Friday July 01, 2022

The proxy narrative

January 25, 2020

Ever since the attack on Iranian military commander Gen Soleimani on Iraqi soil, there has been much talk of an impending war between the US and Iran if the two do not immediately deescalate.

Iran is being accused of maintaining proxies in the Middle East and therefore being deserving of the action by the US which killed its most powerful general. What have been conveniently ignored almost completely are the US policies in the whole region.

Without taking into account the role of US imperialism, it is difficult to explain what followed Suleimani’s killing – massive protests as millions came out all across the globe to protest the killing and the attack while also paying homage to the man who had been providing support to Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Yemenis, and even Palestinians.

The slain general is being seen as only a killing machine and a provost of Iranian regional politics, responsible for creating terrorist networks all across the Middle East, any place with Shia allies. It is said that he, with his comrades, handled Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthis in Yemen, Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq and militarily supported the Assad government in Syria.

While sticking to this narrative is in trend these days, a wise observer should ask if the mentioned nations were this gullible that they could be used as mere proxies by a sanctions-hit, poor country?

Another question that comes to mind is who really is responsible for igniting the fire that has enveloped the Middle East? Was it Iran that invaded Libya and Afghanistan? Who invented and used the lie about ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to attack Iraq and then control all its oil fields? Who supported, and still supports, the Free Syrian Army whose cadre later on joined Daesh? Was it Iran’s policy to support a civil war in Yemen and starve Yemeni children to death if they survived US-sponsored missiles?

It seems that, with every step that the US has taken in the Middle East it has only come closer to one of its most important goals in the region: to isolate and attack Iran. Western journalists respected for their integrity – such as John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges – have noted and protested against the possibility of an attack on Iran. In such a situation, can Iran be expected to sit back and wait for doomsday?

However, unlike the US, Iran sought to assist the genuine and indigenous movements already present or in the development process in the Middle East. The anti-Iran narrative of ‘Westernised scholars’ would have us believe that Hezbollah and the Houthis couldn’t have existed if it weren’t for Iran’s vested interests.

Let us first take a look at Hezbollah and its history and achievements so far. Hezbollah came into being in the 1980s when Israel attacked Lebanon and occupied a southern area of the country. There already was another Shia militia known as the Amal Movement. It now stands united with Hezbollah. It was then that Hezbollah rose to fame by resisting Israel and its international allies.

Even then, it was alleged that Iran had sent the best of its men to Lebanon to train Shia fighters in order to export its revolution there. To date, Hezbollah has yet to import that purported revolution, having won scores of seats in the Lebanese parliament many times. It is now deeply rooted in Lebanese society. Hezbollah runs schools, hospitals and other institutions for the downtrodden of Lebanon. Among others, leading Lebanese scholar Amal Saad-Ghorayeb has debunked the proxy-sponsor narrative in the context of Hezbollah-Iran relations, proving that ‘the resistance movement has become a regional power in its own right’.

Hezbollah received global recognition and fame when it fought a 34-day war against Israel in 2006 as the former took the latter’s army men in custody. Two years later, Israel agreed to swap their abducted soldiers with Hezbollah’s. In the latest Lebanon elections, Hezbollah managed to win many seats in parliament and, according to the media, the organization and its allies – including a Christian party which stands allied with them – were the biggest winners of the general elections. So many milestones for a mere proxy.

And now let’s talk about Iraq, a war-torn country which the US led to destruction. It was not Iran on its own first that sent it troops to Iraq to battle against the Islamic State (IS). Iraq’s former national security advisor Mowaffak al Tubaei has said on record that when in 2014, Iraq asked for US help while the IS was storming three Iraqi provinces, President Obama said no, as the Iraqi government kept helplessly seeing IS terrorists crossing into Iraq from Syria. It took the US three months to start bombing the IS in Iraq. It took Iran only 24 hours to send help “with truckloads of arms and people for defending Baghdad”, according to the former official.

It was not until Iraq’s most powerful cleric, Ayatollah Sistani, called for an armed uprising against the growing threat of the IS that that Shias from the region joined in the movement to fight the extremist organization. Thousands of Iraqi young men, flanked by Iranians, sacrificed their lives to resist the IS. The Western media at that time showered praise on Soleimani for his role in leading and training the cadres.

Events in Yemen and Syria tell a similar story. However, one thing that sets Houthi rebels apart is their sect whose ideology differs from that of the Twelver Shias or of Iranians, which leaves only oppression as the unifying element between them and Iran. Since 2015, a coalition has been carrying out airstrikes and military operations in Yemen with US-provided logistics, wreaking havoc there in the form of starving children and a complete humanitarian crisis.

All this is not meant to justify in any way the theocratic regime in Iran which never shirks from suppressing dissent and is extremely hostile to working-class politics. But this also does not mean that the US should be at liberty to sow seeds of war against Iran. While the Middle East is being turned to ashes, expecting Iran to demilitarize and stop supporting regional allies amounts to, as Trotsky would have said, “wearing furs in the summers and going naked in winter.”

The writer is an activist and journalist currently associated with Soch Videos.

Twitter: @FawadHazan