BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
With the recent announcement that Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan, and Iran’s leadership have brokered an end to the Syrian Civil War–a resolution that will keep the Russian and Iranian-backed strongman, Bashar al-Assad in power–Iran is riding high. Whether or not the deal will hold, or even if Assad can remain in control of his country, given all of the bloodletting that has occurred, is another question entirely. Yet, the mere announcement of this coming ceasefire by the Russian-backed Shiite alliance indicates that enough headway has been made in the fight against Assad’s enemies in Syria that this alliance believes it can start pivoting, and moving beyond Syria. Since the Iraq War of 2003, Iran has been loosed from its containment; the Mullahs who lead Iran have slowly been spreading their proverbial wings and covering more parts of the Middle East. This is an attempt to establish Iranian regional hegemony, and it is part of a larger internecine war between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims (Iran is a predominantly Shiite state).
From Syria, the Iranians are now helping to destabilize Syria’s neighbor of Lebanon. This is all part of a larger geostrategic push for dominance of the Levant. We know from decades of Iranian propaganda that they seek Israel’s destruction (and the removal of the United States from the region). Since the early 1980s, Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror group, has called Lebanon its primary base of operations, and has assiduously worked to destabilize Israel through endless terror campaigns. Now that they have Russian backing; now that the American-backed Sunni Arab alliance seems to be faltering (it’s not completely faltering, but it is still finding its legs, if you will); and with Turkey pivoting away from the West and moving into the dubious embrace of Russia, China, and Iran, the Mullahs in Iran believe they have an opportunity to push the Israelis into the sea, the Americans over-the-horizon, and slaughter their Sunni Arab neighbors.
On the internet, Russian-and-Iranian trolls keep flaming me (and others) who have pointed out that Iran is not a viable partner for peace in the Middle East. The YouTube video above shows how depraved and indifferent the Iranian position is. We in the West routinely hear the terrors that young children and women suffer through at the hands of ISIS (and other vile jihadist terror groups in the region). Yet, we hear next to nothing about just how the Iranian regime devalues the lives of its young people. In fact, since 1979, the Islamic Republic has been built atop the bones of its poor and desperate youth, something that has gutted Iran of a viable future, making the current leadership in Iran even more dangerous than previously thought (a country with no future starts behaving in aggressive ways to stay relevant today).
This recent news of Iran sending children to fight ISIS is just another example of how the aging leadership of Iran is trying to build their utopian Islamic empire on the backs of innocent youths. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course. Iran slaughtered their young people in the streets when they contested a clearly corrupt election process in 2009-10. Every day, the Iranian regime collects scores of its citizens, and places them in torture centers for deviating from the preferred Iranian political and religious orthodoxy. One of the primary sources of execution for prisoners (specifically, political prisoners) is hanging. Meanwhile, to fight one of the most evil and dangerous terror groups in the world, ISIS, Iran sends children as young as 11 and celebrates these young people as “martyrs.”
What do you think that means? Iran often uses the same exact terror tactics that the Islamic State and al Qaeda routinely employ. When they call that young boy in the video a “martyr,” could it be that he is about to don a suicide vest and go marching into an ISIS stronghold? Iran and their Russian interlocutors continue to present themselves as the force of stability in the region. But, how can that be? Look at the video above. They do not want stability; they want destabilization. Iran is sending 11 year-old boys to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. They support Hezbollah, the world’s most notorious terror group, to murder women and children, not only in Israel, but around the world.
Iran is building its neo-Safavid dynasty on the backs of its preteens. If the United States cannot rehabilitate some semblance of the old balance of power system for the region, in which the Sunni-Arab states and Israel maintained relative order in the region, then the region will be lost to Iran. If the region falls to Iran, there will be some form of limited nuclear war there that will bring all major world powers into the fray of another world war. Mark my words.
For Iran, this is it. As David Goldman brilliantly argued in his 2011 book, “How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying Too),” Iranian fertility rates are in the doldrums and have been for some time. Given the decline of fertility rates in Iran, it is highly unlikely that the Iranians have much of a future going forward. Even still, the future of Iran likely looks more akin to the Green democratic protests in 2009-10 than it does to a reincarnation of the Safavid Dynasty (which is precisely what the current leadership of Iran hopes to reestablish today).
Fact is, what young people there are in Iran, are highly Westernized; they yearn for greater linkages with Europe and the United States; they go to nightclubs; do drugs; drink copious amounts of alcohol; sleep with each other; and do all of the things that most youngsters in the secular West do (this is not all good, of course, but these are the general characteristics of young people). While most Iranians are proud of their heritage, both as Persians and as Muslims, the bulk of young people in Iran want nothing to do with the political repression and economic stagnation that has defined post-Shah Iran. If left to their own devices, as the current leadership ages out and dies off, it is more than likely that a more moderate and stable, potentially democratic Iran would arise naturally.
The current draconian leadership of Iran understands these trends, so they are making moves to counter the more democratic inclinations of Iran’s young people today. By sweeping across the Shia Crescent in the Mideast, the Iranians are not only expanding their power base, but they are also adding more people to their ailing population. In building a reliable (albeit rudimentary) nuclear weapons arsenal, the Iranian leadership is ensuring that the United States will not act to militarily overthrow the Iranian regime.
Thanks to their efforts to build stable relations with Russia, and due to their unquestioning support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Iranians now have significant access to Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea, and can now directly threaten Israel. Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon, their continual war against Israeli women and children, and the rise of Iran’s nuclear arsenal all means that the probability a nuclear attack of some kind on Israel increases with each year. For Iran, this desperate move for hegemony is not a sign that theirs is a country and culture on the ascendance. On the contrary, this is endemic of a state desperately gasping for their last breaths, before history passes them by. It’s tragicomic that they’ve aligned with another dangerous and dying power, like the Russian Federation.
If Iran in its current condition can become the regional hegemon that it dreams of being, the current regime will be empowered as never before; they will build off that momentum and will make one, last-ditch effort to reshape their region in the Mullahs’ image. Further, since the Mullahs belong to the Twelver school of Shia Islam–and since their demographic future is so bleak–you can rest assured that the regime’s hardline worldview will become more calcified, especially with the presence of an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
Any regime that uses 11 year-olds to fight terror groups, like ISIS, is neither an ally nor an agent of regional stability. Unless the Trump Administration takes note of these facts, Iran, not North Korea, will be America’s greatest threat in the near-to-medium term.