Not Slowing Down (Extract)

01ehud (do not publish again) (photo credit: Avi Katz)
01ehud (do not publish again)
(photo credit: Avi Katz)
Extract of an article in Issue 1, April 28, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Iran is steadily gaining ground. Under cover of the challenge its ongoing efforts to obtain nuclear weapons presents, Iran is acquiring positions of influence in its surroundings, almost without any hindrance. It is gradually realizing its goal of becoming the Middle East's "Big Brother." Achievements that Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi could have only dreamed about at the height of his power in the 1970s are now being racked up by the Islamic revolutionary regime that deposed him, and the list is growing longer by the month. In neighboring Iraq, the Iranians are systematically moving towards the status of patron of the rival camps that comprise the Shi'ite majority. In private conversations, senior figures in the Shi'ite leadership have told me that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad is considered to be a man who wouldn't dare disobey orders from Tehran. True, he is careful to cooperate with the Americans but at key points, he heeds the "advice" from Iran. Even the Ayatollah Sistani, today the leading "model to emulate" for Shi'ite believers, despite all his efforts to maintain his independence and his refusal to bow down before the Khomeini doctrine of the rule of the jurisprudent is being more careful than ever not to tangle with Iranian emissaries to the Shi'ite's holy city of Najaf. And Muqtada al-Sadr, the frenetic leader of the biggest mass movement in Iraq, the "Sadri Current" and its militia, the Mahdi's army, is slowly being maneuvered into the status of an Iranian client. Add to this the fact that for years, the heads of the Badr Force have derived their power from Tehran's backing. The upshot of all this is that Iran maintains a wide and expanding network in Iraq. The cease-fire in the battle between the forces sent by Maliki and the Mahdi's army for control of Basra and the mid-Euphrates region was brokered by the shadowy but formidable figure of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. This established Iran as the ultimate arbitrator of Shi'ite affairs in southern Iraq, from Basra in the south to the outskirts of Baghdad. A kind of "Pax Iranica" is taking shape there, within which the Iranians are preventing the emergence of any independent central force of the Shi'ites in Iraq as they manipulate the rival factions, each of which depends on their assistance. The United States is behaving as if it has concluded that it is better to tolerate this pattern of Iranian domination, as long as the volume of violence and terror declines significantly. Thus, the Iranians won the battle for Basra, without having to shoot a single shot of their own. The Iranians have made progress in Lebanon, too. With the generous assistance of Syria, since the end of the 2006 war and throughout the subsequent cease-fire, they have restored Hizballah's military strength and equipped it with the no fewer than 40,000 missiles and rockets that now cover the whole of Israel. With money from Iran, Hizballah has built a new series of fortified perimeters and roads north of the Litani River in semi-divisional configuration. On the basis of this reality, Iran is continuing - together with Syria and using Hizballah as its tool - to prevent the resolution of Lebanon's severe constitutional crisis, by sabotaging the election of a new president as long as Tehran's terms remained unfulfilled; those terms would mean the transformation of Lebanon into an Iranian-Syrian client state. The threat of Hizballah marching on the presidential palace and staging a quick coup in cooperation with Christian general Michel Aoun is still real. Another Iranian success has been Syria's choice to strengthen its alliance with Tehran, despite its standard rhetoric about wanting peace with Israel and the tempting proposals of the United States and the European Union. President Bashar Asad is in fact changing his position, from that of a partner with Iran, as his father was, to that of a lackey of Tehran. And so, the Iranian foreign minister, Manoucher Mottaki was invited to the Arab League "summit" in Damascus, while the parley was boycotted by the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, among others. This was a silent declaration of a resumption of the cold war within the Arab world and, therefore, an important victory for Iran and its efforts to prevent the formation of a moderate Arab axis that would try to thwart its goals. Extract of an article in Issue 1, April 28, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.