Egypt Pursues Hezbollah

Hezbollah supporters at a rally in Lebanon (Photo: Reuters)

Hezbollah supporters at a rally in Lebanon (Photo: Reuters)

By Clare Lopez

Sunnis and Shi’ites are literally at each others’ throats these days in Syria, much as they have been for over 1300 years of Islamic fitna, but elsewhere rapprochement may be the word of the day. The Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon was quoted in a December 29, 2012 Daily Caller interview talking about pursuing a relationship with Hezbolllah, Iran’s Shi’ite terror proxy.

Calling Hezbolllah a “real political and military force” on the ground in Lebanon,” Ashraf Hamdy, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s envoy to Beirut, provided the latest signal that a new Cairo-Tehran axis of jihad may be taking shape.

Of course, contrary to what sometimes passes for conventional “wisdom” among some so-called “national security experts,” this would hardly be the first time that Sunnis and Shi’ites have found common cause based on pan-Islamic ideology. As Mehdi Khalaji, senior fellow at the Washington Institute, pointed out in a remarkable 2009 essay, “Iran has maintained informal ties to the Muslim Brotherhood for many years.”

The Ayatollah Khomeini was named Time Magazine's Man of the Year (seen here on the January 7, 1980 cover of the magagzine).

The Ayatollah Khomeini was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year (seen here on the January 7, 1980 cover of the magagzine).

The most visible cross-sectarian relationship may be the mullahs’ longstanding support for HAMAS, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1987. Personal relationships among Brotherhood members who later would found some of the most savage of all Islamic terrorist organizations — such as Al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad — and Shi’ite cadres who would become the Ayatollah Khomeini’s anti-Shah shock troops likely began in the Beka’a Valley in the 1970s when the Soviet KGB was running terror training camps for an array of the world’s militants.

Indeed, the Iranian regime’s operational collaboration with Al-Qaeda in the attacks of 9/11 demonstrably can be traced back to those early relationships, later solidified at the Khartoum Jihad Jamboree gatherings of the early 1990s that were co-sponsored by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his sometime collaborator, Hassan al-Turabi, a key Sudanese Brotherhood figure.

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (both found safehaven in Sudan in those years and were introduced while there to Iranian regime leadership figures including then-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, intelligence chief Ali Fallahian and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Mohsen Reza’i.

The intellectual affinity between Iranian Shi’ite clerics such as the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini or current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and pivotal Brotherhood theoreticians such as Sayyed Qutb rests on the conviction that intra-Islamic sectarian differences must be set aside so that Muslims may form a united front to wage jihad against Christians, Jews, the West in general and, ultimately, the entire Dar al-Harb (non-Muslim world).

Hassan al-Banna2As elaborated by Mehdi Khalaji (here) and Tom Joscelyn (here), it was a young Iranian cleric named Nawab Safawi who, in the early 1950s, introduced the Ayatollah Khomeini to the pan-Islamic, jihadist ideology of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Perhaps equally little known is the scholastic course that brought current Supreme Leader Khamenei to translate two of Qutb’s books, Al-Mustaqbal li hadha al-Din (The Future of this Religion) and Al-Islam wa Mushkelat al-Hadharah (Islam and the Problems of Civilization).

The 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat by Islamic jihadis and the subsequent clamp-down on the Brotherhood by Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, temporarily put a damper on overt expressions of Khomeinist-Brotherhood mutual admiration, but by 2009, former Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Mahdi Akef, openly asserted that “The Muslim Brotherhood supports the ideas and thoughts of the founder of the Islamic  Republic.”

The Iranian regime was quick to claim an inspirational role once the 2011 Al-Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood revolutions broke out, although the Ikhwan did not immediately (or publicly) embrace the overture.

It is true that Khomeini’s 1979 revolution in Iran did capture the imagination of the entire Muslim world, both Shi’ite and Sunni, and nowhere more enthusiastically than among Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and two of its offshoots, Omar Abdel-Rahman’s Gama’at Islamiyya and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad, both later to become founding members of Al-Qaeda.

But the Shi’ite-Sunni face-off in Syria that began in 2011, followed by the HAMAS departure from longtime headquarters in Damascus, brought Islam’s perennial sectarian strife back to the front pages, while tending to obscure the simultaneous but less visible developing potential for a diplomatic thaw between Iran and Egypt.

Now, however, with the Brotherhood in firm control of Egypt and the three-decades-old peace treaty with Israel no longer a given, indicators like Ambassador Hamdy’s remarks about Hezbolllah may take on a more ominous cast.

A reported August 2012 meeting between the then-head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, Maj. Gen. Murad Muwafi, and a senior official of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was followed by a August 22 statement from Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, that indicated Egypt and Iran are moving towards restoring diplomatic relations.

Salehi said that Iran seeks ties of “friendship and brotherhood” with Cairo. Then, at the late August 2012 Non-Aligned meeting in Tehran, Morsi and his Iranian host, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, exchanged pledges as “strategic allies” and discussed enhanced bilateral cooperation in the areas of “science and technology.”

Egypt scholar Raymond Stock noted in a stunning September 7, 2012 Gatestone Institute essay that such cooperation could possibly include an Iranian offer to share nuclear technology with Morsi’s Brotherhood regime. Coupled with statements from Muslim Brotherhood and military figures about an Egyptian desire to acquire a “nuclear weapon,” the Iranian model of revolution, terror and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) looks increasingly likely to metastasize to the Arab heart of the Islamic Middle East.

The advantages of rapprochement with Egypt for Iran, which is currently facing crushing financial sanctions, a grueling and probably losing struggle to shore up the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, plus at least some measure of international opprobrium over its nuclear weapons program, are obvious.

Read more at Radical Islam

Clare Lopez is a senior fellow at RadicalIslam.org and a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on the Middle East, national defense and counterterrorism. Lopez served for 20 years as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

 

 

Iran’s Ahmadinejad to attend Syria summit in Saudi Arabia – report

 

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend a summit of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia expected to focus on Syria, Iranian media said on Monday, as tensions between Tehran and Riyadh run high over their opposing stances on regional uprisings.

The extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) is to be held in Mecca next week.

“Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be present at this summit at the invitation of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia,” Mohammad Reza Forghani, the director of international affairs in Ahmadinejad’s office, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leaders have accused predominantly Shi’ite Iran of stoking what they see as sectarian unrest in the region. Iran has expressed support for Shi’ite-led protests in Bahrain against the ruling Sunni Al Khalifa family, allies of Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said recently the OIC summit should focus on the unrest in Bahrain, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported.

The two regional powers also disagree on the uprising in Syria, where predominantly Sunni rebels are fighting to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite power base is an offshoot of Shi’ism.

Iran has steadfastly supported Assad’s efforts to suppress the rebellion, and has accused Western powers and countries in the region of encouraging chaos in Syria by sending fighters and arms there.

Senior Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi said on Sunday that the summit in Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to yield any results given Riyadh’s “hostile stances” toward Syria, Iranian media reported.

Ahmadinejad made his first official trip to Saudi Arabia in March 2007, when he and King Abdullah agreed to fight the spread of sectarian strife.

source: http://www.euronews.com/newswires/1612102-irans-ahmadinejad-to-attend-syria-summit-in-saudi-arabia-report/

 

Sunnis and Shi’a: Fitna From the Start

by Clare M. Lopez

inFocus Quarterly
Summer 2012

Excerpt:

From 7th-Century Shi’ite Eschatology to 21st-Century State Power

Indeed what makes the animating ideology of Khomeini’s successors so dangerous to global stability is not just that Tehran is on the verge of deploying nuclear weapons or that it has collaborated with the most violent Islamic terrorists in some of the most heinous jihadist attacks, but that they believe deeply in their own chosen roles as representatives of God on Earth who are destined to pave the way for the return of the Mahdi. According to Reza Kahlili, a former member of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who spied for the CIA, the current rulers of Iran—Khamenei and his top IRGC and military commanders—believe that ancient ahadith (sayings of Muhammad and his followers) predict the events that will usher in the End Times and Day of Judgment and point to key signs that the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam is near. The return of the Mahdi will be expedited by the instigation of chaos, strife, and warfare on earth, including the annihilation of the Jews. The office of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced a film in 2010, “The Coming is Upon Us,” that describes these alarming beliefs in startling detail. Iran’s seemingly inexorable march to deployment of deliverable nuclear weapons links closely to this eschatology, as does the regime’s enthusiastic support for what it calls “The Islamic Awakening.”

In combining these millennialist Shi’a beliefs with traditional Islamic doctrine on Jew-hatred, jihad, and a relentless quest for a deliverable nuclear weapons capability, the current Iranian regime has arrived at a dangerous intersection of 7th century eschatology and 21st century technology. Historical Shi’ite anti-semitism that reached a vicious zenith under four centuries of Safavid and Qajar dynastic rule beginning in the 16th century is now echoed in the Khomeinist regime of Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad, which calls for the destruction of Israel and mass murder of Jews. The historical Persian period that pre-dated the relatively more tolerant 20th century Pahlavi Dynasty was characterized by oppressive state-sponsored measures to force previously-Sunni Persians to convert to Shi’ism as well as the harsh treatment of Jews and other non-Muslims that has always typified Sunni majority rule. The mass exodus of Iran’s Jewish population attendant to the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel and Khomeini’s 1979 return to Iran left perhaps fewer than 10,000 Jews in Iran. Consequently, the Khomeinist regime’s revitalization of Shi’ite Islam’s worst anti-semitic tendencies blended with a modern-day fixation on restoration of Levantine Sacred Space to Islam serve to direct Tehran’s venom mostly outward—at Israel.

Borderline hysterical paranoia about Israeli activities, however, still regularly takes aim at Iran’s tiny and utterly cowed remaining Jewish population and finds expression in periodic accusations of collaboration and espionage in the service of Israel. Holocaust denial themes are juxtaposed irrationally with threats to repeat the slaughter that Hitler began. Iranian leadership figures, from the Supreme Leader to Ahmadinejad, IRGC commanders, and parliamentary representatives, routinely invoke traditional Islamic memes about the nefarious role (and morbid destiny) of Jews in Muslim End Times scenarios and merge those with a Khomeinist statal philosophy that, despite its 21st century technology, more closely reflects Shi’ite theocratic pathologies than anything remotely resembling the genuine wishes or even Islamic practices of the battered Iranian people.

The possibility that such a regime may soon demonstrate mastery of deliverable nuclear weapons should be deeply frightening.

Similarities Among Differences

Despite the deep antipathy between Sunnis and Shi’ites over the disagreement about legitimacy that derives from the succession issue, their theological beliefs converge in numerous areas, as can be seen from a comparison of their respective schools of religious jurisprudence (fiqh).

For example, there is virtually no difference between Shi’ite and Sunni beliefs when it comes to jihad, defined in Islamic law as “warfare to establish the religion [Islam],” which mostly resulted in the pursuit of earthly objectives—power, loot, and slaves—but was enshrined in Sharia as a religious obligation, commanded of all Muslims by Allah himself. On the Sunni side of the Islamic divide, following the early split, a series of Muslim political empires (the Caliphates) continued a violent rampage of jihad, defeating Byzantine, Buddhist, Hindu, and Persian empires and decimating pre-existing Berber, Christian, Jewish, and other societies across the Middle East. For its part, Shi’a adherence to orthodox Islamic doctrine on jihad may be seen in its modern iteration in the 1989 Iranian constitution, which not only dedicates Khomeini’s regime to the global spread of his revolution by jihad, but constitutes the IRGC as an ideological army whose duty is “extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world.” Although some assert that Shi’a must await the return of the Twelfth Imam to engage again in jihad, the Khomeini doctrine maps perfectly to that of al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Sunni Muslim jihadis.

In fact, Sunnis and Shi’ite fiqh are in agreement about most major issues including: belief in Allah and Muhammad as his prophet; abrogation and progressive revelation; the duty of the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) to conquer and subjugate the Dar al-Harb (House of War) by jihad; the death penalty for adultery, apostasy, blasphemy/slander, homosexuality, the killing of a Muslim without right, and “spreading mischief in the land;” and the basic Five Pillars of Islam—the Shuhada expression of belief, daily prayer, Ramadan fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, and zakat, the obligatory annual tax. Yet, there are differences in other important theological areas. For example, the Shi’a accept the authenticity of different ahadith than do the Sunni, just as they differ on the concept of ijma, or scholarly consensus—both of which derive from their diverging beliefs about succession issues. Also, in the area of ijtihad, or the scholarly legal interpretation of Islam’s foundational texts, it is said that “the doors of ijtihad closed” on the Sunni side around 900 CE but that they remained open much longer on the Shi’ite side, perhaps even after the 1979 Khomeini revolution, which is noted for a tradition of scholarly debate and inquiry. Others argue that the doors to ijtihad never closed at all for the Shi’ites.

In the area of governance under a religious hierarchy, there are significant differences between Shi’a and Sunni, which help explain some of the enduring animosity, hatred, and vicious sectarian conflict that still flares between these two communities. Examples of brutal sectarian conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria as well as the harsh Bahraini and Saudi suppression of their respective Shi’ite populations remind us that fitna(internal fighting) is not merely a historical footnote. While Sunnis long ago gave political allegiance to whichever Muslim conqueror or ruler (including non-Arabs such as the Ottoman Turks) was able to seize the reins of power and rule according to Islamic law, the Shi’a established a clerical hierarchy from whose most devout and learned ranks both political and religious leaders were chosen. Shi’ite clerical levels range according to one’s recognized scholarship from a Hojatoleslam to Ayatollah to the highest rank of Grand Ayatollah (or Marja-e Taqlid, one worthy of emulation). Interestingly, when the Ayatollah Khomeini, himself a senior marja, seized power in Iran, his self-image echoed that of a powerful Shi’ite forbear from the 16th century, Muhammad al-Baqir Majlesi, who was given broad political authority by the Safavid ruler Sultan Husayn to convert Persian Muslims from Sunni to Shi’a Islam.

21st-Century Consequences

Whether involving modern nation states or the enduring influence of ancient tribes, the continuing conflict between 21st century Shi’a and Sunni Muslims is, at its roots, about ambition, domination, and greed for political power. With nuclear weapons, oil, and terrorism in the mix, the eschatological elements of Islam’s 7th century feud are magnified with strategic-level ramifications that could affect international security and stability on a global scale.

Read the entire article to learn about the origins of the Sunni-Shi’ite divide

U.S. Iran Lobby Rallies to Muslim Brotherhood

by: Clare Lopez

Should anyone still be laboring under the impression that sectarian differences invariably keep Sunni and Shi’ite jihadis from cooperating, notice what is happening, not in the Middle East, but right here at home.

When five courageous congressional representatives recently wrote letters to the Inspectors General of the Office of the Director of National Security (ODNI) and the Departments of Defense (DoD), Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DoJ), and State (DoS), requesting an investigation into the extent of Muslim Brotherhood influence within the U.S. government, they were met with a barrage of criticism from expected quarters: Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and front groups, leftist liberals who support them and even conservative voices that mostly just failed to read the letters.

What might not have been expected was condemnation from figures more commonly associated in Washington policy circles with the Iran Lobby than the Muslim Brotherhood. An opinion piece published in the Huffington post on Aug.1 by an off-beat blogger named Robert Naiman seems to span the Sunni-Shi’ite divide in its call for Representative Michele Bachmann to be removed from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).

Robert Naiman, Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy

Attached to Naiman’s hackneyed attempt to label the Congressional letters a “conspiracy theory” because they take seriously the Muslim Brotherhood’s own assertions about “destroying the Western civilization from within,” is a letter from a motley collection of “former U.S. officials, NGO leaders, and academics.”

While it comes as no surprise that a small clutch of former U.S. government officials greets the possibility of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into American policy making circles with untroubled equanimity, that Iranian regime stalwarts Stephen Kinzer, Juan Cole, Ervand Abrahamian, and Gareth Porter have signed on together with the Sunni defense crowd deserves mention. While Naiman himself seems to have studied economics and mathematics at some point, his online nattering in defense of the Iranian regime’s right to do pretty much whatever it wants with its nuclear weapons program perhaps drew their attention. In any case, the presence of these four Iran Lobby types among the letters’ overall 18 signatories makes quite a respectable showing for the Shi’ite contingent.

Kinzer, a former New York Times reporter and author, was first noted for his Iran Lobby credentials in this writer’s 2009 Center for Security Policy paper, “Rise of the Iran Lobby.” Kinzer thinks Khomeinist Iran is just the sort of Middle East country the U.S. should partner with and, not much of an Islamic history buff, claims the U.S. is responsible for “producing a region that is a pit of violence and hatred and terror and war.”

Similarly, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole blogs often to advise against the most serious measures to bring Tehran into compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions and its own obligations as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This may have something to do with Cole’s antisemitic views about the State of Israel and something he calls “Zionofascism.”

Ervand Abrahamian is an Iranian-born Armenian scholar and author who keeps company with the likes of Iran Lobby founder, Trita Parsi, (president of the National Iranian American Council – NIAC) and fellow cast members of the 2011 anti-American film, “American Coup,” including Kinzer, Parsi, and Gary Sick, a regime defender and former National Security Council staffer now at Columbia University. Gareth Porter, another staunch supporter of the mullahs’ regime, told the Iranian media outlet, Press TV, that U.S. sanctions against Iran “were forced on it by the Israeli lobby.”

Michael Ledeen

So, what to make of these Muslim Brotherhood cheerleaders from the Shi’ite side of the great Islamic schism? Michael Ledeen, Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, provides a brilliant explanation in the Summer 2012 issue of the “Claremont Review of Books” with his essay entitled, “The New War Against America.”

Ledeen writes of a “global alliance” against America that includes all of the Dar al-Islam, both Sunni and Shi’a, in opportunistic collusion with “radical secular leftists.”

The visceral enmity of Iran is clearly visible: This is a regime that has been at war with the U.S. for over 33 yrs., leads the terror troika with al-Qa’eda and Hizballah that a U.S. Federal District judge found jointly responsible for the attacks of 9/11, continues to back Iraqi and Taliban fighters who kill Americans, forges partnerships with tyrants from North Korea and Syria to Venezuela, and develops nuclear weapons to threaten Israelis with genocide and the U.S. with blackmail.

Yet, successive U.S. administrations repeatedly give Iran a pass, seek its cooperation in endless negotiations and fail to defend our national security interests. Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood that Representatives Bachman, Franks, Gohmert, Rooney and Westmoreland want investigated has been completely open about its intentions to replace secular governments everywhere with strict Islamic law (sharia) through the waging of jihad.

Read more at Radical Islam

Clare Lopez is a senior fellow at RadicalIslam.org and a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on the Middle East, national defense and counterterrorism. Lopez began her career as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).