PARADIGM SHIFT| Iran has been executing Kurdish people for decades

THE MIDDLE East is on the verge of an explosion. Rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not new; this has been going on for centuries dating back to the death of Prophet Mohammed. A tenuous relationship between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, regional competitors who support opposing sides in the regional conflict and who are involved in a proxy war in Yemen, was broken up by Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr last week. Before his arrest in July 2012, Sheikh Nimr led mass protests against the Saudi government. He was among 47 executed last week over terrorism charges. As a response, Iranians attacked the Saudi embassy and set fire to the Saudi ministry in Tehran and in other parts of the area. Saudi Arabia ended all diplomatic ties with Iran following the attack on its embassy in Tehran.

This week Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan followed Riyadh in cutting relations with Iran and expelled Iranian ambassadors in protest to the attacks on the Saudi embassy. Turkey backs Saudi Arabia in confronting Iran’s Shiites’ sectarian policies as seen in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, and Bahrain. Especially now, Russia’s occupation of Muslim land in Syria and its befriending of the Iranian Shiite government make Sunni Muslims unified against Iran. Last week before the execution it was no surprise that the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Saudi Arabia and was very warmly welcomed. Turkey and other Sunni countries see Iran’s expansionist moves in the region as dangerous and needing to be confronted.

Muslims keep telling the world that life is sacred, but every day Muslims are butchering each other throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.  Unfortunately, in Iran’s cause of expansionism human life has become trivial. It is not a secret that for years Iran has been actively involved in destabilizing Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Iran wanted to exploit the Shiite minority living in western Saudi Arabia, and Nimr was a part of this plot.  Iran has been engaged in insurgent activities in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and through the Gulf countries. Because those Gulf countries are very weak, Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain to prevent Shiite uprisings and to save the Gulf states. For the same reason Saudia Arabia is fighting Iranian backed Shiite rebels in Yemen. Iran is trying to plant seeds of sedition and succession among the Shiites living in Saudi Arabia and in Gulf countries. That is why Sunni Turkey is establishing a military base in Qatar that offers strategic dividends to Turkey.

Iran has been executing Kurds for years, and no one has raised any questions about this in Sunni countries or in Western countries. With the absence of American leadership in the region, Iran’s alliance with Russia has become extremely aggressive in recent years in their openly intervening in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and even the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Sectarian tensions among Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia were on the rise even before the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr. The fact is that Shiite Iran and Sunni countries hate each other, because Sunnis accuse Shiites of not being true Muslims, and conversely Shiites accuse Sunnis of the same thing.

Recently tensions between Turkey and Russia escalated over Turkey’s shooting down one of the Russian warplanes for violating Turkish airspace, an aggression that caused Tehran to strengthen its already close relations with Russia. Turkey made the mistake of helping Tehran in the worst of times when the West imposed sanctions because of Iran’s nuclear weapons and of its state sponsored terrorism. But now that Iran has signed a nuclear pact with the West, Iran has turned its back on Turkey. Iran is killing Kurds and oppressing them, but at the same time, providing support to the PKK, the Kurdish rebel groups in Turkey, trying to court the Alevi minority groups in Turkey to rise up against the Turkish government to create chaos and trouble. Additionally, Iran is actively against Turkey in Iraq and Syria. It is time for Muslims, whether Shiite or Sunni, to do some soul searching and to start to reassess their policies in the region. Shiite Iran and Sunni countries have to understand that this is not helping either one of them, and that they are heading toward disaster.

The historical sectarian tensions have become more intense and complicated. Besides the longstanding conflict between Shiites and Sunnis since the days of Mohammed, the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia escalated after the 1979 Iranian revolution.  In 1979, Muslims’ holy place Mecca was attacked, and this attack was against the Saudi king as well.  The United States accused Iran of being behind the attack on Mecca, but Iranian revolution leader Ayatollah Khomeini accused Israel and the United States of being responsible for it.  Now Saudi Arabia finds itself isolated by its close allies like America and pressured by Russian occupation of Muslim land in Syria. Russia is killing the Saudi backed army in Syria . Saudi Arabia with a coalition of Gulf States, have intervened in Yemen flying air strikes against the Iranian backed Houthi rebels, who are a Shiite minority in Northern Yemen. This compounded regional power struggle makes Saudi Arabia more nervous.

It is too early to decide about Russian success in Syria or the fate of Muslims’ land while dust is still in the air; until the dust settles we will not know who the winner and the loser are.  Furthermore, considering the aggression of the Islamic State, we will not be surprised when Jihadists start to bomb the Russians. Yet, with falling oil prices neither Russia, Iran, nor Saudi Arabia can continue the war. It is true that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are not friends of Israel, but these countries share their own common enemy–Iran. Iranians declare that they do not recognize the Jewish state and have threatened to wipe Israel off the map. With its nuclear weapons Iran is as much a threat to Turkey and to Saudi Arabia, however, as it is to Israel. That is why Turkey made another move to restore relations with Israel, the archenemy of Iran.  Iran’s treatment of the Kurds foreshadowed the cauldron of enmity that has boiled over in the Middle East. Iran has been executing Sunni Kurds for decades, and none has raised any questions.

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author

Posted in Opinion