Track Persia, July 23, 2017

The defeat of Islamic State (IS/ISIS) in Iraq, Syria and Libya has featured a new world order for the US, its allies in the Middle East, Russia and Iran.

The liberation of Iraq’s Mosul by Iraq’s armed forces begun in October 2016 and backed by US-led strikes and American ground troops guiding the effort on July 3, 2017, led to defeat ISIS with only about 150 sq. metres in the city’s oldest part still being held by a limited number of the terrorists. By then, however, ISIS had begun losing its base in the vast Raqqa region, north-eastern Syria – where the rapidly advancing Kurdish/Arab fighters, under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The latter  receive far more help of US-led air-strike and American combat troops than in the case of Iraq’s armed forces.

With this retreat, the extremist group  is predicted it will target Russia as its next sphere of influence, but this is yet to be confirmed by facts. The group is reported to have been focusing on South-East Asia led by its base in the Philippines.

President Donald Trump’s May 19-27 tour of Riyadh produced the Riyadh Declaration which for what he called an alliance against Iran and its axis in the world.

The Arab region is a key part of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, as well as being the heart of the Muslim world whose population is estimated 1,6bn spread across the five continents of our plant.

A new order in the Arab region is regulated by the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), a 57-state institution- headquartered in Jeddah and headed by a prominent Saudi official- in which Iran is the only Shiite member. The OIC is the world’s second largest organisation next to the UN.

The new order’s symbolic base is the Hijaz, the heart of Islam, which is one of humanity’s main religions. The Hijaz hosts two of Islam’s three holiest centres, Mecca and Medina. The third centre is in the Old City of Jerusalem, which hosts the holiest sites for Christianity, Islam and the global Jewry.

The current tensions in the Middle East have raised fears of racial wars potentially more dangerous than sectarian conflicts. The most dangerous of these is the Arab-Persian conflict which rans far deeper that the Islamic Sunni-Shi’i divide. The roots of the Arab-Persian dates back to ancient times.

Current Arab-Persian disputes reflect one of history’s oldest racial conflicts – the main cause of the Sunni-Shi’i divide, just as the Ottoman-Safawi conflict had been caused by Turkic-Persian wars.

Most Shi’i Arabs regard Iran’s Safawi theocracy as an enemy because they believe its Safawism is a mere cover for Persian control and ultimately destruction of Arabism. Many Iranians keep behaving as if they never forgot that Islam destroyed Persia’s great Zoroastrian civilisation.

Islam, founded in the 7th century AD by the Arab Prophet Muhammad, only reached Persia after the Arab conquest of the Sassanids’ Neo-Persian Empire in the 650s AD. Persia fell under the occupation of Arabs who converted the Zoroastrians into Islam. It was after anti-Arab activism in Persia that the Safawi movement at the turn of the 16th century converted the nation into Shi’i Islam of the Ja’fari (Twelver) school.

The ensuing Safawi Empire had conquered much of the Middle East, despite wars with the Ottoman Empire which by then had held the Sunni Caliphate. Against the latter’s objective of ultimately controlling the world, the Safawis established a universal Safawi  version of Shi’i theocracy which eventually collapsed.

The Safawi theocracy, however, was revived in the early 1980s by  Ayatollah Khomeini who died in June 1989 and his successor and Iran’s current Supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.  Iran’s theocracy has since emphasised its universal ambitions but focused more on Iran’s  objectives in the Middle East, actively pursued by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which also holds Iran’s nuclear- and missile-development ambitions.

Sunni Arabs and liberal Shi’i Arabs are suspicious of Iran’s nuclear goal, despite the 2015 deal, and see it as Iran’s geo-strategic need to control the world as called for by its Safawism and ancient Persia. Therefore, the ambition now is to control as much as it can in the Middle East. IRGC’s first targets are Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen which Iranian regime called Iran’s “external provinces”. This ambition has long put Iran on the course of collision with some Arab countries, in particular, Saudi Arabia, which leads IOC’s Sunni front – i.e. about 95% of all Muslims. And even Shi’ism was founded by an Arab: the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali bin Abi Taleb, who was the first of the semi-divine Imams for the Shia and the fourth Caliph of the Sunni Muslims.

There are also fears of wars between ethnic communities sharing common racial roots, such as long-simmering conflicts between Kurds and Persians who share an Aryan stock, or territorial disputes among Turkic groups having the same Mongoloid roots.

The Kurds are mostly Sunni and number up to 40m, with a language and culture making them distinct from the Arabs, Turks and Persians. They are often seen as a threat by the countries they inhabit – mainly in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Now Iraq’s Kurdistan wants independence, the main threat to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Even now, after Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with the US-led 5+1 powers, Iran has claims over parts of Arab lands, Turkic-dominated Central Asia and the Caucasus. Many Persians regard Azerbaijan part of Iran. The petroleum-rich Republic of Azerbaijan’s name is Persian, meaning “the land of holy fire” as taught by the Prophet Zoroaster who was born there around 660-580 BC. Ancient residents there then spoke Azari, the Persian branch of the Indo-European language, and belonged to the Aryan race. The Azaris were later Turkified by invaders of the Seljuk empire. In the 11th century AD, with Seljukid conquests, Turkic Oghuz tribes began moving across the Iranian plateau into the Caucasus and Anatolia. The influx of the Oghuz and other Turkic tribes was further accentuated by the Mongol invasion. Then, the Oghuz tribes were split into various groups. Some mostly Sunni moved to Anatolia while others remained in the Caucasus. Now there is also a territorial dispute over a petroleum-rich area in the Caspian Sea between Baku and Tehran.

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.