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Saudis Counter Iran With Tougher Moves Against Safawi Proxies & Oil Price Defence.

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DUBAI - There is a double-edged war between Iran and a Saudi-led Arab alliance. At one edge, the war is direct and involves the price of crude oil which is falling and affects global petroleum. At the other edge, the fight is done by the proxies of the two adversaries - with Iran's Shi'ite theocracy represented by its external clients and the Saudi-led alliance involving mainly tribal forces and Shi'ite Arabs opposed to Safawism.

The oil price war is occasioned by a global glut in petroleum liquids and a resultant contango for Brent, a light/sweet grade of crude oil marking down the value of various types of world crudes (see over-leaf). But non-conventional petroleum is fighting back with new technologies hurting Iran and Russia (see ood4N-PetrmOct27-14).

The non-oil war of the Saudi-led alliance's proxies against Iran's reflects a much older and deeper racial conflict between the Arabs and the Persians than the 14-centuries-old Sunni-Shi'ite hostilities. Using logic based on factual and historical evidence, as well as giving generous financial aid and other incentives like tribal alliances (most Arab tribes have Sunni and Shi'ite branches), the Saudis have convinced the moderate and secular Shi'ite Arabs that the most basic element of the Safawi ideology has two objectives: to divide and then control the Arab society (made up of many religions & sects), and to destroy Islam which is more Arab than anything else.

Out-lining the contours of the confrontation, Saudi analysts stress that Islam was founded by the Arab Prophet Muhammad. Islam's divine script - the Qur'an - is written in the Arabic language. All the Muslim (Sunni & Shi'ite) faithful pray in Arabic.

Ideologically, these analysts claim, the Saudi-led camp already has won a part of the war - i.e., the Arab doze of the Safawi ideology. They say evidence of this lies in the public pronouncements of Najaf-based Grand Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani, who is the highest theological authority in Ja'fari (Twelver) Shi'ism - the official sect of Iran's theocracy and constituting the majority of Iraq's population.

The Ja'faris are the majority in Shi'ism. But the entire Shi'ite sect (which consists of many sub-sects like the Zaidis of Yemen, the Isma'ilis of the GME and other parts of the world, the Alawites of Syria and Turkey, the Druze of Lebanon, Syria and Israel; etc) accounts for 4-6% of the entire Muslim world of around 1.6bn people. The dominant majority - over 94% - of the Muslim world is Sunni.

Sistani and most other senior Ja'fari theologians belong to the quietist school in Shi'ism. Their most important base is Najaf, by far the most secret city as this is where the founding Imam, Ali ibn Abu-Taleb, died and was buried. Most of the Ja'fari theologians outside Iran are quietist. Almost all the top ayatullahs in Iran, even in Qom and Mashhad, are quietist.

Quietism is opposed to the concept of wilayat ul-faqih (WuF) which in Arabic means the rule of the chosen supreme guide (or jurisprudent) over the faithful - i.e., a theocracy. A survey made recently by a think-tank specialised in Islamic movements says about 85% of the entire Shi'ite society is opposed to the WuF concept.

This majority believes the 12th and last of the holiest imams - known as al-Mahdi - cannot be deputised by any of the sect's faithful who must await his return to Earth. In the meantime, according to the quietist school, they should abide by the law of their earthly ruler, whatever the ruler's religion. This was the practice for the Shi'ites under the rule of the Arab Umayad, Abbasid, and Fatimid, and Turkic Ottoman caliphates. (A caliph in Arabic means the successor of the Prophet Muhammad). The same applied to the Shi'ites living under Hindu or Mogul rule in India, for one example, under Byzantine (Christian) rule, or under Persian (Zoroastrian) rule.

The essence of the WuF concept, applied in the early 1980s by Iran's leader - Imam Ruhullah Khomeini, who died in June 1989 - is that "the Supreme Guide is the deputy of al-Mahdi", thus implicitly enjoying the same "divine authority" as the 12th Imam, who represents Allah (God). The study concludes this implies a negation of Ja'farism. It explains that the quietists regard the WuF concept as "the greatest sin against Islam".

Khomeini's constitution bases the theocracy on Safawism. The imam in June 1989 was succeeded by Ali Khamenei. But before applying the WuF concept, Khomeini in 1979 had founded "The Islamic Republic of Iran". That meant the rule of the people required the Republic to be led by an elected president. Having become supreme guide, however, Khamenei got the constitution amended eventually to give him absolute powers over all Iranian institutions. That made him "God's man on Earth"

Top ayatullahs in Qom and other parts of Iran - as well as Najaf's - were opposed to that amendment. But Khamenei then gave the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leadership more powers with himself being the supreme commander of all the armed forces, including the security networks. The family of the late Imam Khomeini rebelled against Khamenei. These include his two grand-sons, Hassan and Hussein Khomeini (both being theologians based in Qom) who describe Khamenei's rule as "the worst dictatorship in world history". Both are said to be under house arrest. This is the case of their reformist allies.

The racial aspect of the Arab-Persian conflict came into sharp evidence with the sudden rise of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad as IRGCs candidate to Iran's presidency in late May 2005. The IRGC got Khamenei to approve its moves for Ahmadi-Nejad to win the June 24, 2005, vote. A radically Persian nationalist, Ahmadi-Nejad perfectly played the role for the IRGC in projecting Iran's supremacism - having defeated ex-President Ayatullah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (who is a Persian nationalist but a theologian influenced by the Arab-dominated sect). Rafsanjani had lost much of his popularity in the previous years.

Saudi Arabia thus lost the chance of resolving the racial aspect of the conflict with Iran in the first four years of Ahmadi-Nejad's presidency, and that continued for another four years. Persian supremacism was the main mark of his presidency. So by 2009, the IRGC had emerged far more powerful, despite numerous efforts by Saudi King Abdullah to court Ahmadi-Nejad to his side of the argument. Ahmadi-Nejad was just a puppet of the IRGC.

Yet at the height of Iran's June 2009 popular protests - instigated by the reformists because of Ahmadi-Nejad's "re-election", Rafsanjani told a weekly Friday mosque worshippers at Tehran University the late Imam Khomeini had declared the Islamic Republic shortly after the early 1979 Pahlavi monarchy's fall only to re-assure the nation's public that the rule belonged to the Iranian people. But that was countered by Khamenei who in a Friday prayer sermon repeated that the rule belonged to God - thus again implying he was Allah's envoy on Earth.

That drama, featuring the theocracy's un-precedented violence against popular protests in the Iranian streets, was further proof for the Iranian people that the reformists were no match to the power of the ruling IRGC. More importantly, it proved to the Iranians that the IRGC had become their worst enemy and that the Safawi extremists had won. For Iranian people, capitulation was their only option for survival. The reformists were far too weak to confront the IRGC.

On the other hand, IRGC's confrontations in the GME - on the AfPak front and in Bahrain, Egypt, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia which is Shi'ite, the Hamas-ruled Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, etc. - are costing Tehran far more than what Iran's economy can bear. Estimates of these costs, including the cost of IRGC's nuclear and missiles programmes, vary between $75-90bn per year. These are over and above the costs of Iran's annual state budgets. They require an Iranian crude oil export price average of about $140/b - just for Tehran to break even with its total requirements.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Oct 27, 2014
Previous Article:Confrontations.
Next Article:The Price War's Effects & Iranian Reactions.

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