Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1788: “An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.” In trying to decipher the agenda of our adversaries, we need to assume that they believe what they are saying. Much like Hitler stated his goals in Mein Kampf, the Iranian regime is today stating its goals. And as with Hitler, they are being ignored as the words of an otherwise rational leader of a nation-state playing to a domestic audience.
The leader of the Iranian Hezbollah, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharrazi, has received attention for clearly stating the Iranian regime’s objectives — objectives that were obvious but not so plainly stated before. He said that Iran must put together an “Islamic United States” under its helm that stretches from Palestine to Afghanistan as a prerequisite for the arrival of the Mahdi.
The Mahdi, also called the Hidden Imam, is the messianic figure that Shiites believe will come at the time of a final grand confrontation between the Islamic world and the infidels. If this prophetic event were to happen at a time of God’s choosing, this concept would be less frightening. Instead, Ayatollah Kharrazi and the current Iranian regime believe that it is their calling to create the conditions for his arrival. And those conditions, as Kharrazi states, are the destruction of Israel and Iran’s Sunni rivals (specifically mentioned by him are the Iraqi Baath Party and the Saudi Wahhabists) in order to create a Shiite crescent from the Middle East to central Asia.
The Iranian regime is working towards this goal as part of a religious conviction and not just as a matter of nationalism and self-interest. It will be impossible to convince them to not pursue this goal, as that would be tantamount to converting from the religious-political ideology to which they’ve devoted their lives. The success that they are seeing in these endeavors only reinforces their convictions that the path they are pursuing has been blessed by Allah. And, as they are being guided by Allah, they need not concern themselves with the appearance of enemy military superiority, for once Iran’s bloc is created the Mahdi will come.
The Iranian support for Hamas in conquering the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon is well-known, but the equally resourced effort in the rest of the region is less discussed. Last year, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah armed and trained the radical Shiite Houthi rebels fighting against the Yemeni government, sparking a thinly veiled proxy war.
The conflict expanded to such a degree that the Saudis had to intervene to fight the Houthis, launching a blockade to stop Iranian arms from reaching the rebels and using airstrikes when the Arabs’ ground forces were unable to dislodge the Houthi strongholds. The Iranian Army chief of staff warned the Saudis that their meddling would result in the conflict spreading to the kingdom, and a newspaper run by the Revolutionary Guards explicitly said that the royal family would be overthrown. Ultimately, after a long and very costly fight, the Houthis signed a shaky truce that is on the verge of breaking as this article is written.
The plan to create a “Greater Iran” has been underway for many years and isn’t as unrealistic of a goal as may be assumed, especially if the regime obtains nuclear weapons that would limit any Western response. The Shiite populations of the Middle East, should they take part in an Iranian-backed uprising, are well-positioned to completely overthrow the balance of power and take control of the major oil resources in the region.
Ninety percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil is located in its Eastern Province, which is occupied by its oppressed Shiite minority. Bahrain is a Shiite majority country. Both countries have repeatedly accused Iran of having a hand in the Shiite unrest — an accusation that is likely true, and serves as a way of de-legitimizing the rebels. About half of the Yemeni population is Shiite, as is about twenty percent of the United Arab Emirates. These regimes, already insecure, may not be able to handle an Iranian-backed insurgency in their lands once the regime becomes bold enough to start one.
The use of the Houthis as proxies in Yemen should be seen as a dry run for this future offensive. If the Shiite minorities can win autonomy or perhaps even independence, the Iranians can consider the areas where they live that contain the major oil resources in the Middle East to be under their control. Even if autonomy is not granted, the Iranian regime will be able to show the Arab regimes the strength that they possess and force them to fall into line. Already, we’re seeing Qatar move closer to Iran and Syria despite its close alliance with the United States.
One major roadblock the Iranians now face is Iraq. With a majority Shiite population and well-organized pro-Iran religious parties and militias, it would seem that this country would be within the regime’s grasp. A new poll shows that only 18 percent of the Iraqi Shiites look upon Iran’s role in their country favorably. The landslide loss for the pro-Iran religious bloc in the latest national elections is a stunning setback for them. If the next Iraqi government excludes this bloc, expect the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah to be used to undermine it to the maximum extent.
Ayatollah Kharrazi should not be seen as a fringe member of Iranian society who does not reflect the motivations of the regime. His statements frightened the Western media, but they were just a candid admission of what Iran has been pursuing. His belief that Iran is destined to become a regional superpower that then activates the return of the Mahdi to defeat Islam’s enemies has been repeated by those in power. A regime that believes it is being blessed by God in its aggression cannot be deterred. It is time for the U.S. to recognize that the regime’s very existence is based upon confrontation with the West and only its removal will end it.