Iran’s power lies not in its arsenal of weapons, nor in its economic or cultural soft power. Iran is not the America, China or even Turkey of the region, Iran’s power lies in its sabotage. We must remember that those who seek to destroy are unlike those who seek to build. The Iranian regime intentionally exploits sectarian sentiments in the region, and builds alliances on that basis, but Tehran does not hesitate to even exploit Sunni fundamentalist groups in the region, including al-Qaeda. The objective of Iran in the region, and specifically the Arab world, is not construction but demolition, and the difference is clear and large.
Thus, all indications before us say that the danger of Iran is still present, because Iran’s goal is clear and simple. It seeks to negotiate with the West within the confines of Tehran’s influence, within the region that it exploits, and the issues it manipulates. Iran is strengthening its trump card to negotiate with the West, nothing more, nothing less.
We must always remember that from the Khomeini Revolution until this day, Tehran has not provided any successful model of cooperation between Iran and the region, whether economically or even culturally. Iran’s mission is subversion, and this is the engine behind its power.