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memri
July 31, 2014 No.
1108

Iran's New Strategy Of Diversion: Persuading The Sunni Camp To Fight Israel, Not Iran

Introduction

Recently, the Iranian regime has launched a campaign for arming the Palestinians in West Bank and Israel's Arab citizens; the campaign is being led by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

On July 23, 2014, on the eve of Iran's Qods (Jerusalem) Day, Khamenei said that "the only solution [for Israel] is its annihilation and liquidation. Of course, until that time [when this happens], the determined and armed Palestinian resistance, and its spread to the West Bank, are the only way to deal with that bestial regime... Therefore, it is my belief that the West Bank should be armed just like Gaza. Anyone who cares about the fate of Palestine, and who is capable of doing something, should act in this matter in order to reduce the suffering and torment of the Palestinian people by means of their strong hand..."[1]

This campaign played a role in Iran's strategy, in two vital areas that are completely unconnected to the war in Gaza or to the Palestinian cause: a) It serves the Iranian regime in its struggle against the Sunni world, which has ratcheted up its pressure on Iran, and b) it serves the Iranian regime in its struggle against the opposition, i.e. the pragmatic camp, at home, that has recently escalated its attacks on the ideological camp (see MEMRI series on The Struggle Between Khamenei And Rafsanjani Over The Iranian Leadership).

While the policy of annihilating Israel is one thing that the ideological and the pragmatic camps in Iran have in common, as it is a founding tenet of the regime, the move to arm the West Bank Palestinians and Israel's Arab citizens is a new element that the regime is stressing in recent days, and by all possible means. In every major speech and announcement, regime spokesmen emphasize the need for the Sunni world to stop fighting Shi'ites and join Iran in its fight against Israel.[2] The regime also is highlighting the need for unity at home, which is actually a demand that the pragmatic camp accept the authority of the ideological camp.

It should be noted that on the internal level, this tactic has been successful, as expected; the pragmatic camp has hastened to stand with the regime on this matter.[3]


July 23, 2014 Facebook announcement by Khamenei's office (Source: Facebook.com/www.Khamenei.ir)

However, the effort to divert the Sunni camp from its struggle with Iran and the Shi'ites has as of yet yielded no results. Apparently, the Sunni world understands Iran's gambit and is not going along with it; it is also stepping up its pressure on the Shi'ites in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.[4]

It should be clarified that this strategy of diversion is not just talk – the Iranian regime is working to implement it in coordination with the leaders of Hizbullah and of the Palestinian factions. But the main importance of this effort for Iran is that it serves both Iran's existential interest against the external Sunni threat and also the interest of the Iranian regime at home against the opposition.

This paper will review statements by senior members of the Iranian leadership calling on the Sunni world to forget about its fight against the Shi'ites and about the Sunni-Shi'ite schism and to instead unite with the Shi'ites against Israel.

Khamenei: "The Islamic World Should Set Aside All Differences... Let Us Unite And Carry Out Our Religious And Human Duty In Order To Help The People In Gaza"

In a July 29, 2014 speech to Muslim countries' ambassadors in Iran, Khamenei stressed the need for the Islamic world – that is, both Sunnis and Shi'ites – to unite and act together against Israel: "The Islamic world should set aside all differences, and use all its capabilities to meet the needs of the people in Gaza while fighting against the shameful crimes of the Zionists, and while despising and renouncing their supporters, particularly America and Britain.

"Unfortunately, and contrary to the instructions of Islam, the Islamic ummah is today in a schism, because of politics and power-seeking. The leaders of the Islamic countries must set aside such motives and establish a united, strong, and mighty nation. If power-seeking, dependence [on the West], and corruption cannot divide the Islamic world, no arrogant power [i.e. the U.S. and the West] will dare attack the Islamic states, to extort their governments...

"In order to realize this goal, all the Islamic governments must abandon the political and non-political disputes among themselves, and everyone together must hasten to the aid of the oppressed who are palpitating in the claws of the bloodletting Zionist wolf... Let us unite and carry out our religious and human duty in order to help the people in Gaza overcome the obstacles that the Zionists are setting [before them]. Fighting the perpetrators of the historic oppression in Gaza is the second duty of the Islamic world..."[5]

President Rohani: "In Order To Solve These Difficult Problems" Of "The Suppurating Tumor[s]" Of IS And The Zionist Regime, "We Have No Option Except To Unify The Islamic World"

At the same July 29 meeting with the ambassadors of Muslim countries, Iranian President Hassan Rohani compared the "suppurating tumor" of the Islamic State (IS, formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS) – that is, the murder of Shi'ites by Sunnis in Iraq – to the "Zionist suppurating tumor." He stated that they have shared roots, and stressed that the only thing that could solve this problem was Sunni-Shi'ite unity:

"In order to solve these difficult problems, we have no option except to unify the Islamic world, explain the merciful [kind of] Islam, and distance ourselves from stagnation and fixation [in the Shi'ite-Sunni dispute]. The global strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is peace and justice, and in the Islamic world [the Iranian strategy is] brotherhood and unity, and the establishment of a single Islamic ummah.

"Those who dream of weakening Islam and the Muslims will take that aspiration to their grave. The Islamic Republic of Iran is mobilizing all its strength and all its means, for establishing stability and security, and for preventing massacres and bloodshed and creating peace and justice in the region. The Islamic world will triumph by virtue of the [Islamic] awakening, vigilance, and unity, with God's help."[6]

Also on July 29, at a government meeting for 'Eid Al-Fitr, Rohani said: "The leaders of the regime have gone into action with all their might on the issue of Palestine and Gaza; we see this as part of our religious and human duty... I hope that all the Muslims in the world will fulfill their human and Islamic duty, in light of the savage attacks of the Zionist regime."[7]

Other Regime Spokesmen Call For Arming The West Bank And Israel's Arab Citizens

On July 26, Ahmad Vahidi, former defense minister under president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former commander of the Qods Force in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said: "Arming the West Bank is the strategic policy of the Leader [Khamenei], and its implementation will change the arena of the developments in Palestine. The arming of the West Bank will be a golden card in the hands of the resistance of the Palestinian people. The Islamic governments and the supporters of the Palestinian people must use all their efforts for the sake of arming the West Bank, and even the region occupied in 1948. As the Leader [Khamenei] said, Iran supports Palestine with all its might and in all dimensions; it is expected that the required effort will be carried out in order to implement [Khamenei's] policy on the arming of the West Bank."[8]

On July 28, a number of officials made similar statements in interviews with the Fars news agency, among them Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam, head of the Committee for the Support of the Palestinian and advisor to Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani; Hossein Kna'ani-Moqadam, former top IRGC official; and Fathollah Hosseini, Majlis National Security Committee member.[9] Also, the July 25 editorial of the daily Kayhan, which is affiliated with Khamenei, was titled "Resistance In Gaza, Intifada In The West Bank."

Amir Mousavi, former advisor to the Iranian defense minister, said in a July 25 interview with Al-Mayadeen TV that Iran had discovered more efficient routes for transferring weapons to the Palestinians, including via Jordan and the Golan Heights, as a result of the Shi'ites' fight against the takfiri organizations. He added that because of the West Bank's proximity to Tel Aviv and Haifa, short-range missiles would be sufficient (see MEMRI TV Clip. No. 4377).

On July 24, Majlis National Security Committee member Ismail Kowsari made similar statements to Fars in an interview, and on the same day the Basij released a communique calling on the government to urgently submit a bill to the Majlis on arming the Palestinians in the West Bank in accordance with Khamenei's statements.[10]

In a July 30 message published by IRNA, the commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, Qassem Suleimani, called on Muslims to unite in the struggle against Israel, instead of fighting one another. He said: "I remind everyone that we are lovers of shahada [martyrdom]. Shahada on the path to Palestine and Jerusalem is the wish of every noble Muslim, and every free man takes pride in it. At this important moment in the history of our [Islamic] ummah, I call on, and recommend to, all the brothers to turn their pistol, their weapon, their blood, and their honor towards defending humanity and Islam, which culminates in Palestine, instead of fighting each other in a war that gladdens the enemies and erodes our capabilities. Unity for Palestine – sow fear amongst the enemies and undermine the security of the oppressors the world over."

Khamenei advisor Yahyah Rahim Safavi told the Fars news agency on August 3: "All the Islamic governments and countries must draw close to each other in order to preserve security and attain prosperity. Unity among the governments of Islam and their peoples is today the key to liberating Jerusalem, more so than the military issues. If every Muslim gave one single dollar to Gaza, or wrote one single word in the media about the wretched Palestinians, that would be a great step against the news censorship that the Zionists are imposing on the Western media.

*A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI.

Endnotes:

[1] Khamenei.ir, July 23, 2014.

[2] See, for example, statements by a Hamas member to the Lebanese daily Al-Safir aimed at motivating Hizbullah to join the struggle against Israel; he said that now there is an opportunity for the resistance axis to triumph against the attempts to create sectarian fitna and to stop the marginal wars and begin to act to rebuild the axis. Al-Safir, Lebanon, July 31, 2014.

[3] In effect, the leaders of the pragmatic camp rushed to express extreme anti-Israel sentiment to prove their loyalty to the goals of Iran's Islamic Revolution – even before the ideological camp demanded such statements from them. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No.1107, Qods Day In Iran: Tehran Calls For Annihilation Of Israel And For Arming The West Bank, July 25, 2014.

[4] See Daoud Al-Basri's article on Elaph.com, July 26, 2014.

[5] Leader.ir, July 29, 2014.

[6] Leader.ir, July 29, 2014.

[7] President.ir, July 29, 2014.

[8] Tasnimnews.com, July 26, 2014.

[9] Fars, July 28, 2014.

[10] YJC.ir, July 24, 2014.