Iran Is Not Without Sin: Hezbollah Must End Its Sectarian War Against Syrians
27 September 2014
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
We can all agree with Iranian Foreign Minister
Mohammad Javad Zarif in his criticism of the US's
hesitation to confront extremist organizations in Iraq
and Syria. However, it is difficult to accept his
televised statement that Iran warned of the threats of
extremism and religious dogmatism and that Iran has,
from the beginning, stood against this barbaric
Everyone blames Saudi Arabia for the spread of Islamic
extremism across the world, and there is some truth in
this. However, it is not a result of official state
policy, but a product of social activity, unlike Iran,
which is responsible for much of the
institutionalization of Islamic extremism via state
policy. Iran has contributed to the creation and
spread of extremist Islamic organizations under the
banner of exporting its Islamic Revolution. It was
only after the genie escaped the bottle that Iranians
felt the gravity of the threat against them and
against their allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Iran has also supported extremist Sunni groups in
northern Lebanon since the 1980s against Saudi
Arabia's allies. Iran also established and supported
extremist Palestinian groups in a bid to weaken Fatah
and the Palestinian Authority, as part of a regional
competition to influence Palestinian decision-making.
Since the 1980s, Iran has been a supporter of the
Muslim Brotherhood, particularly in Egypt and Sudan.
It also glorifies Sunni terrorists, naming a street in
Tehran after Khaled Islambouli, who assassinated
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. All in all, there's
plenty of evidence regarding Iran's mistakes in
sponsoring Sunni and Shi'ite religious extremism and
Therefore, Iran must not throw stones at the Islamic
State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al-Nusra Front and
other brutal Sunni groups when it has done so much to
foster them. Much of today's religious extremism is a
direct result of the Islamic Revolution, which brought
an extremist Shi'ite religious group to power in 1979.
Since then, the Islamic world has leaned towards
religious extremism and radicalism. I don't know if
Zarif has forgotten the threats made by Iran's leaders
against prominent authors and television producers in
Iran and Europe under the pretext of defending Islam,
when in fact they were political moves made within the
context of the struggle with the West. There also
exists a long list of Iranian moderates, reformists
and intellectuals who have been either jailed or
forced to flee Iran.
Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari is in exile in Germany, along
with other Iranian intellectuals, because the Iranian
regime prosecutes such people for their ideas.
Eshkevari criticized the principle at the heart of the
Islamic Republic, that of velayat-e faqih, and said he
did not think it was obligatory for women to wear
headscarves. He was charged with crimes that carried
the death penalty, but was sentenced to seven years in
prison. Aren't these the same ideas that ISIS upholds?
Isn't this radicalism?
Sunni and Shi'ite extremism are both similar.
Proponents of both sides tend to denounce the other as
the most brutal, while they both seek to suppress
civil liberties and freedom of thought. Iran's
religious moderates lost their struggle and most were
purged from the top ranks of the country's media,
education and political systems, and the regime has
become an extremist Shi'ite party which now controls
all aspects of Iranian people's lives. The regime did
not settle for merely eliminating moderate figures
inside Iran, but also supported extremists abroad as a
basic pillar of its policies. It thus supported
religious groups in Shi'ite communities in Lebanon,
Iraq and the Gulf, and it marginalized civil Shi'ite
parties. This is how Hezbollah was born in Lebanon.
Therefore, Zarif cannot simply overlook this history
and decide who is extremist and who is moderate. Yes,
Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, is a
terrifying extremist figure, and so was Hezbollah's
Imad Mughniyah, who was notorious for his brutality.
Both of them abducted civilians and killed civilian
hostages. Both falsely used the name of God and Islam
to justify their crimes. Iran raised and trained such
people, and currently supports the Houthis in Yemen—a
tribal group which follows the Zaydi sect and whose
members converted to Shi'ism. They are currently, like
ISIS, calling their leader a caliph, and declaring
themselves to be in a state of rebellion against the
state, looting cities and towns that oppose them.
Despite this, Iran supports and helps them.
However, even if we disagree with Iran over what
defines extremism, we do agree with it on the
importance of working together to fight terrorist
groups, mainly ISIS. It is also important for
Hezbollah to end its sectarian war against Syrians and
other Lebanese parties. The world must realize that
fighting extremism and terrorism requires Muslim
countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and Iran, who represent
the Sunni and Shi'ite sects respectively, to
cooperate. Saudi Arabia and Iran must first begin to
admit the problem of extremism that has infiltrated
their societies. They must confront this on
educational, media and religious levels without
exception, as extremist groups are fundamentally all
alike, whether they are Sunnis or Shi'ites.
We can only hope that Iran changes its policy and
stops supporting extremist Sunni and Shi'ite groups,
and that together we can open a chapter of Islamic
cooperation that spreads moderation and respect for
Al Rashed is
the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is
also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat,
and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He
is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of
Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate
degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on
many TV current affairs programs. He is currently
based in Dubai.