8 July 2014

Iraq's only crISIS... and Iran

.#ISIS. #Iraq. #IRN. @HJBentham. @PressTV. #geopolitics.

Western depictions of the violence in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq as sectarianism somehow aggravated by the US’s regional adversary, Iran, are based on ignorance and blindness.

An example of this depiction of Iran can be found in US Senator John McCain’s June 16 statement on Iraq, in which he alleged Iran is pursuing a “narrow sectarian agenda” in the ongoing conflict in Iraq. This, despite the fact that Iran has been supporting the forces maintaining Iraq’s territorial and social unity. This is the diametric opposite of a sectarian policy, and Iran has been calling for reconciliation in both Iraq and Syria.

Nothing the Islamic Republic of Iran has ever said or done has deliberately isolated and targeted Sunnis or any other religious group. It is just not consistent with Iranian politics and foreign policy. Iran is a pluralistic and tolerant state, perhaps meeting these descriptions better than any other state in the region at present. In fact, if Iran’s foreign policy can be described in any sectarian terms, it can only be described as pro-Muslim.

Speaking as a non-Muslim, I find Iran’s eagerness to support all Muslims in the world, regardless of their sect, very striking. It is this dedication to support all Muslims without discrimination over ethnicity or sect that has led the majority-Shia country into supporting the majority-Sunni Palestinians and thus provoking the Zionist hatred of Iran’s principles. This particular detail is worthy pointing out, because it means Iran’s support for Sunnis is the very factor drawing enmity from the West and Israel. How can a state so resolutely in favor of all Muslims be sectarian?

I would like other readers in the West to carefully consider what I have written, for a moment. Logically, we know a country cannot be simultaneously committed to supporting all Muslims around the world, and simultaneously be pursuing a violent sectarian agenda within Islam. Someone is obviously lying intensively on this issue.

The truth is, if Iran was truly sectarian, it would not currently have any dispute with the West and Israel, because it would not have any interest in the events in Palestine or the crimes of Zionism. It would have abandoned those issues entirely, because they do not directly concern Iranians or Shia themselves. Palestine, so far outside the geography of Iran, could be of no sectarian interest for Iran. Iran’s interest in that part of the word cannot be sectarianism or the cold expansion of Iranian power, because the fate of the Palestinians is irrelevant to any pure or realpolitik expansion of Iranian power in the region. Iran is compelled to support the Palestinians for the sake of defending the whole of Islam – there is no condition of compliance with Iranian interests or adherence to edicts from Iran attached.

To simultaneously claim that Iran’s support for the Palestinians and Iran’s supposed sectarianism are threats to the stability of the Middle East is not possible for anyone with any sense, because these two claims are mutually exclusive. It is impossible that Iran could be sectarian and motivated by narrow self-interest, and yet remain committed to supporting members of a distant group from another sect, at the cost of the immense Zionist hatred against Iran.

Iranian policy towards other Muslim countries and other Muslim sects is, if anything, based on altruism and a genuine desire for regional harmony. Unfortunately, many of those other Muslim countries’ policies are instead being determined by puppetry and servile obedience to the United States, which has involved itself in a crusade against Islam itself. These states export confusion, extremism, instability and self-destruction among Muslims, and they set Muslims against one another as part of a selfish game of geopolitical power that ignores Islam and human rights.

Even more obvious evidence shows that the idea of Iran being sectarian is false. Iran’s society is described in most university courses as unusually tolerant towards other cultures and religious groups. There are numerous communities from other faiths and other sects of Islam residing peacefully in Iran itself. Even the rabidly anti-Iranian press in the US and UK can find no significant examples of religious persecution occurring in Iran. No-one is persecuted or forced to adhere to Shia Islam. There are no Iranian Takfiris, excommunicating Muslims for not sharing their beliefs. Any competent analysis focused on Iranian culture, society and governance will reveal the same pluralistic and tolerant country.

Let us compare this with Saudi Arabia, a regional country which likes to accuse Iran of pursuing selfish sectarian goals. Saudi Arabia likes to see itself as a major power whose regional influence is being trodden on by Iran, but the contest exists only in Saudi Arabia’s fevered imagination. In reality, Saudi Arabia’s problem is not Iran, but its leaderless terrorist creations like the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who exist to nurture the delusions of Saudi influence and power.

In Saudi Arabia, Shia are persecuted, Jews are loathed, and Christians are put to death. Further, Saudi Arabia supports an entirely sectarian “uprising” supposedly by the Sunni minority against the Shia majority in Iraq, motivated by the sectarian obsession with attacking the Shia. In Iraq and Syria, there is a Takfiri power ideology stemming from the Saudi-backed militants claiming to represent all Sunnis. This, despite the fact that the majority of Sunnis do not support them. Even if the majority of Sunnis did support them, all that these barbaric factions would be doing is waging a sectarian campaign of genocide against the majority and the pluralist apparatus of the Iraqi state.

Now let us consider who is really promoting sectarianism in the region. Saudi Arabia’s rhetoric is blatantly anti-Shia. There is no doubt in anyone’s minds that Saudi Arabia has no respect for Shia or any desire to coexist with them, so we can forego any deeper analysis of Saudi Arabia here. Let us look at Israel and the United States. Do they worry about the sectarianism in the region? Well, what do they do to break the sectarian narrative? Nothing.

Officially, the United States and Israel do worry about sectarianism, portraying it as a threat to the region. But when US senators like John Barrasso are calling for Iraq to be divided, and Israel has thrown in its own rhetoric to support Kurdish independence, the real vultures of sectarianism are exposed. The social rifts in Iraq have been deliberately inflamed by the West and its regional puppet states at every turn. There is no limit to their encouragement of sectarianism. In fact, sectarianism is their sole narrative in Iraq, and they use the language of sectarianism to inflame the conflict.

A divided country, or an ISIS takeover of Baghdad, would be the ultimate degeneration into sectarianism in Iraq. The fall of Bashar al Assad would be the ultimate degeneration into sectarianism in Syria. The only reliable institutions against sectarianism in Syria and Iraq are those of the state. The only possible outcome of Iraq’s division or Assad’s ouster would be the dark explosion of ungoverned spaces, chaos and deepening sectarianism unless an alternate Islamic order could be formed in the interests of harmony. Supporting the state in both Syria and Iraq is the only reliable defense against sectarianism at the moment, and anyone who values the peace should recognize this.

Once a regime has taken the step of abandoning a pluralistic state and has handed authority to sectarian entities, it has supported sectarianism. At no point has Iran done so. The US and its allies are actually considering such national disintegration as a way of fuelling their own violent and divisive vision for the region.

When we view the claim about Iran being sectarian within the larger context of Iran’s support for the Palestinians and its commitments to unity and peace in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the claim is exposed as an intolerable lie. The only sectarianism in the region is unilateral, recklessly encouraged by the regional allies of the United States.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

Originally published at Press TV on 3 July 2014

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