Pinhas Inbari is an astute analyst of of Arab affairs and regional dynamics at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) in Israel. Periodically, we have published his analysis as it confounds conventional wisdom about the conflicts and actors in a multi-dimensional chess game of geo-politics in the region. Such is the case with his analysis of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) whose blitzkrieg has rent asunder the artificial map of both Iraq and the Middle East, “ISIS: Iran’s Instrument for Regional Hegemony.” A Middle East map whose origins can be found in the secret Sykes Picot agreement of 1915 reflected in the Post World War I Mandates of the League of Nations dividing up the former Ottoman Empire awarded the French and British at the San Remo Conference in 1920. The Iraq that arose from the British Mandate was an amalgamation of former Ottoman Empire vilayets encompassing restive Kurds, Sunnis and Shia and minority Assyrian Chaldean Christians, Turkmen and Jews. The latter were driven out after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Inbari presents evidence to support a thesis that ISIS is really a creation of the Syrian Mukhabarat (Intelligence) and Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence with the dual purposes of defeating the rebel opposition in Syria and forcing the breakup of Iraq. His key points are:
- Immediately after ISIS emerged in Syria, sources in the Syrian opposition said, “We are familiar with the commanders of ISIS. Once they belonged to Assad’s intelligence, and now they are operating on his behalf under the name of ISIS.”
- Why would Shiite Iran support a Sunni jihadist organization like ISIS? Iran wants to be certain that a strong Iraqi state does not emerge again along its western border.
- The notion that Shiite Iran would help Sunni jihadists was not farfetched, even if it seemed to defy the conventional wisdom in Western capitals.
- It is unreasonable to expect Iran to fight ISIS. If Iran does so, it would be turning against a movement that has been a useful surrogate for Tehran’s interests.
Thus, to replace Iraq, Iran would use ISIS to forge a new alignment and map. There would be three sectarian entities, Kurdistan, a southern Shia satrapy of Iran encompassing the holy sites of Karbala and Najif, Baghdad and Basra, as well as a rump Sunni state comprised of the central and western provinces. Inbari’s analysis may explain why the Obama Administration has temporized about committing military assets in the Gulf region in support of the faltering Maliki regime in Baghdad. Moreover, the Administration does not wish to upset its outreach to Iran, especially with regard to the current round of nuclear discussions, while seemingly rejected the Islamic regime’s offer to assist in quelling the turmoil caused by the ISIS blitzkrieg in Iraq.
Inbari presents confirmation in the upending of the official Al Qaeda opposition in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front, and the ISIS siege in Deir al Zour that appears directed at destroying the Free Syrian Army and Islamic Front rebel opposition to the Assad regime. Inbari presents similar views of prominent Gulf region media analysts corroborating his thesis. Further, he points out the existence of a cache of intelligence on the leaders of ISIS found in digital memory sticks obtained by Iraqi intelligence during the battle for Mosul in northern Iraq.
Inbari’s proposition would fit the Twelver Shia conception of creating turmoil to bring about the return of moribund twelfth Imam to lead the conquest of the Dar al Harb under the Islamic regime’s hegemony ruled under Sharia, Islamic law. Hence the rise of a Caliphate under the ISIS banner bestride Syria and current day Iraq would fit the Shia theology.
The fact that Sunni supremacist ISIS is leading the charge for creation of a Caliphate under Sharia in the Middle East, as Inbari points, is entirely consistent with Iran’s behavior in the run up to 9/11. Iranian Intelligence with the aid of the late Hezbollah terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyeh facilitated the training and transportation of the 19 Egyptian, Saudi and Yemeni perpetrators of 9/11 Islamic terror attack in lower Manhattan, Southwestern Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon in northern Virginia,. The evidence of that was revealed in the New York Federal District Court “9/11 Iran Links Case”.
There is more to support Inbari’s thesis in a new book to be published next week by Ken Timmerman, Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi:
- The group that took credit for the Benghazi attack, Ansar al Sharia, was trained and equipped by the Quds Force.
- Both the CIA and US Delta and Special Operations Forces in Tripoli were actively monitoring Iranian operations in Benghazi, and warned their chain of command- including the late US Ambassador Stevens- that the Iranian were preparing a terrorist attack on the U.S. Compound in Benghazi.
Timmerman further notes that the Obama Administration supplied weapons to fight Qaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria knowing that many rebel leaders were Al Qaeda operatives. Moreover that Qatar was deeply involved both funding and transporting these weapons and the diffusion of MANPADS throughout North Africa, the Middle East and even Afghanistan.
Timmerman, in an email to this writer, commented that he found “curious” the timing this week of the seizure of Ahmed Abu Khattala on the streets in Benghazi, Libya by US special forces with the aid of the FBI. Khatltala was a leader of Ansar al Shariah attack on the Benghazi Legation on 9/11/12. He hid in plain sight for past nearly two years, as Timmerman notes in his new book. He even gave interviews to the media. Reports in the media tells of his telling the history of the terrorist group while slow steaming on the USS New York towards the US for possible detention and prosecution following his interrogation. The irony is that the US navy vessel was built from the debris of the twin towers of the World Trade Center destroyed on 9/11 that Iran facilitated.
We will review Timmerman’s new book in the July NER. This weekend we will be interviewing both Timmerman, and Daniel Diker, a colleague of Inbari at the JCPA, on The Lisa Benson Show on Sunday on KKNT960 at 4PM EDT in the US.
Inbari’s analysis of ISIS as the instrument of Iran Hegemony in the Middle East is both fascinating and timely.
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.