October 1, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5850

Influential Emirati Business Leader: If Arabs Remain Indifferent To Iran's Strategy, Their Grandchildren Will Be Speaking Farsi

October 1, 2014
The Gulf, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 5850

In a September 25, 2014 article on his own website,[1], highly successful Emirati businessman Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor, who is chairman of the Al-Habtoor Group conglomerate that specializes in construction and energy products as well as a frequent commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, expressed gratification that the West and the Arabs are finally taking action against the Islamic State (IS).[2] Nevertheless, he noted that it was foolhardy to focus exclusively on IS when "the far greater challenge" was containing Iran's ambitions.

In his article, Al-Habtoor expressed his alarm at Iran's growing confidence in its ability to take over the Arab world. He called the recent Houthi victory in Yemen[3] an outright Iranian victory, because it completes Tehran's encirclement of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries with Iranian proxies, and criticizes Arab leaders fordownplaying the events in Yemen, for congratulating the Yemeni government for its "step towards 'reconciliation'" with the Houthis, and for seeking rapprochement with Iranrather than taking immediate stepsto roll back its gains in the Arab world. He also expressed his hope that the Arab air forces operating against ISIS will "extend their operations to take back Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen before the Sunni Arab world is reduced to shadow in a darkening Persian night."

Khalaf Al-Habtoor (Image:

IS Is A Sideshow – The Major Challenge Is Iran

"To say our region is in imminent peril is an understatement. Threats are emerging from all directions in many different guises. Most derive from warped ideologies that mask a will to power and territorial domination. Today, the U.S., together with its Western and predominantly Sunni Arab allies, has finally woken up to the danger posed by the misnamed 'Islamic State,' a danger I've been warning about for over a year, and has deployed its military resources to eradicate this lethally toxic group in northern Iraq and around the Syrian city of Raqaa where those killers are headquartered.

"This intervention is long overdue. Unfortunately, it took the beheading of Western hostages to grab the attention of the international community, which failed to be galvanized by the mass slaughter of Iraqi men, women and children. But while all eyes were on Israel's devastation of Gaza and the horrors perpetrated by the 'Islamic State,' Tehran, arguably a far greater menace to the security of the Middle East and the Gulf, is quietly achieving its hegemonic goals, unimpeded and unnoticed.

"If I had to prioritize the respective threat levels of the Islamic State and Iran on a scale of oneto 10, the former would be way down the scale, because an estimated 35,000 fighters cannot hope to beat back the combined might of a 50-member-strong international coalition. Granted, purging the earth of this disease isn't going to happen overnight and, sadly, many more innocents are destined to lose their lives in the process. Overall this evil parody of a Caliphate will be nothing more than a footnote in tomorrow's history books.

"Halting the ambitions of Iran's ayatollahs is a far greater challenge, [and one] which is not being addressed. On the contrary: Iran has been afforded an aura of respectability by U.S. efforts at détente, once differences over the Iranian nuclear program have been bridged. The fact that Iran is one of the biggest sponsors of terror hasn't figured in the U.S. equation."

Iran's Staged Strategy For Subduing Sunnis Is Advancing Steadily

"What are those ambitions? There is no need to speculate, the answer is known beyond a shadow of a doubt. Iran is out to export its brand of Shiite ideology to as many regional states as possible, either directly or indirectly with the use of proxies, with the goal of replacing Sunni governments with Shiite regimes. I've been aware of this for decades and I've appealed over and over again to GCC member states and our Arab allies to clearly acknowledge this problem and do all in their power to ensure our grandchildren don't end up speaking Farsi.

"The message is clear. I can only hope they will hear the words coming right out of the horse's mouth, spoken by Alireza Zakani, an Iranian lawmaker and confidant of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In short, he exposed the mullahs' box of tricks during a recent parliamentary speech. Iran is currently going through a stage during its 'Great Jihad' that requires a particular strategy and a cautious approach, he said, while boasting that 'three Arab capitals and now in Iran's hands and affiliated with the Iranian Islamic Revolution.'He added that the Yemeni capital Sana'a is well on its way to becoming the fourth, with at least 14 out of 20 Yemeni provinces coming under Houthi control. He did not name those Arab capitals, but I assume he's referring to Damascus (Shi'ite Alawite regime), Beirut (under the sway of the Shi'ite militant organization Hizbullah) and Baghdad, whose constitution ensures that the prime minister must be drawn from the Shi'ite community. And, yes, Yemen – a country considered the birthplace of the Arab nation – has fallen into the hands of Shi'ite Houthis, former separatists turned terrorists; no longer content with striving for part of the cake, they now seek to consume all of it.

"Because ofour governments' hesitance to stand alongside the Yemeni government against these terrorist Iranian puppets, we've enabled their aspirations. Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi has been coerced by their violent seizure of much of the capital into signing a deal with the Shi'ite rebels, resulting in the appointment of Houthis as political advisors, as well as other concessions. Hadi has described the deal as 'historic.' I call it a disastrous error of judgment reluctantly agreed to by a man with his back against the wall. A stroke of his pen has made him complicit in this crime. He has sold his country to Iran for the price of quiet, but instead of honoring their pledge to withdraw from Sana'a, the Houthis are demanding even greater concessions.

"It doesn't surprise me that Houthis are celebrating their victory with fireworks displays and revenge attacks against their enemies... But what's truly shocking is that the UN has given its blessing to this agreement.

"Even more mind-blowing is the fact that some Arab leaders have congratulated the Yemeni government on this step towards 'reconciliation.' What are they thinking? Houthis, due to their proximity, sheer numbers (approximately eight million) and their reputation for barbarity... are more hazardous to the security of Gulf states than even Hizbullah. This entire scenario feels like a nightmare in which I am running for my life chased by a hideous monster, while everyone around me is smiling and chatting – even as the creature breathes fire and scorches their hair.

"No wonder Alireza Zakani is self-satisfied! He notes that before the Islamic Revolution, there were two main components to the U.S. axis in the region – Saudi Islam and Turkish secularism. Now, he says, the political balance has altered to benefit Iran. 'Today we are at the peak of our strength and able to impose our will and strategic interests throughout the region,' he said, claiming that Iran is responsible for keeping the Assad regime in power and for saving Baghdad from the 'Islamic State.' In truth, Iran is destabilizing and divisive, and, through Hizbullah, has paralyzed Lebanon. It still escapes my comprehension why the Western nations, including the U.S., have sought to brand only the group's [i.e. Hizbullah's] military wing 'terrorist,' when the political and military wings have the same leader."

The GCC Countries Are Now Encircled By Iran

"And now I would really like GCC leaderships to pay attention. The Iranian plot does not end with Yemen. 'Certainly, the Yemeni revolution will not be confined to Yemen alone,' says Zakani. 'After its success, it will reach the territory of Saudi Arabia, given the long Yemeni-Saudi border – two million organized armed men are in Yemen – and it won't be long before it is Saudi Arabia's turn.'

"And yet, I read that Riyadh and Tehran are experiencing a thaw in relations!! We are indeed very vulnerable. GCC states from Saudi to Oman are surrounded on all sides by hostile Shi'ites under Tehran's sway, whether Iranian, Iraqi or Houthi. But instead of acting to shore up our defense, we are patting Houthi terrorists on the back, turning a blind eye to Hizbullah's crimes, and hugging Iranian officials.

"I can only cling to the hope that now that some of our countries have been galvanized to act against the Islamic State, our armies and air forces will extend their operations to take back Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen before the Sunni Arab world is reduced to shadow in a darkening Persian night. We must hold our GCC flag high, and show the schemers around us that we see through their game – which is one they will not be allowed to win."


[1] The original English of the article has been lightly edited for clarity.

[2] Al-Habtoor had himself called for such action and was dismayed that the West and the Arab world with all their armies and firepower had allowed themselves to be paralyzed by "a gang of losers seeking power". See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5841, Influential Emirati Business Leader: World Leaders Should Hang Their Heads In Shame For Passivity On ISIS," September 16, 2014.

[3] For example, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5847, "Saudi Daily: San'a Has Fallen To The Houthis; The Yemen Deal – A Capitulation To The Rebels," September 22, 2014.

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