Iran and state-sponsored terrorism
The gunman, who opened fire in the Bavarian capital last Friday, has been identified as a German of Iranian origin. Till the writing of this column, the motive behind the attack remained unknown. According to German sources, the criminal was suffering from depression. In the weeks to come, we may hear different stories, but what about Iran?
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on Saturday that the international community must make the fight against terrorism its top priority. The statement would have been a normal one if it had come from a Swiss diplomat for instance. Critics may be appalled by Iran’s kneejerk reaction to the attack. Many accuse Iran of sponsoring terrorism. Hence, Iran’s call for a united front to fight terrorism is as if Iran is not contributing to the rise of terrorism around the globe.
While I am not trying to make a link between Iran and this particular attack, it does not make sense that with all of Iran’s documented history of sponsoring terrorism, Iran gets off the hook. Suffice it here to examine the role Iran has been playing in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. Paradoxically, many western countries are dealing with Iran as if the latter is not a revisionist state that seeks to change the regional status quo regardless of the destabilizing consequences.
A few days ago, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir made it perfectly clear that Iran’s destabilizing strategy in the Middle East could not be ignored. He said that Tehran had been inciting rebellion among Shiites in Sunni-ruled countries. In his words, “Iran is on a rampage. It wants to re-establish the Persian Empire, as crazy as that sounds because it has been dead for centuries.” Any close look at what Iran has been doing over the last decade will vindicate the statement of the Saudi foreign minister.
Indeed, many studies point out that Iran’s negative role in Syria and Iraq has to no small amount contributed to the rise of radicalism in the Levant. The systematic exclusion of Sunnis in Iraq and the Iran-backed policies of sectarian cleansing in Syria pushed many Sunnis to embrace extremism. In other words, the environment that generates extremism would not have seen the light had the Sunnis been integrated into Iraq and Syria. Needless to say that Iran is the key player that avert the process of historical and political reconciliation among different sects in both Syria and Iraq.
Seen in this way, I argue that Iran’s declared anti- terrorism position is ironic and stems from opportunism. It seems that Iran is taking advantage of the West’s inability or unwillingness to make a distinction between Muslims (especially Arabs) and radical Islamists. There is a dominant current in the West and particularly in the United States that tend to use the terms interchangeably.
Saying that all Muslims are Islamists is like saying all members of the working class are communists. Perhaps, the West would not have won the Cold War had it targeted all the entire working class. By the same token, looking at any Muslim as a radical Islamist is a colossal mistake that may push more Muslims to radicalism.
Let’s face it, when the western media talk about radicals it refers to the Arabs rather than non-Arab Muslims. It follows that all terrorists are Arabs! The obsession of this simplistic notion has blinded the West from conducting a successful campaign against terrorism. And for many, US President Obama has only rewarded Iran by signing a nuclear deal. In brief, if Iran continues its polices unchecked, terrorism is bound to increase.