Two significant developments, both connected to conflict raging between Iran’s creeping influence and the remaining defenders of Arab identity, took place in the Arab ‘Mashreq’ last week. The first is the undisguised attempts of demographic changes in the environs of the Syrian capital Damascus; and completing what was concealed in and around the city of Homs. The second was the aborted Yemeni Houthi tour of “comrade” countries run by Iran’s followers in the Middle East.
These two developments confirm beyond any doubt what Jordan’s King Abdallah II called ‘the Shiite Crescent,’ soon to be affirmed by Egypt’s ex-President Hosni Mubarak when he openly accused “Arab Shiites of sectarian loyalty to Iran.” However, ‘Shiite loyalty’ and claimed ‘love for the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’, are merely a ‘veil of convenience’ concealing a vengeful Persian nationalistic project that has nothing to do with Islam, and surely runs contrary to Muslim unity and interests.
Under the watchful eyes of the international community, uprooting and driving out the populations of towns and suburbs that ‘circle’ Damascus in the Ghouta, Barada River Valley and Qalamoun Mountains is gathering pace, while on the northern frontiers with Turkey de facto borders are being drawn to separate Turkish and Kurdish dominated areas. In both cases, this is being played against a background of clear ‘agreement’ between Washington and Moscow on “temporary cease-fires” under the excuses of handing emergency supplies to the besieged, and defining “terrorist groups” in order to distinguish them from “the moderate opposition,” while totally ignoring the regime’s air raids and the blatant military intervention of Iran, directly and indirectly through its sectarian militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
What I mean is that what was a few months ago a secretive course, has now become a declared local, regional and international policy. The freezing of Syria’s southern front (namely in the provinces of Deraa and Quneitra), allowing the opposition to advance in the province of Hama, and the ongoing geographic and demographic demarcation along the Syria-Turkey borders are undeniable facts on the ground that can only be explained by the existence of at least ‘preliminary’ maps for the boundaries and frontiers of ‘future Syria,’ which at best would be a federal state whereby Iran, Turkey and the Kurds would enjoy their own fiefdoms at the expense of Sunni Arabs.
As regards the Houthi tour that began by visiting Iraq, it has merely confirmed the obvious. It has highlighted the ‘Policy of Axes,’ which Iran has succeeded to impose on the region against sinister international silence. There is little doubt that the Houthis today are nothing more than Tehran’s cat’s paw in southern Arabia.
The deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is currently the Houthis’ main local ally and backer, had left them based on his ‘divide and rule’ calculations to grow and expand their influence; and thanks to his smart manipulations managed to rule and dominate Yemen for decades. Saleh always believed in pitting one Yemeni faction against another in a dangerous balancing game.
Indeed, his plan was to intentionally exploit the Houthi ‘phenomenon’ against the Sunni “Islamist” Yemeni Reform Rally and the Leftist Socialists of the former South Yemen, and later against Al-Qaeda. But, within a few years he realized, as he was passing through their mountain strongholds in northern Yemen, that those whom he thought were his ‘puppets’ and a card he could play in the Yemeni political game were now Tehran’s ‘fifth column, whose affinities, loyalty and control were Iranian. This led to the 2004 war in which their leader Hussein Badr-Eddin Al-Houthi was killed.
Thus, Saleh was fully aware before 2011 (the date of the Yemen Uprising against him) of the connections between the Houthis and Iran. He is surely aware of it even more now that he has decided to join them in a dangerous sectarian conflict with regional dimensions.