Make no mistake, Iran views its battle against the US, Israel and Sunni Muslims as a RELIGIOUS WAR.
Since the overthrow of the Western backed Shah of Iran in 1979, by the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran has remained as the Islamic Republic of Iran. A nation founded on Shia doctrine and kept in power by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Iran sees itself as the sole defender of Shiite Fundamentalism against the majority Sunni Arabs, whom they consider to be non conforming Muslims. Make no mistake, even though from a Western Point of View, the differences between Sunnis and Shiites seem minor, to the Shia it is worth dying to “convert” the Sunnis to Shia beliefs. They are even more combative as they are the “underdog” in this fight as they make up less than 15% of the Arab Muslims.
Below is a map showing the Sunni and Shia nations and a legend showing the percent of each sect by country.
It is easy to see that Iran and Iraq are the two big guns on the side of the Shia coalition. You would think that Syria would be predominantly Shia but it is only aligned with the Iran Shia due to the dictatorship of Bashar al Assad, who is Alawite Shia. The reverse is true of Iraq. Prior to the overthrow of Sunni Saddam Hussein, the Sunni hegemony over Iraq was only due to the absolute power wielded by Hussein. Now, the presence of the US and its support for a mixed coalition government, Iraq remains a Shia nation population wise but that majority is tempered by the US support for and the presence of the coalition government. ISIS, who is a Sunni movement, actually spawned from the resurgence of the Shia following Obama’s pullout in Iraq.
So, Who Does Iran Hate Worse, the Sunni, or the US and Israel?
Both are pretty much in the same boat as far as Iran is concerned. But, the US and Israel are Iran’s first priority for destruction, followed by Sunnis, especially those that align with the US.
The majority of the Sunni nations are aligned with, to varying degrees, the US and by extension, Israel. Many are supported militarily by the US and have grown closer to the US since Trump was elected and the Iran Nuclear Agreement was signed. (Iran used to oppose all of he Western Nations. But, since many in the West kowtow to Iran due to their reliance on Iranian oil and trade, Iran is pretty much focused on the US) Don’t hold your breath for members of the EU to support the US against Iran.
Iran is known as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and uses various “proxies” or surrogates to carry out its attacks on US interests in the region and on Sunni nations aligned with the US. Iran backs, supports and helps to direct terrorist attacks by groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and others. Hamas is actually comprised of Sunnis but since they are aligned against Israel and supports its overthrow as does the Islamic Jihad, Iran provides financial and arms support to them.
The US and Israel are not only existential political threats to Iran, they represent the epitome of anti-Muslim, Shia heresy. Iran believes that the US and Israel anti-Iranian actions are due to religious hatred, period. They believe that our Judeo-Christian founding sets up the life or death religious either/or choice. They believe that Sunni nations that align with the US are likewise so aligned to “purify” Islam from Shia beliefs and all will align to subjugate Iranian Shia and either annihilate them or convert them to Sunni Islam.
Iran is seeking nuclear weapons to be able to not only dominate and intimidate their Sunni neighbors, but to spread their religious beliefs to the world. In doing so, they believe that they will have to wipe out Israel and militarily dominate or wipe out the US in the process. They see this conflict as binary, and based on religious principles.
So, can we deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran logically in any negotiations that seek to curb the Iranian goal of Shia Domination? No. As long as Iran is led by the Ayatollahs and Iran remains a religious State, there are no negotiating points that yield an Iran sans nuclear weapons.
As I wrote about yesterday, the other faction within the Iranian regime, is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Its dual purpose is to foment terror around the world and to keep the Ayatollahs in power. If the IRG leadership stops believing that it is in their best interest to continue to support the Ayatollahs, then, there may be an opening to set aside the religious powers in Iran and negotiate directly with the IRG. The IRG knows what the US did to Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard and would not want a repeat of that carnage when they would be the target! This Iranian realignment under the IRG would require a military coup that would be tricky as the average Iranian is not too keen on the IRG. To them, the IRG and the Ayatollahs are synonymous.
But, I doubt that President Trump will be able to negotiate with the current Iranian regime. The Ayatollahs may feign cooperation but in the end they only have one goal, domination. Whether the Ayatollahs can hold the IRG in line and keep the Iranian people from rising up will probably play out in a matter of months. The Iranian economy is devastated and additional sanctions are set for next week by the Trump administration.
Watch the President at the G20 next week in Japan. There will be a lot of talk about Iran and our role in curtailing their offensive actions. Next week will be pivotal.