by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 2, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1437)
Major changes are underway in global politics as the US-led unipolar world comes to an end. A multipolar world is emerging in which new more robust players are active. Islamic Iran is a central component of this new arrangement.
The former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had described, with a cynical toothy smile, the Zionist onslaught on Lebanon of July-August 2006 as “the birth pangs of a New Middle East.” She could not have imagined it would turn out to be so radically different from what she had envisioned. Today there is not only a different landscape in the Muslim East (aka the Middle East) but the global architecture has also changed drastically. New players have emerged that are no longer prepared to accept US unilateralism in global affairs.
This is most clearly evident in the way events have shaped up in Syria, a country that has been subjected to foreign-instigated mayhem and killings for five years. True, the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed but the fundamental purpose behind this crime — to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Asad — has failed through a combination of factors that provide clues to the future direction of events.
The mayhem in Syria has led to the emergence of alliances that can be summed as the camp of aggression and the camp of resistance. The aggressors are hell-bent on overthrowing al-Asad’s government while the resistance front, as the name suggests, is equally determined not to allow this to happen. The aggressors include imperialists and Zionists and their local proxies (the terrorist groups) and puppet regimes (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan). The resistance front comprises Islamic Iran, Hizbullah, Russia, and to a lesser extent Iraq and China.
Over the course of the foreign-imposed, five-year war, Syrian government forces were overstretched and put on the defensive. They had to retreat to major cities (Aleppo being the only exception, although that too is close to being liberated). Despite this, there were no large-scale defections from its ranks. True, it suffered serious losses against the mercenaries flooding through the Turkish border, facilitated by the Turkish military, but the Syrian army did not collapse.
The Saudi regime has provided financial support as well as paid for arming the mercenaries. Weapons bought in Croatia were flown in CIA planes to Jordan and then smuggled into Syria. The Saudis also spread their poisonous propaganda of takfirism leading to public head choppings, organ eating, and rapes on a mass scale. Such barbarism caused revulsion among most Syrians, even those opposed to the regime. If the alternative to al-Asad was going to be such barbarism, they would have none of it.
The Syrian establishment did not splinter either, as had happened in Libya. In fact, the imperialists’ experience in Libya where the regime quickly collapsed, led to a misreading of the situation in Syria. They thought the Asad regime would also collapse within months if not sooner. This was a common refrain heard in the early days of the war. A number of false flag operations (especially the chemical attack in Ghouta in August 2013) engineered by the Saudis and Turks to lure the US into attacking Syria directly, also failed.
It was at this stage that Islamic Iran made a strategic decision to come to the aid of its Syrian ally in a much more forceful manner (Iran and Syria have a strategic partnership and defense agreement). Hitherto, Tehran had provided political and economic help as well as military advisors to the Syrian government to deal with the foreign-instigated war.
Given the long history of relations between the two countries even though their ideological orientations are very different, Tehran was not going to abandon an ally in its hour of need. Syria was the third country, after the Soviet Union and Pakistan, to recognize the Islamic Republic in February 1979 following the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Further, Damascus had supported the Islamic Republic when the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein launched his war of aggression (1980–1988) with the backing of the imperialists, Zionists and Arabian dictators in a futile attempt to destroy the fledgling Islamic State. Syria has also been crucial in facilitating help to the Islamic resistance group Hizbullah in Lebanon facing Zionist aggression and occupation.
There were other developments at the international level that were equally significant. Russia and China refused to allow another resolution to be railroaded through the UN Security Council as had happened with Libya in 2011 (UNSC Resolution 1973) imposing a no fly zone. The imperialists and Zionists used that resolution to indulge in bombings and mass killings in the North African country. Libya lies in shambles today. Syria is strategically too important to be allowed to go the way of Libya. Russia has a naval base at Tartus and it would have been a great loss to Moscow shutting it out of the Mediterranean had the imperialists and Zionists succeeded.
The Najdi Bedouins have also been involved from day one, together with their kissing cousins, the Zionists, in destabilizing Syria. While widely known that Saudis are the principal supporters of terrorism, they provided proof of this yet again when then Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan admitted to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting on July 31, 2013. Bandar, a venal character, told Putin, “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year . The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.” This has been confirmed through leaked diplomatic accounts of the 2013 meeting wherein Bandar sought Russia’s cooperation on several issues, including Syria telling Putin that if Moscow had withdrawn its support of al-Asad, then Riyadh would have showered Russia with billions of dollars in arms purchases.
According to the same leaked documents, Putin did not take kindly to the threat and is reported to have told the Saudi visitor, “We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global terrorism that you mentioned. We are interested in developing friendly relations according to clear and strong principles.” Russian officials privy to the conversation have confirmed that Putin was furious. He quickly ended the meeting and showed the Saudi upstart the door.
The Saudi plot, at the behest of their imperialist and Zionist masters to undermine Islamic Iran’s influence in the region has backfired. Instead, the Syrian crisis has brought Russia and China closer to Iran. This new, albeit informal, alliance has effectively challenged imperialism and Zionism. Freed from illegal sanctions, Islamic Iran has moved swiftly to secure its legitimate place in the global order. It has been recognized as the preeminent regional power without whose support no results can be achieved in the region. And Tehran has not done it by issuing threats; it has stood up for principles and demonstrated its ability to back them with power projection, if needed.
In Western media outlets, Saudi opposition to Iran is framed in the context of Sunni-Shi‘i rivalry. This is completely erroneous for a number of reasons. The Najdi Bedouins that occupy the Arabian Peninsula do not represent Sunni Muslims. They do not even represent the Salafis, although in order to camouflage the negative connotations of Wahhabism, they call themselves Salafis. Iran has never presented itself as a representative of Shi‘is; its leadership consistently talks about Muslim unity. True, there are narrow-minded sectarian Shi‘is even in Iran but they are not in decision-making positions.
At the political and strategic levels, Saudi Arabia is no match for Islamic Iran. Bani Saud (aka the House of Saud) are primitive savages from the desert and despite living in palaces for decades, their crude conduct has not undergone any refinement. Crudity is part of their DNA.
While indulging in extreme cruelty against weak and vulnerable people such as domestic servants from South and Southeast Asia, they are cowards by nature. They live in constant need of foreign protection. For the first few decades of their existence, they relied on the British. After the Second World War, they became puppets of the US. Now that Washington’s focus has shifted away from the Muslim East toward East Asia, Bani Saud have sought Zionist protection. Their secret alliance has now become public.
Bani Saud, however, are bit players in the larger global political landscape. Further, their shelf life is also expiring. It is the emergence of new alliances and thus new power blocs that will shape developments in the 21st century. The world is no longer unipolar but multipolar with Islamic Iran playing an important role in it. Here is why.
Russia has emerged from the psychological blows it suffered as a consequence of the demise of the Soviet Union. Its leaders are not the buffoons that Boris Yeltsin was; regardless of one’s opinion of their policies, the Kremlin leadership conducts itself with dignity and self-confidence. They also know how to defend their interests.
Russia under Putin has moved to consolidate its position in Central Asia, referred to as the “near abroad.” It has done so through calibrated moves. For instance, the proposal to establish the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU), modeled on the European Economic Union, did not come from Moscow but was first floated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan during a lecture to students at Moscow State University in 1994. It took two decades before a treaty was signed on May 29, 2014 to establish the union. Even so, it included only three countries: Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan. It came into force on January 1, 2015 and currently includes Armenia and Kyrgyzstan as well. It is strictly an economic trading bloc but its integration is much more advanced than the European Union’s because these states were previously part of the Soviet Union and were thus intricately linked with each other.
The other bloc that is of great significance is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). As the name suggests, it was founded in Shanghai in 2001 and its current members include China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. At its last meeting in Ufa on July 10, 2015, Pakistan and India were also formally accepted for inclusion as full members. This process will be completed in 2016. Iran has also now been invited to join this bloc that not only integrates the region economically but also politically and militarily. Afghanistan will become a full member if and when the fighting ends there.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s significance can be seen in terms of population. Currently it comprises nearly 1.42 billion people. With Pakistan and India joining as full members shortly, this would be doubled and Iran’s inclusion will bring the total to more than 3 billion people. That is almost half of the world’s current population in a region that is on the rise with vast mineral and energy resources. The Eurasia belt will become the engine for global economic growth.
The third leg of this emerging bloc is China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative (aka the New Silk Road Economic Initiative). It is one of the most ambitious economic projects launched in contemporary history that will link Southeast Asia with South and Central Asia. China has pledged to invest hundreds of billions of dollars into the project. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (prince tag $46 billion) is but a fraction of the overall investment scheme. Islamic Iran has formally requested to join this massive infrastructure project. Last May, President Putin announced the formal linkup of the Eurasian Economic Union infrastructure with the Silk Road Initiative.
The significance of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Silk Road Initiative is that these bind countries whose borders are contiguous. They form a massive landmass with incredibly vast resources not only in manpower but also in mineral and energy resources. The economic potential of these blocs cannot be overemphasized.
It is economic power and its proper utilization that builds military power. In fact, most countries use (or abuse) their military muscle to enhance their economic advantage. This explains why countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan are targeted because they have vast mineral resources that the predatory powers covet.
While the benefit to Iran of joining the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Silk Road Initiative are obvious, what does the Islamic Republic offer in return? Here is a quick checklist.
Islamic Iran not only brings an 80-million strong population but the majority is young, educated, and highly motivated. Its literacy rate is one of highest in the world: 82% of the adult population, and 97% among young adults between 15 and 24. Islamic Iran has made great strides in engineering and defence technology as well as stem cell research. These achievements came as a result of decades of illegal sanctions that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The world knows about Iran as a country rich in oil and gas reserves. This is true because Iran has the highest gas reserves in the world as well as the fourth largest oil reserves that are likely to increase as more oil fields are explored. Its energy resources, however, do not reflect the true picture.
It has one of the world’s largest copper reserves; add to that bauxite, coal, iron ore, lead, and zinc and a better picture emerges. There are also valuable deposits of aluminum, chromite, gold, manganese, silver, tin, and tungsten. Not all of its gold mines have been fully utilized. And who has not heard of Iranian carpets (Persian rugs are legendary) as well as pistachios. It must be borne in mind that Iran has diversified its economic output and is not entirely dependent on oil and gas for export earnings.
The lifting of illegal sanctions has not only given Iran access to tens of billions of dollars of its frozen funds but there is going to be an explosion of economic activity as the country moves quickly to invest in oil and gas exploration, the purchase of big ticket items like passenger planes and a host of other items. Iran is poised to take off. Even before sanctions were formally lifted, there was a flood of tourists from neighboring countries — many of them pilgrims. This will spur development of hotels as well as transportation.
Iran’s integration into the Eurasia landmass as well as joining the Silk Road Initiative will make the region an economic engine of the world. There is a tectonic shift in global affairs and economic growth is bound to have far-reaching political consequences as well.
Welcome to the new global architecture in a multipolar world!