The Threat Of A Well-oiled Iranian Lobby: In Lebanon And Bahrain, Tehran Founded Hezbollah
08 May 2015
By Eyad Abu Shakra
I feel sad that, as a journalist who was born and raised in Lebanon, and
whose journalistic career has taken me to almost all the world's continents,
I have only visited one border point between Lebanon and Israel: the Naqoura
However, friends and relatives who have visited the border area, especially
during the 1960s and 1970s, used to tell me about the unfortunate and stark
difference between what they saw on either side of the barbed-wired fence.
The land of occupied Galilee was green and well-tended by the Israeli
Kibbutzim settlers, while the land on the Lebanese side was neglected and in
bad shape for many reasons, including fear of cross-border attacks and the
intentional lack of development under the sway of political feudalism.
But what used to interest the curious visitors most was how Israeli settlers
always carried their sub-machine guns while taking care of their fields and
farms. This, in my view—personal emotions aside—was pretty symbolic. It
meant, and of course continues to mean, that if one is committed to building
a homeland one needs to take care of all the aspects and never forsake one
priority for another. In Israel, the famous Arab slogan ''No voice is louder
than the voice of battle'' took hold. That slogan, as innocent and honorable
as it was then, led to catastrophic consequences for the Arab world.
In fact, Israel has succeeded not only because it is a military powerhouse
and is well supported by the West, but also because it is a country that has
successfully defined its priorities. Israel has organized its priorities
without abandoning anything: military efforts never meant economic
development was neglected, and embarking on economic development took nothing
away from paying attention to the media and propaganda machine, while
providing resources for that machine was never at the expense of scientific
research. As for us, Arabs, as well as Muslims, we must admit that we have
failed for at least 60 years in building a homogeneous and effective lobby in
the West, particularly in the US.
Among the principal reasons for this failure are the following:
— Lack of strategic vision that is based first and foremost on defining the
aim, and then diagnosing the problems and defects.
— Individualism in carrying out work and ''personalizing'' this work. In any
sophisticated society the desired results can only be achieved by dealing
between institutions, individuals come and go while institutions remain.
— Short-term efforts while expecting speedy outcomes. In order to have the
desired impact in a Western environment, one that is alien to our domestic
culture and social concepts, we must have patience and undertake long-term
— Ignorance of these environments, their nature and complexities. This
ignorance means we have no chance of getting the message across. There is no
alternative to knowledge and education.
Today, Arabs in the West, more so in the US, are being subjected to an
increasingly ruthless and complicated media onslaught, when compared to what
they have previously experienced in their long struggle against Israel's
lobbies. This time their attacker is the Iranian lobby.
Iran's lobby has been active for a while, and it has been intelligently
working, organizing, and cooperating with several pressure groups. Its
activities have varied from tempting multi-national commercial and industrial
companies with the hidden riches of Iran—to be made available the moment UN
sanctions are lifted—to pleading with human rights, progressive and liberal
groups by highlighting the ''suffering'' of Iranian people under the
international sanctions and world embargo.
As if this is not enough, the Iran lobby is now busy engaging with
anti-terrorism groups, of all people, after managing to re-define terrorism,
and exonerate Tehran of accusations of sponsoring and aiding religious and
sectarian extremism throughout the Middle East.
This lobby is currently quite happy with President Barack Obama's foreign
policy based on retreat from global hotspots, bringing the troops home and
ending all kinds of foreign adventures. It is even happier that Washington
has kept quiet about Iran's expansionist and interventionist policies and
activities throughout the region in the hope that this facilitates reaching
an agreement on Iran's nuclear program. Therefore, for a
military-confessional state like Iran it would have been stupid not to take
advantage of such a situation, bearing in mind its initial declared regional
intention of ''exporting the [Khomeinist] revolution.''
For some time, the Iranian lobby has been keen not to mention what Iran's
Revolutionary Guards have been doing in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, preferring
instead to focus on the ''peaceful nature'' of Iran's nuclear program and the
suffering of its people ''as a result of sanctions'' (rather than the nature
and policies of the regime). However, the situation is now different. This
lobby is now more sophisticated and skillful, to the extent that it has
managed to build a propaganda machine that has allowed it access even to
mainstream, respectable US media.
This lobby is now more confident in moving forward in the service of Iran's
regime—not only its people—while still claiming it is not directly connected
with the leadership. In this capacity it is recruiting far and wide. Central
to its present campaign is re-defining terrorism, attaching it exclusively to
extremist Sunnis groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and
Al-Qaeda et al. This is being cleverly done after cleansing the West's
collective memories of the terrorism of the 1980s and 1990s, which saw many
victims in Iran, Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, Europe, and throughout the world,
that has always been supported and venerated by Tehran's rulers.
At present Iran's lobby describes what is happening in Yemen as nothing more
than a ''Saudi attack'' or ''Arab aggression,'' without touching on the
military arsenal Iran has supplied to the Houthi rebels and their accomplices
since 2009, which has recently been uncovered, according to the latest UN
reports. Its discourse also totally ignores Iran's master-plan for hegemony
in the region, which includes controlling international waterways like the
Strait of Hormuz and Bab El-Mandeb. On the contrary, the glossy message this
lobby—which now includes Americans, Europeans and Arabs, in addition to
Iranians—is promoting is that Iran is a ''natural ally'' to the West and the
US in the ongoing fight against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and their ilk after confirming
the exclusive Sunni nature of terror and terrorism.
We are now encountering a challenge that we can ill afford to underestimate.
We must not comfort ourselves with the thought that Iran's poor economic
conditions will convince the Tehran leadership to stop its meddling and
aggression. This regime seriously believes it can fight, plan, arm and twist
facts, all at the same time.
Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been
with the newspaper since 1978.