New Age Islam Edit Bureau
6 January 2016
• Saudi-Iranian crisis without diplomats or mediators
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
• Saudi severing ties with Iran: A proportionate response
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
• After Ramadi, there’s one more chance to save Iraq
By Dr. John C. Hulsman
• The fate of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani
By Diana Moukalled
• Middle East Tensions Escalate In Wake Of Saudi Mass Beheadings
By Bill Van Auken
Saudi-Iranian crisis without diplomats or mediators
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Tuesday, 5 January 2016
This is the worst phase of confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran in 30 years. The stances of countries in solidarity with the kingdom - such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Sudan - and their decisions to shut down or downgrade their diplomatic missions in Iran are of great significance to Riyadh.
Tehran often resorts to violence and bullying against governments that disagree with it, while Riyadh responds via its political weight and international relations.
As smoke billowed from the burnt Saudi embassy in Tehran, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman voiced surprise that the Saudis withdrew their mission and shut down the burnt building!
Speaking like he represents a peaceful Scandinavian country, he said nothing justified the Saudi decision. He said that despite the fact that the embassy building was burnt in front of Iranian police who did not intervene.
Saudi Arabia did well to shut down its embassy in Iran and recalling its envoys, because whenever there is a crisis, the Iranians target ambassadors and diplomatic missions. Iran’s history is the worst in this regard. The Saudis in particular have bad memories of the Iranian assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi. Pakistan is still demanding that the perpetrator be handed over.
Iran orchestrated a bomb explosion in the Saudi embassy in Beirut. In 2011, U.S. officials uncovered an Iranian plot to assassinate Adel al-Jubeir, then-Saudi ambassador to the United States, and the perpetrators were convicted and imprisoned.
Abdulaziz Khoja, former Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, was subjected to threats that forced him to return home. Iranian “protestors” previously killed a Saudi employee in the embassy in Iran by throwing him off the third floor, while another Saudi diplomat was attacked and his eye gouged out.
Nothing is more important than diplomats during dangerous crises, but Tehran did not give envoys the chance to work. Setting the Saudi embassy on fire was carried out by employees linked to a security apparatus and pretending to be protestors. No one believes they were protestors because this has happened repeatedly. Every time Iran disagrees with a country, it besieges its embassy via protests, raids, looting and attacking its employees.
Despite that, there is speculation over the burning of the Saudi embassy. Was it a vengeful act following the Saudi execution of extremist preacher Nimr al-Nimr? Was it directed against Iranian President Hassan Rowhani to undermine his authority? Was the aim to sabotage dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran over Syria?
In Iran, the president’s authority is always governed by conflicts, which is why other governments are always suspicious of Iranian official promises. The Saudis have been previously told they must understand the circumstances of decision-making in Iran, but for how long will they do that?
Now that bilateral ties have been severed, there are no direct diplomatic means of communication. As such, the dispute, which is already huge, will worsen and affect the region.
Iran is turning the dispute into a cause of defending Shiites, but most Muslim countries are boycotting it or are upset with it, such as Indonesia and Sudan recently. Tehran has also lost its Arab allies, in which it invested for years, since its military involvement in Syria, where it is a partner in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
Saudi severing ties with Iran: A proportionate response
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Tuesday, 5 January 2016
First, it was the Egyptian embassy, second the American embassy, later Denmark, then the British embassy was ransacked by mostly Basijis, and now, it is the turn of Saudi Arabia’s embassy to be attacked by crowds of Iranians. What kind of diplomacy is Rowhani's government referring to?
These kinds of assaults on foreign embassies and diplomats have several dimensions; they appear to be a systematic reaction as they follow strong remarks from Iran’s Supreme Leader. Iranian media outlets normally refer to these attackers as passionate young people or “followers of the Imam’s route,” rather than aggressors.
In addition, it is intriguing that Iranian forces which are very quick at identifying demonstrations, are always late to act when it comes to these types of pre-organized and sophisticated attacks on embassies. Moreover, the perpetrators of these attacks generally attempt to show their loyalty to the ideals of the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary principles. As a member of Iran’s semi-militia group, the Basiji, pointed out: “We will stand by the Supreme Leader against any country which he views as the enemy.”
After the strong and provocative rhetoric from Iran’s Supreme Leader on his social media outlets and website, and after he urged “ the Muslim world” to act, an Iranian crowd, broke into the Saudi embassy chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia. They ransacked, smashed furniture and windows, and set fire to the building. Another crowd attacked the Saudi Consulate in the city of Mashhad and tore the Saudi flag.
Has assaulting embassies turned into an inherent and symbolic tactic in the Islamic Republic’s political establishment to indirectly express Tehran’s rivalry towards other countries and to show disrespect to them?
A fair response
It is a totally proportionate response from Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel Jubeir, to announce that Riyadh has decided to sever ties with the Islamic Republic and that Iranian diplomats have been given 48 hours to evacuate the country.
The Islamic Republic, which considers itself the leader of Islamic world, incited protests in other countries including Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon as well.
The underlying issue which should be addressed is Iran’s escalating sectarian agenda in the region and its heightened military interventions in other Arab nations. It is incumbent on other nation-states to have a proportionate response to these issues, otherwise Tehran’s actions can escalate the regional conflict into conflagration. With the U.S. and the West turning a blind eye on the Islamic Republic’ increasing interventionist operations in the region, Tehran has been emboldened and empowered on unprecedented level.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite branch, the Quds force, has significantly increased their influence in various Arab nations through boots on the ground, military assistance, and Shiite proxies. Iran’s support for militia groups across the region has exponentially increased. While one country, Iran, supports approximately 25 percent of world’s designated terrorist groups, overwhelming majority of Iranian-backed groups are in the Middle East. This follows that the IRGC and Quds forces are currently the forerunners of financing, arming, and backing militia groups in the Middle East. According to the report by the State Department, even under the Presidency of the moderate, Hassan Rouhani, “Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished”. Iran has not even begun taking serious actions against senior al-Qaeda leaders who are in the Islamic Republic.
Iran is assisting the Alawite regime of Assad- militarily, financially, with advisors and intelligence - against the Sunni oppositional groups. The IRGC forces are increasing their influence in Iraq fueling the Shiite vs Sunni tensions by supporting the Shiite militia groups and the Shiite ruling clerics. Tehran is interfering in Yemen's domestic affairs through their support for the Houthis. In Bahrain and Lebanon, Iranian leaders continue to influence domestic politics and incite instability by their support of Shiite groups.
The nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries and the Islamic Republic will further boost Tehran’s ability to spread its influence. If the international community or a regional coalition do not take serious action, Iran will further consolidate its hegemonic influence in other nations and continue to create political realities out of its proxies, ie, the Shiite militia groups.
Due to the nuclear deal and U.S. appeasement policies towards Iran and Khamenei, the hardliners sense they are invincible and immune to any kind of robust pressure from powerful nation-states.
In order to avoid escalation of the regional conflict, this necessitates a regional leadership to counterbalance Iran’s military and political interference in other countries. While Obama’s administration does not appear to show any concern about Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, and while other European nations are not going to pressure Tehran for the sake of preserving their economic interests after the nuclear deal’s implementation, other regional players ought to take the initiative. Alleviating the regional conflict will be in the interests of all regional actors, including Iran.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American scholar, author and U.S. foreign policy specialist. Rafizadeh is the president of the International American Council. He serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University and Harvard International Relations Council. He is a member of the Gulf 2000 Project at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs. Previously he served as ambassador to the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC. He can be contacted at: Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu, or on Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
After Ramadi, there’s one more chance to save Iraq
Dr. John C. Hulsman
Tuesday, 5 January 2016
There is no doubt that from a strategic perspective, the retaking of Ramadi—the capital of Sunni-dominated Anbar province in Iraq—amounts to the best news for anti-ISIS forces for a very long time. The shocking, unexpected, loss of the city in May of last year became a totemic symbol of the increasing political and military haplessness of the beleaguered premiership of Haider al-Abadi. As such its re-capture—after a relatively brief fight from October-December 2014—is both a needed military and propaganda boon.
To be fair, a lot went right during the recently concluded campaign. The American-led anti-ISIS coalition has ramped up its bombing efforts overall, flying more than 3000 sorties in November 2015, the highest monthly total yet. American bombers provided far more effective ground support for their Iraq allies on the ground in the Ramadi campaign than has been true up until now, a necessary strategic factor for the war ahead, particularly if vital Mosul is to be re-taken.
Another good sign is that the Iraqi army, local police, and some local Sunni tribal fighters successfully coordinated their movements in taking the fight to ISIS on the ground. Partly due to American pressure, the Abadi government wisely omitted Shiite-dominated militias from participating in the fighting, as their presence was likely to have stoked unease amongst the majority Sunni population of Anbar, the last thing the government in Baghdad needed.
A repeatable success?
But in a very real sense this unique series of fortuitous strategic events merely underlines how hard the war ahead is likely to be. For the success in Ramadi is largely not repeatable, based as it is on the military success of the government in Baghdad, skilfully allied with local Sunni forces from Anbar province itself. To re-take Iraq’s second city, Mosul, in the north—absolutely vital for puncturing ISIS’s myth of invincibility and ejecting them from the country—both Shiite and Kurdish militias will also have to be part of the mix, a disparate sectarian set of boots on the ground who will need to be involved in liberating the largely Sunni city.
This tactical reality flies in the face if the overall strategic fact of life that if ISIS is to be defeated, the West needs Sunni Arab allies on the ground in both Iraq and Syria, far more than any other force. Only a Sunni counter-narrative, combined with them taking the lead in ejecting ISIS from its bastions of support, is likely to lead to a lasting political peace in both Iraq and Syria.
In other words, while taking Ramadi is unvarnished good news, now the hard part begins: Baghdad’s political struggle to convince its minority Sunni population that this time it is intent on taking their needs and views seriously. Political success, and not just military victory, is the vital elixir needed to inoculate the Middle East from the ISIS disease.
On this score, efforts by the well-meaning Abadi government have been underwhelming up until now. A basic litmus test of Baghdad’s seriousness—the creation of an Iraqi National Guard based around anti-ISIS Sunni tribal militias in Anbar—has come to nothing. The Obama administration, having learned the bitter lessons of the know-nothing Bush White House, has rightly and wisely pressed the Prime Minister to make the guard a reality, hoping to use Anbar Sunni leaders as the key political force for ejecting ISIS from Anbar permanently, just as the earlier ‘Awakening’ movement put paid to ISIS’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
A political revolution
But despite this all making eminent sense in policy terms, Shiite power brokers (including Abadi’s own Dawa party, still led by the disastrous former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki) close to the Iranian government have stifled any efforts reflecting the reality that Iraq is a multi-sectarian country. Without such a radical political change, Iraq’s days as a country are bound to be numbered, and ISIS will merely rise again, much as AQI did following on from the previous Maliki government’s programme of Shiite chauvinism.
There is only one man with significant political heft to effect such a political revolution: Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the most respected Shiite clerics in the world. Only Sistani—who by great luck is a believer in both Iraqi nationalism as well as the need for a secular state—can force the necessary concessions from the Shiite majority, turning Iraq into a far more de-centralized state, in line with the ethno-religious realities on the ground. Failing this, no number of Ramadi-style victories can change the basic political fact that Iraq has become ungovernable.
Since the end of December 2015, the military news in Iraq has been on the whole very good: as President Obama recently pointed out ISIS controls fully 40% less territory now than it did at its high-water mark. That is a good first step. But the hard part, getting the politics right, lies just ahead.
Dr. John C. Hulsman is the President and Co-Founder of John C. Hulsman Enterprises (www.john-hulsman.com), a successful global political risk consulting firm. An eminent foreign policy expert, John is the senior columnist for City AM, the newspaper of the city of London. Hulsman is a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of all or part of 11 books, Hulsman has given 1500 interviews, written over 510 articles, prepared over 1280 briefings, and delivered more than 470 speeches on foreign policy around the world.
The fate of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani
Tuesday, 5 January 2016
A video was recently leaked purportedly showing Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force, while he visited fighters in the Syrian city of Aleppo - or at least that's what the video's title claimed. Like all his photos during past year, Soleimani appeared happy with himself, smiling at all those surrounding him while promising victory in the "sacred" war which he deludes his Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese fighters in Syria with. But in this recent appearance, the footage of Soleimani does not appear official, nor does he present himself in an official manner. Still, he is seen as a militia leader who is skilled at exhibiting whatever he wants to through leaked scenes, which can either be rejected or accepted as a presentation of the truth.
But is the video new or old? Is Soleimani still alive, carrying out Iran's plans in Syria and Iraq, or has he been killed, as has been rumored by several media outlets in recent months? The man's biography has occupied international media outlets in the past year – particularly with regards to his military roles in Iraq and Syria. So, has he really been killed? If he's alive, why doesn't he make an official appearance to show the world that the rumors are not true?
Little is known for sure – there is no official party that has proven or denied the death rumors. This recent video alleging Soleimani is in Aleppo adds mystery to the man's fate and the reality of his role. Here we are again, questioning the disappearance and reappearance tricks that Iran's most prominently-known man in Syria has previously mastered.
It's all stories and fantasies and no accurate information. This is exactly what Iran is keen to market. The Iranian propaganda machine has become highly skilled at applying these tricks to prompt mysteries and spread rumors as it has always adopted a policy of secrecy as part of its power, expansion and influence maneuvers.
Those who leaked and circulated the video purporting to show Soleimani a few days ago said this was old footage which was recently broadcast to send a message that Soleimani is alive, fighting Iran's battles and touring battlefields. Still, the true source of these images remain unclear.
A character like Qassem Soleimani displays the reality of Iran’s tampering in the affairs of troubled countries from within. The leaked video, with its improvised speeches and military and religious scenes, is merely a public declaration of an occupation. This image targets the Iranian audience as well as people outside Iran. But is spreading this image a sign of progress and power or a sign of weakness and an attempt to galvanize fighters and show that Iran is in control, especially after Russia has taken charge over official Syrian matters?
In my opinion, it seems the circulation of the footage indicates more weakness than power. Their only aim is to show that Iran is in control on the ground in Syria. It's true that Iran has achieved military success in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and got the better end of the nuclear deal, but it has also proved its enmity to its surrounding neighbors and sparked a long-term sectarian snag.
Iran has a sectarian expansionist project in mind, and its claim of confronting extremism and ISIS only attracts more extremism. Fighting wars through mysteriously leaked videos may be part of a media game which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have mastered, however it is still a weapon that ensures that divisions will ensue.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.
Middle East Tensions Escalate In Wake Of Saudi Mass Beheadings
By Bill Van Auken
05 January, 2016
Tensions within the war-ravaged Middle East have escalated sharply in the wake of Saudi Arabia’s January 2 mass executions of 47 prisoners, including a prominent Shia cleric who had criticized the ruling monarchy and its suppression of the country’s Shia minority population.
Saudi Arabia cut all diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday, using angry protests against the beheading of the Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, as the pretext. Demonstrators Sunday stormed the Iranian embassy in Tehran and firebombed a consular facility in the Iranian city of Mashhad. At least 50 of the protesters were arrested and no Saudi functionaries were injured.
On Monday, the Saudi monarchy followed up its severing of diplomatic links with the announcement that it is also banning all flights to and from Iran and also cutting trade ties.
The Saudi actions were followed Monday by Bahrain and Sudan severing diplomatic ties with Iran as well. Bahrain, which is host to the US Fifth Fleet, is a majority Shia country ruled by a dictatorial Sunni monarchy. Saudi troops and tanks played the decisive role in suppressing mass protests that swept the country in 2011.
For its part, Sudan, a former ally of Iran, switched allegiances last year after heavy Saudi investments in the Sudanese economy, including a reported deposit of up to $4 billion from the Saudis and their Gulf Cooperation Council into Sudan’s central bank.
Another Sunni gulf oil sheikdom, the United Arab Emirates, downgraded its diplomatic relations with Tehran, but stopped short of severing all ties with Iran, which is a major trading partner.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the Saudi regime for using the protests as a pretext to cut ties and ratchet up tensions. “Saudi Arabia sees not only its interests but also its existence in pursuing crises and confrontations and attempts to resolve its internal problems by exporting them to the outside,” ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said Monday.
He insisted that Iran was committed to providing diplomatic security, adding, “Saudi Arabia, which thrives on tensions, has used this incident as an excuse to fuel the tensions.”
Evidence emerged Monday that, indeed, the mass executions and the subsequent breaking of relations were part of a well-planned Saudi provocation.
The British daily Independent made public the contents of a leaked Saudi government memo showing that the ruling monarchy “knew the mass execution of 47 people would spark an angry backlash and ordered its security services to be on full alert before going ahead.”
The memo, directed from the head of security services to police agencies across the desert kingdom, placed the regime’s extensive repressive apparatus on a high state of alert.
The British human rights group Reprieve, which first received the leaked memo, said it pointed to the “politically motivated” character of the mass beheadings.
“This letter shows the level of preparation the Saudi authorities went to ahead of Saturday, having predicted the outrage that would follow their politically motivated executions of protesters,” said Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve.
Mass protests have continued in the wake of the state killings. A crowd of several thousand gathered in Tehran again on Monday, while demonstrators in Iraq besieged the recently reopened Saudi embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone and took to the streets of the predominantly Shia cities of Basra, Karbala and Najaf.
In a disturbing sign that the Saudi action is stoking sectarian strife, two Sunni mosques in the area of Hilla, 50 miles south of Baghdad, were rocked by bomb blasts. A muezzin was killed at one of the mosques. In a separate attack, the Sunni imam of a mosque in Alexandria in central Iraq was shot and killed by gunmen.
Meanwhile, the Saudi regime itself reported a deadly shooting incident in Sheikh Nimr’s hometown of Awamiya, in Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shia Eastern Province, on Sunday night. While the regime claimed that its security forces had come under fire, the only victims reported were a civilian who was killed and a child who was wounded.
As the linchpin of repression and reaction in the Arab world, the Saudi monarchy has been the foremost instigator of sectarianism, deliberately exacerbating and exploiting tensions between Sunni and Shia as a means of dividing popular opposition within the country and isolating Iran, its principal regional rival.
Until now, the ruling monarchy has refrained from murdering leading figures within the Shia community—arresting and harassing them, suppressing demonstrations, but ultimately releasing them in an attempt to assuage anti-regime sentiments.
The beheading of Nimr, together with the 46 others, was clearly organized for political ends. He himself had been in prison since 2012, while the bulk of those whose heads were chopped off or were shot to death were Sunni accused of involvement in Al Qaeda attacks inside the kingdom. They had been jailed for upwards of a decade. Joining Nimr’s execution with theirs was meant to signal that Shia opposition to the monarchy’s absolute rule was tantamount to terrorism.
The political purposes of this bloody provocation are both foreign and domestic. It was staged barely three weeks before Syrian peace talks were set to begin in Geneva and less than two weeks before UN-brokered talks on a settlement of the bloody nine-month-old Saudi war in Yemen were due to resume.
The Saudi monarchy, which has been a principal financier and sponsor of the Al Qaeda-linked Sunni Islamist militias unleashed in the war for regime change in Syria, has no interest in ending the more than nearly five-year-old conflict short of toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s principal Arab ally.
Nor does it want to end its war in Yemen under the present conditions, with the Houthis, a Shia-based insurgent movement, undefeated. The mass beheadings coincided directly with the Saudi announcement that a supposed ceasefire declared on December 15 had formally ended.
The war in Yemen has claimed nearly 6,000 lives since the Saudi military began launching indiscriminate air strikes last March. The US has aided the intervention with arms, intelligence and midair refueling of Saudi bombers, which have dropped American-made cluster bombs on civilian targets and struck at least 100 hospitals. While it is an increasingly costly debacle for the Saudi monarchy, to end the war without defeating the Houthis would be seen as a humiliating defeat.
Ultimately, the aim of the Saudi regime is to disrupt any rapprochement between Washington and Iran in the wake of the recent nuclear deal and, if possible, to drag US imperialism into a wider war against Iran itself.
Domestically, the fomenting of sectarianism and clashes with Iran serves as a means of diverting explosive social tensions away from the monarchy itself. The kingdom faces an increasingly intractable economic crisis driven by the collapse in oil prices for which its own policies bear major responsibility. It has already implemented cuts in gasoline subsidies and increases in fees for water and electricity in an attempt to confront its fiscal crisis. More drastic austerity measures, aimed at social subsidies used to quell popular unrest, are expected.
Within official Washington, the reaction to the mass beheadings and the judicial murder of Sheikh Nimr has been muted at best. There has been no direct condemnation of the grisly mass killings, and no senior official has so much as issued a statement.
Within the ruling political establishment, policy toward the Saudi monarchy, the number one arms market for the US and Washington’s closest Arab ally, is, like most basic foreign policy questions, an issue of conflict and divisions.
This was expressed Monday in editorials published by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
The Journal, expressing the views of the most right-wing layers within ruling circles, as well as the constituency of the military-industrial complex and finance capital, which have both reaped super profits off the Saudi monarchy, posed the issue not as a matter of Saudi crimes or even crisis, but rather of the supposed danger of Iran and Russia “toppling the House of Saud,” and the question of whether the Obama administration “would do anything to stop them.”
The Journal editorial chided the Obama administration for having “walked back” sanctions against Iran over recent ballistic missile tests. While acknowledging problems in Saudi support for the export of Wahhabism, the ideological underpinnings of Al Qaeda, ISIS and similar outfits, the Journal concluded: “But in a Middle East wracked by civil wars, political upheaval and Iranian imperialism, the Saudis are the best friend we have in the Arabian peninsula. The US should make clear to Iran and Russia that it will defend the Kingdom from Iranian attempts to destabilize or invade.”
The Post took a somewhat more concerned approach, recognizing that the execution of Nimr “was an act that appears bound—and maybe was intended—to further inflame conflict between Shiites and Sunnis across the Middle East.” It warns against the Saudi ruling family “sowing chaos in an already stricken region while undermining itself.”
However, it attributes Riyadh’s “reckless moves” to “Saudi perceptions that the United States is no longer willing or able to stop Iran’s drive for Middle Eastern hegemony, forcing Sunni regimes to act in their own defense.”
In the end both editorials point to the same supposed remedy for the destruction and bloodshed wrought by both US imperialism and its Saudi client state in the Middle East: the escalation of militarism and the preparation of new and even wider wars directed against both Iran and Russia.