Iran has always used ideological discourse as a tool to
interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries. Ideological mobilization,
supported by security and military systems along with religious and sectarian
devices, have allowed the Iranian regime to expand its influence and control
that are characterized by the ability to control the decisions of official
For a relatively long period, the regime was able to establish organizations and arms in these countries and linked their system of political interests to it. The ideological discourse provided a wide scope for the growth of these wings of influence overcoming national affiliation or identity.
Ideology as weapon
This type of control has taken the form of establishing and funding resistance movements in Lebanon and occupied Palestine, in conjunction with attacks on existing national resistance projects, which, in turn, guarantee that any “resistance” is turned into an Iranian card controlled by Tehran. Whenever this resistance card fails as an ideological banner, the ideological discourse is invested in to seize control of other groups of society. This has and continues to be the case in Iraq, Yemen, and even Syria.
Iran has worked to penetrate these countries, exploiting the societal divisions and presenting itself as a supporter of minorities. Iran has also displayed an efficient security and intelligence capability to penetrate Sunni environments which with the emergence of ISIS organization, as was the case in Iraq, suffered from political void making it more willing to build beneficial relations of protection, especially due to the deterioration and the fracture of the national structure.
The Iranian method, adopted almost four decades ago with the Iranian Revolution, does not seem to be capable of rationalizing the approach of domination and influence, and it seems to be going in one direction. This ideological approach does not support the option of building a model of the state and which does not tolerate the society’s unity within a national context and under the control of the government
Therefore, Iran is anxious and tense over any national political scene that is based on the foundation of the unity of the people and the power of the state. This not only sheds light on its ideological dimension in confronting the project of the state, but also reveals the extent of its impotence or unwillingness to penetrate the deep state and its working mechanisms. It is no secret that the US administration, which has occupied Iraq then withdrew its troops and later returned after the collapse of the state in the wake of ISIS’ advances, does not build its influence in Iraq on the basis of militia. It builds it in the institutions of the state: the army, security forces, administration and education systems, and before that in the process of building the structure of institutions within the state.
As such, the methodology of Iranian influence is based on a unidirectional ideological state of mind that can only look at Arab societies and countries as groups and not people, failing to build any relations between states. A comprehensive look on what Iran has done for the sake of its influence, shows that it spent billions of dollars for the sake of expanding. This Iranian policy was involved in the destruction and weakening of the national entities in its Arab surrounding and it was also met with a great deal of hostility by big groups within Arab communities which consider Iran an enemy.
It is well known that Iran has poured money and blood for the sake of the survival of Bashar Al Assad as president of Syria, and this cannot be compared to the limited material costs that Washington paid. Iran gave a lot so that it can stay in Syria, and no matter how high the ideological discourse of Iran is today, the outcome is likely to be nothing but Syrian hostility against those claiming to be fighting for them. This is all in addition to the cries of the Iranian people, which does not suggest any enthusiasm for this war which their regime has been fighting in Syria.
Blowback for Iran
The strategic outcome is that the fate of the Iranian effort in this country has become primarily in the hands of Russia and the United States as well as Israel and Turkey to some extent. If the Syrian people have a role in the future of this country (and it’s my belief that they will decide their future), the worst thing that Iran has gained is the unprecedented hostility against it – hostility that exceeds the animosity felt towards who was and still is the enemy of Syria and Arabs.
As for Iraq, Iranian influence cannot go on if the state does not continue to be weak and incapable. Therefore, insisting on the survival of the Iranian Militias in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) as a competitor to the official armed forces aims at keeping Iraq a suspended state. Whenever Iraq seems compelled to establish the authority of the state, the more Iran seems unable to adapt with the state project. While Washington builds its influence based on relations with the state and its institutions, Tehran seems occupied with finding loyalists. This in itself reveals that Iran cannot trust any Iraqi state, regardless of its system, since the Iranian investment focuses on what opposes the state and the unity of society, i.e. it relies on militias and individuals.
This also applies to Lebanon since Iran’s influence in Lebanon is based on the domestic power that controls the Lebanese state from outside, i.e. through the military and security influence that Hezbollah projects into state institutions, the constitutional, judicial, security, and military. This power is repealing to most of the Lebanese people because it lies outside accountability concerning the pressing financial and economic failures and further raises their concerns about the potential fall of the state.
This force works from outside the state even if it’s using its resources legally and illegally. The strategic loss that has affected the Iranian influence in Lebanon, especially after the bloody involvement in the Syrian crisis, revolved around the fact that it was missing the humanitarian and moral dimension which was an essential element adopted in any confrontation with Israel, as what happened in 2006 and before.
Nevertheless, it is now aware that the humanitarian and moral component can no longer be exploited in any potential war with Israel. After the fall of more than half a million Syrians, Hezbollah has lost the possibility of any sympathy from Arabs, Europeans or westerners. Furthermore, Israel will not hesitate to take back what it considers the moral debt taken by Hezbollah in previous confrontations, and it will not miss the opportunity to restore this debt amidst Hezbollah’s unprecedented political situation on the Arab level. Nevertheless, this relies on the condition of Hezbollah’s ability to take a military or security step against Israel or even in the Lebanese occupied Shebaa Farms.
The Shebaa Farms conspiracy
We can see how Hezbollah, which had free rein in Syria, is now unable to even work to free the Lebanese Shebaa Farms, an issue that is almost completely absent from its political discourse. In fact, it became on purpose or against its will, a means of protection for the Israeli borders which has fought all its wars and engaged in all its negotiations with Lebanon over the last four decades in order to protect “Upper Galilee.” If there is one body that is capable of protecting and keeping the stability on the other side of the border, it is Hezbollah today.
The second function that does not bother Israel, who on the contrary wishes for it, is overpowering the Lebanese state, a function that Hezbollah accomplished and managed. Thus, one can say that igniting a war in southern Lebanon or in southern Syria with Israel is no longer an Iranian card to be used as in 2006. The war card is now in the hands of the Israeli enemy alone, which will not cease to blackmail others with it, especially Iran.
The US sanctions on Iran are now causing harm. Most of Iran’s cards to press Washington have largely disappeared. As long as Washington places Iranian influence and expansion in the Arab region as a condition to go back to the negotiating table with Tehran, Iran’s unidirectional ideological mechanism has become governed with the confrontation which seems will be inside Iran itself this time and not outside of it, and it will also be under the eyes of both friends and foes, especially since foreign wars have exhausted Iran’s energies and arms without even helping it protect its nuclear agreement with Washington.