Arab Shi'ites Are Iran's First Victims: In Lebanon And Bahrain, Tehran Founded Hezbollah
02 May 2015
By Eyad Abu Shakra
In the early days of my postgraduate university studies in London, I had a
decent and frank Bahraini friend and colleague; he was a cultured and
diligent researcher. This was during the time of the Iran–Iraq War, which
naturally formed one of our main concerns.
One day, while discussing the war with my Bahraini friend in the college
coffee bar, I expressed my surprise that Syria's president Hafez Al-Assad was
siding with Iran against Iraq. My friend smiled and replied: ''Actually, I
find your ‘surprise' surprising,'' adding that ''Hafez Al-Assad is an Alawite,
i.e. Shi'ite, and so is the Iranian regime, while Iraq's political and
security leadership is Sunni; thus it is obvious that Assad should back
Naïvely I interjected, ''but what about the ties of blood, language, history,
and geographical proximity, let alone the common Ba'ath party affiliation?!''
To this, his reply was more decisive and came with a wider smile: ''No,
brother, the true political identity [in our part of the world] is decided by
one's religious sect, and anything else is just talk. Assad knows this is
true and behaves accordingly''. He then said that ''Iran's revolution is a
‘decisive junction' in our region, it is to our benefit and thus we must back
That discussion opened my eyes and mind to the fact that there were several
political trends and currents that blabber and lecture about Arabism,
nationalist struggle, and common destiny day and night, without really
meaning what they utter. Furthermore, despite my knowing full well that my
Bahraini friend and colleague did not necessarily represent the majority
Shi'ite public opinion, whether in Bahrain or the Middle East in general, I
had to accept that many fanatically sectarian Shi'ites, as well as non-Shi'ite
radicals, regarded Khomeini's Islamic revolution a ''decisive junction'' in
the sectarian, religious and ethnic history of the Middle East.
With regard to Lebanon—where I claim a better understanding of its fabric
compared with that of other Arab political entities—the reality of the
country's Shi'ites was essentially quite far from the image drawn for them by
Khomeini's Iran, and later imposed on them by it through Hezbollah.
Lebanon's Shi'ites lived in different socioeconomic environments at least
until the 1950s and early 1960s. South Lebanon was basically a land of
village-based agricultural feudalism, while Northern Beqaa was dominated by a
clan/tribal structure. As for the Shi'ites of Mount Lebanon, most of those
primarily living in the Byblos district and Southern Metn coastal areas are
very much part of the local socioeconomic scene.
Ideologically, the Shi'ites of present-day Lebanon produced formidable
nationalist figures on both the Lebanese and Arab levels. The Beqaa-born
Rustum Haydar (1889–1940)—a royal adviser and cabinet minister in Iraq—was
among the Arabist elite in the 1920s and 1930s. Another Shi'ite, Adham
Khanjar, who hailed from South Lebanon, was a leading figure in the struggle
against the French mandate; his arrest followed by his execution sparked the
Great Syrian Revolt of 1925.
In the Lebanese sphere, Sabri Hamadeh, Ahmad Al-Ass'ad, Adel Osseiran and
Yusuf Al-Zain were highly respected leaders in Lebanon's struggle for
independence in 1943. Later on, as Leftist, nationalist and other radical
parties emerged, Lebanon's Shi'ites were at the forefront of the country's
political life, more so during the Lebanese War (1975–1990). The Lebanese
well remember dozens of prominent Shi'ite leaders and martyrs like Dr.
Hussein Mroueh, Dr. Hassan Hamdan (nom de guerre: ''Mahdi Aamel''), Moussa
Shu'aib and Sanaa' Muhaydli, who have nothing in common with the current
state of ''Shi'ite Subjugation'' imposed on the community in Lebanon. All of
them fought for ''another Lebanon'' that has nothing to do with the current
''Shi'ite-dominated'' Lebanon, and never believed in their community acting
as a ''fascist authoritarian'' behemoth.
What we need to underline is that Iran launched its plan for regional
hegemony through founding subservient sectarian militias, whose only
allegiance was for the velayat-e faqih and which is openly at odds with other
constituent communities in each respective country. The first task entrusted
to each of these militias was to impose full control over its own local
Shi'ite community; the second, to mobilize the community, incite sectarian
friction, and sow the seeds of confrontation; and third, to invite either
foreign invention or start an open-ended civil war.
In Lebanon and Bahrain, Tehran founded Hezbollah. In Syria it supported the
security-based Alawite establishment and later used some Alawites like Jamil
Al-Assad (Hafez's brother and Bashar's uncle) to help enhance the Ja'afari
Shi'ite presence in the country under the Assad regime's blessing. In Iraq it
founded the Da'wah party and other similar organizations. Last but not least,
in Yemen, Tehran, sponsored and exploited the Houthi movement and continues
to do so until today.
However, the irony in the above is that while the the Da'wah party and other
pro-Tehran Iraqi Shi'ite organizations have never hesitated in building close
relations with Washington and its Likudnik ''neo cons,'' Hezbollah—Tehran's
Lebanese ''branch''—virtually monopolized the ''Death to America'' and
''Death to Israel'' slogans, claiming to be obsessed with the ''Liberation of
Palestine.'' Today, the Hezbollah-backed Houthis are pleading with Washington
to subcontract them in the fight against Al-Qaeda in in the Arabian Peninsula
(AQAP), while what remains of the former ''rejectionist'' Assad regime in
Syria has been busy alerting the West that it is its trusted agent in the
fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Yes, Iran through its subservient armed henchmen subjugated and ''occupied''
the Shi'ite communities in their respective Arab countries. Then, only after
making sure its ''occupation'' grip was firm enough, it moved forward to
subjugate other communities and occupy whole countries by force, as part of
its strategy of regional hegemony. The aim of Tehran's leaders is to use this
''on the ground'' reality as a bargaining chip in the ''grand bargain'' with
Israel and the International community led by the US.
This is what I remember vividly in Lebanon when Hezbollah imposed itself on
the Lebanese Shi'ites, sequestrating their patriotism, silencing their
voices, eliminating their leaders, and breaking the backs and wills of their
free dissenters. After finishing with the Shi'ites it occupied and controlled
the whole of Lebanon in 2008. In spite of this, the Hezbollah militia's
organizational and financial might—all bankrolled by Iran—continues to fail
in its attempts to liquidate the patriotic, independent and very courageous
Shi'ite presence that insists on openly refusing hegemony and
closed-mindedness, trading in the ''Liberation of Palestine'' slogan, and its
subservient clientship to Tehran.
Last week, when Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Lebanon's
Hezbollah, yet again spoke to his partisans under the motto of ''loyalty to
Yemen's brave and honorable people,'' he did just one thing: He uncovered the
last mask being worn to bluff the Lebanese, the Arabs and Muslims all over
the world. He revealed that he was nothing but a tiny detail in a fully
fledged regional master plan. His role there is simply to follow orders, just
like any other soldier in the army of the velayat-e faqih.
Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been
with the newspaper since 1978.