Iran’s Slide into Sectarianism: A Wrong Move?


Sectrian Iran

Ahmad Deedat is one of the most respected Islamic scholars in the mainstream Sunni Islam. In the 80s, it was a war between a secular Baathist, Sunni Iraq and an Islamist, Shia Iran, and Ahmad Deedat was on the frontline to raise the morale of the soldiers. But he wasn’t on the side of his natural ally, the Sunnis; instead, he showed his allegiance with the Islamist Iranians. It was because of Iran’s symbolic attitude towards Islam and the Muslim community post 1979 revolution of Iran.

Jump to 2012, and the same Iranian regime has positioned itself against the Islamists in Syria, supporting a dictator from the same Baathist party, against whom Iran had fought a valiant war back in the 80s.

The great revolution in Iran was met with widespread admiration, throughout the Muslim world, by Sunnis and Shias alike. Iran’s travails with the hegemony of the Americans and its support of the Palestinian masses were seen as a silver lining in the dark clouds of client Muslim regimes. Iran’s new setup received widespread acceptability, especially amongst the Political Islamists. It is also rumored that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards supplied the embattled Sunni Muslims of Bosnia with weapons and logistics during the Bosnian war. Iran also positioned itself on the frontline of the resistance to Israel by arming Hezbollah and Hamas, as also by professing a policy of supporting the suppressed Islamists in Muslim countries.

The Iranian policy with regards to supporting Shia insurrections in Pakistan, Yemen, etc., squandered a lot of the goodwill that it had earned. It’s financing of programs to convert economically deprived Sunnis to Shiasm, in places like Lebanon, created more mistrust. Still, a large section of the Islamists viewed Iran positively, till the war in Iraq by the US and its allies and the rebellion movement in Syria. It was in these two countries that Iran showed a distinct sectarian bias, and pitted itself on the side of the American stooges and the secular Baathists, focusing on a sectarian rather than an Islamist agenda.  The Sunnis in Iraq were subjected to a gory genocide at the hands of a regime propped up by the Americans and supported by the Iranians. The tall Iranian claims of anti-Americanism were shattered beyond repair in Iraq. Iran had chosen to support a government that was doing America’s bidding of pacification in an occupied territory. The Maliki government is now returning the favour to the Iranians, by allowing over flights of Iranian weapons to the Syrian regime, much to the chagrin of its American backers.

Iran has also supported the Shia Houthi rebellion in Yemen with arms, as well as the Shia protest movement in Bahrain. Iran’s policy towards the subcontinent and Afghanistan has also been in line with its sectarian agenda. Even though Iran – as propagated by the Iranian media and governmental mouth organs – derives its national interests from an Islamist paradigm, it has had no qualms in aligning with Russia and India, both of whom have been shedding Muslim blood in Chechnya and Kashmir respectively. In Afghanistan; Russia, India and Iran have openly showed a common interest bank, where they are not willing to give Taliban a part to play in the post 2014 scenario. It has also allowed India access to Afghanistan through the Chah Bahar Port in Iran. Not only this, strategists believe that India invested in this Chah Bahar Port, not to access Afghanistan only, but also to neutralize the effect of Pakistan’s much talked of Gwadar Port. The US, on the other hand, also pooled in and supported the plan of India to facilitate Iran on these developments. It was also reported that during the blockade of the NATO supplies by Pakistan, in the post-Salala scenario, the same Chah Bahar Port was used by the NATO troops to carry on basic operations. These postures of Iran, though, can be attributed to geo-strategic reasons by the sympathisers of Iran. Yet, Iran has increasingly been isolated and has been in a desperate search for allies. But what is baffling is Iran’s ganging up with “atheists”, “secularists”, and “communists”; even American allies against Islamists. This speaks of a clear sectarian bias on the part of Iran and depicts a paradigm shift.

It’s a known fact that Hezbollah is a proxy of Iran in the Middle East. Hezbollah, much like Iran, had earned the goodwill and respect of a wide variety of Sunni Islamists, owing to its resistance to the Israeli occupier and to its professing a non-sectarian agenda. It is the latter that has been proven a facade by its actions in Syria. While it cannot be denied that Syria has been a vital ally to Hezbollah, and the most important conduit of Iranian arms destined for it; still, moral uprightness cannot fathom siding and fighting on the side of a dictator, who is ruling a majority of opponents who want him to step down; instead, they have joined the forces of oppression this time and soaked their hands in the blood of their fellow Muslims. First, on criticism, Hasan Nasrallah claimed and tried to justify that Hezbollah fighters are there in Syria to safeguard the shrine of Syeda Zainab Radhia Allahu Anha (May Allah be pleased with her). It may be pointed out that the shrine is as much revered by the Sunnis as it is by the Shiites. But now, the same Hasan Nasrallah is issuing statements of victory against the rebel forces.

As I am writing these lines, Hezbollah fighters, along with the savage Alawite Shabiha fighters, are reinforcing Assad’s soldiers who are laying a siege to the city of Qusayr in Lebanon, where the news of more massacres of hapless civilians is arriving. It is not that Hezbollah was alone in having to choose between the oppressor and the oppressed. Hamas, much like Hezbollah, faced the same dilemma. But it made the right choice, though it eventually had to pay the price for doing so. It had to close its international headquarters based in Damascus. Its leaders had to flee Syria to avoid incarceration. The Palestinian refugee camps in Syria have also had to pay a price in the form of frequent army operations and artillery bombardments.

To say that the stark difference in the decisions of the two movements points to a clear sectarian bias on the part of Hezbollah will be an understatement. It is not only bias but sectarian hatred that is pitting an avowedly Islamist Shiite movement, Hezbollah, and the Iranian regime, against an Islamist mass movement, fighting the brutality of Assad’s regime. This is clear to many people within the Hezbollah as well. A few days ago, the original founder of the group, Sheikh Subhi Al-Tufeili, exposed the un-Islamic credentials of “those who send our children to fight alongside the forces of oppression and criminality in Syria.” Tufeili, a man of integrity and intellectual honesty, added: “Iran and Hezbollah bear responsibility for every Syrian killed, every tree felled, and every house destroyed.”

It’s time for Iran and its allied Islamist groups to seize the support of dictators just on the basis of Sectarian bias. Its policy makers should now go for a comprehensive strategy, which will not be derived from Sectarian sentiments; only then, perhaps, Iran may manage to win back the love that it had enjoyed in the past.

is a freelance researcher and journalist and can be reached at

Discussion4 Comments

  1. With all due respect to author.

    Little knowledge is extremely dangerous. To understand the ongoing dynamics you need to go through all the ahadith.

    You have toed the line of the criminal cabal that labels people and communities in an negative way to further their agenda (s).

    There is no such thing as Islamist, period, However,
    There is a Deen-e-Ibrahim also known as Al-Islam.
    And there are Muslims who follow Islam as practice and preached by the Final Messenger to the Universe (pbuh).

    Learn and find out why the Final Messenger said that Riba (usury) is mother of all evil. You will surely understand then, the illegal wars perpetrated by criminal cabal to the Humanity. Or

    Take a short cut and read John Perkin’s book, ‘Confession of economic hit man’.

  2. I would also like to tell the author that if he wants of write from his own perspective, he needs to study facts, before claiming his conspiracies, as this homepage is also quite good at. But lets take a look on Pakistan’s Shias, Iran has all it’s right to condemn terrorism on any people in Pakistan. Why in the World, hasn’t Pakistan done serious things about terrorist organizations who kills anyone, just because they have a different view on Islam or practice a third religion (Christianity or Hinduism)? Second, Iran has denied numerous times, that it isn’t supplying the Houthi fighters in Yemen, and if we should support them, why in the World should we support the Western backed government? Furthermore what is going on in Bahrain is just ridicolous to say, it’s a Shia uprising, just because they are being oppressed because of their faith. It’s a nation that have for 2 years wanted the ouster of the brutal Al Khalifa regime and wanted Democracy. Is it only because Pakistan has a good relations with these 2 countries, Yemen and Bahrain, that PKKH shouldn’t cover the events in these countries?

    Then Shakeel says, Iran supplied the NATO in Afghanistan or helped India in, both stories were covered here last year, without any source. Iran officialy denied the stories.

    But now comes the interest thing, he says Iran is moving towards secterianism by backing the Al Assad regime. Iran has always been clear, that they are only supporting the resistance against the Zionist Regime. Have he ever taken a look what has been going for the past 2 years in Syria? These so called mujahedin fighters, started first to target innocents people in Syria, just because they don’t wanna be a part of the uprising. They have demolished Mosques, Hussainyats and Churches, what kind of muslims, are these people? Last year in 2012, the majority of Syrian people approved for the reforms and the step towards the Democracy. But what did the rebels respond to this? No they wanna continue the bloodbath. And he claim Iran is secterian? What do he wanna say, that the US and their alliances along with NATO are supplying the so called mujahedins with weapons? In early 2013 it came up, that many of the rebels, now was foreign insurgents fighting against Al Assad, only because he was not a muslim. Do they really have anything to do with Syria? Not all, it’s not even their country, and in the end of January, Israel striked in Syria, with a clear revelation that it is backing the terrorists in Syria, it has also treated these rebels at numerous times. Again this May, Israel struck twice in Syria. Between these days, a major thing happened in Syria. The rebels exhumed the PROPHET’s (PBUH) companion Hujr ibn Adi (RA), and this homepage did never report that, WHY do I ask? Iran, Lebanon and Iraq were the only two countries that come out and condemned it. No other countries did this, and they call themself follower of Ahle Sunnah? Which Ahle Sunnah are you following, when you didn’t condemn this outrageous event in Syria? And then a week later, it came up that these people fighting against Al Assad aren’t human, when the Cannibal Abu Sakkar on camera chanted Allah hu Akbar, and ate a Syrian soldiers organs, do we really deserve to support these type of people Mr. Shakeel Shaheen? But those who supports such type of people, will always get it right back, it came up that, the majority of Syrian people are now supporting the leadership of Al Assad, and last week on CNN’s Christiane Amanpour’s show a Russian envoy told her, if Al Assad would be running for the president, he would have great chance of winning the election. And check what is happening in Turkey? Erdogan was one of the main actor in this so called revolution, and now you are dealing with a uprising by yourself in Turkey. Enjoy it Mr. Erdogan.

  3. Don’t forget something, when Iran was fighting the racist and genocidal Saddam, Syria’s Hafez Assad stood firmly with Iran, the only Arab nation to side with Iran agains an Arab country. I would have agreed with you if it was a mainstream Sunnie fighting the Syrian government. From early days the Muslim brotherhood realised that they could not take over Syria peacefully because the majority of the Syrians ( no matter how slim the margine) were pro government. The majority of the Syrian army today is Sunnie, and do not even attempt to tell me the Sunnies have all defected to the FSA, so they joined forces with Salafis and other Jihaidts including Al-Qaeda, they started to take over the country by force.

    In my opinion Iran did the right thing.

    Iran is also right in helping Shias in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, they are all targets of hate and are being killed just for being Shias.

  4. Iran was always sectarian, but the Syria event has exposed their true face. Iran’s stand on Palestine is just a ploy to win the hearts and mind of Muslims in the Middle East and establish itself as the only force against the zionists without even throwing a stone at them in history.

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