Despite the fact that Iran’s official policy is to spread conflict and chaos, Iran does not undertake wars by itself. The last war fought by the Iranian armed forces was against Iraq, and it ended in 1988. The new regime in Tehran dragged the remnants of the defeated Shah’s forces into that war to get rid of them. After the revolution, Iran’s army started to take its orders from the ayatollahs, who distrust the army and do not recognize military ranks because they respect only the religious hierarchy. Then, all the battles led by Tehran’s regime were entrusted to cells, networks and intruders, such as Lebanese and Iraqi Hezbollah, Yemeni Ansar Allah, Afghan Fatimids, and dozens of others spread throughout the region, fighting for the rise of the Ayatollah State.
Iran has not been, and probably never will be, engaged in military confrontations with battleships and fighter jets. Despite the hardworking construction of its naval and land forces, Iran avoids major confrontations. It secretly sends its ships carrying arms to the ports of troubled areas. Its Quds Force crosses the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates to strengthen the capabilities of foreign militias fighting under its command there.
In its latest official statements, the US government announced that it intended to coordinate efforts between its regulatory and security institutions. It said it was seeking assistance from regional allies, to learn more about smuggling and training networks and to know how Tehran conducts its secret wars around the world. The US said it would reveal the information it acquired about Tehran’s secret companies and expose those who cooperate with Iran. It also said it would reveal all the evidence of the relationship between Iran and Al-Qaeda.
This was a weird surprise that changed our view about Iran. In 2003, Al-Qaeda carried out several explosions that shook Riyadh, the Saudi capital; we thought at first that these bombings were perpetrated by Saudi terrorists on Saudi territory. However, we were surprised to know that the orders were given through telephone calls from Iran to cells in Riyadh. The bombing in May 2003 was ordered by Osama bin Laden’s assistant, the Egyptian terrorist Saif Al-Adel, who is a fugitive hiding with his fellow terrorists in Iran. He is the same man who plotted the murder of 18 Americans in the Somali capital in 1993 and he is believed to have played a role in planning the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
The Tehran regime has not directly fought a war for 30 years, and probably never will again — its nefarious activities are clandestine, and must be uncovered.
Before that attack, we never imagined that the two enemies — the regime of Tehran and Al-Qaeda — would work together on the same territory and against the same target. At that point, we started to understand that Iran is an enigmatic country, hiding more mysteries than we could ever believe. After getting to know the reality, all the forces of the region must work together in order to dismantle Iran’s mysteries and uncover its smuggling, sabotage and networking operations. Before engaging in any battle against the Iranian regime, it is now essential that we get to know it in a clearer way.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published. Twitter: @aalrashed