Consequences of Rafah attack and the Iranian connection
There are those who mess with the security of Egypt. They aim to entangle Cairo in internal issues so that it cannot assume an active regional role. Additionally, there are those who try to spread regional anarchy. Sinai is important because of its proximity to Israel. Any player, who wants to send a message to Washington can mess with the security of Sinai. Seen in this perspective the recent Rafah incident serves the interests of both Iran and Hezbollah and therefore they are involved in it.
During the reign of President Hosni Mubarak, Sinai had security problems. Some external players were messing with the area's security to embarrass the Egyptian president to the extent that Israel hinted at reconsidering the issue of authority in Sinai — a matter strongly rejected by the Egyptians. After investigation, it was clear that Islamic Jihad and the Tawhid movement are behind what took place in Sinai. Moreover, instructions to these two movements came from Tehran and Damascus.
Tehran thinks it has the ability to extend its influence in Egypt. Therefore, it is trying to drive a wedge between Egypt and Gulf countries. Iran considers the Gulf Salafists as a formidable opponent to its hegemonic designs. In view of that, Tehran has been trying to link Saudi Arabia with extremism although the fact is that Salafism is the original source of moderation. Additionally, Sunni thinking is practical and it is against violence. The Iranian revolution and its challenge to Arabism and Sunnis pushed Tehran to adopt an arrogant Safavid discourse that tries to control the Arab Shiites. But most of the Arab Shiites reject the Iranian attempt.
Seen in this way, messing up with the Egyptian security has greater ramifications due to complex political conditions in both Syria and Iran. Therefore, Iranians and the Syrians have adopted a policy to create tension in the region. Iran tried this in Yemen and succeeded in controlling some important part of the state facilities. It cemented its alliance with the Houthis and the communists. The aim again was to hurt the Gulf security and to stir Shiite citizens in the Eastern Province. We expect that Iran's failure to protect Assad will push Tehran to commit more such reckless deeds.
Iran is seeking to cause trouble here and there to grant Assad more time and to weaken the impact of economic and oil sanctions imposed on Tehran. We cannot also rule out that the Rafah incident came as a clear message to Tel Aviv in view of the perceived intention of Israel to strike at the Iranian nuclear facilities.
While Al-Qaeda was used in the attack, the message aimed to prevent any understanding between Cairo and Gaza or between Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. This is true especially after the visit of Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh to Cairo. Iran is perturbed by what is seen as Hamas retreat from the Iranian and Syrian clout and because of the new Palestinians' pro-revolution attitude in Syria. It is not surprising, therefore, for Iran and Syria to besiege Hamas and to put a huge price tag for its recent retreat from its alliance with Iran and Syria. The Rafah incident is linked to the statement of the Iranian Parliament speaker in which he made it clear that if fire catches Syria it will reach Israel. This statement can be seen as a threat by an Iranian senior official to shift the war from Syria to the Egypt-Israeli borders.
In his meeting with the army, intelligence, the Republican Guard and the Jerusalem Squad, Ali Khameinei told them to get ready as his country was approaching war. The war is of course the result of its failed policies. Iranian citizens have to stand in a long queue to buy a chicken. This is disgraceful for an oil-based country that gives billions of dollars to Assad regime while depriving its citizens a dignified life. It seems that there are signs of an impending revolution in Iran. Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi thinks the symptoms of a huge shakeup in Iran are obvious. As soon as Assad regime collapses, the echo will be heard in Iran, according to Shirin Ebadi. It is worth mentioning that Moscow will also be affected.
Iranian officials' visits to Assad are desperate attempts to revive a dead body. Assad's bloody crackdown on his people has created a deep schism between him and the people that cannot be bridged. Assad himself knows that his days are numbered especially after defections have become a commonplace. The Syrian intelligence expects that some 60 percent of the party men, 40 percent of the army, and 75 percent of bureaucrats will defect. This raises the question about the state itself and what is left.
Now the question is about the future of the free army and the opposition in a post-Assad Syria. The Iranian and Russian influence will not hold as the will of the people is bound to prevail.
Regardless of the Russian and Iranian justifications for their stand vis-a-vis Syria, it is obvious that they are supporting a sect rather than a state and the Syrian people.
Western press confirms that Iranian forces are defending Assad and that these forces are overseeing the attack on Aleppo. The Iranian captives whose release Iran is seeking are in fact soldiers with documents to prove Iran's involvement.
Some of them admitted that they worked for the Republican Guard. According to one senior Iranian figure from the opposition, going to war is the only way out of this deadlock. A war is seen as a preemptive action for an imminent internal revolution. He adds that the reaction of other non-Persian nationalities will be strong and that the regime in Tehran will use force more than what Assad has been doing. The opposition figure thinks that Iran will push Hezbollah to engage with Israel and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to engage with Turkey. It will also use all tools at its disposal to create tension in the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran had put pressure on the Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani to open a safe passage for Iran to send military supplies to the PKK. When Barzani refused, Iran sent the Republican Guard in Iraq army uniform to areas under PKK control to hit the Turkish security in a bid to keep Turkey away from Syria. Assad's game is over and this is confirmed by intelligence sources. It is obvious that Assad is spending an interim period to allow both Moscow and Tehran to do some internal arrangement to lessen the impact of his fall. Tehran is more convinced than ever that Assad's departure is imminent and that Iran will have no influence in a post-Assad Syria. Syrians will keep remembering that the bloodbath in Syria was fully supported by both Tehran and Moscow.