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  • Writer's pictureRichard Murff

Whisky Tango Foxtrot: Iran's 3H Club

Hamas, Houthis and Hezbollah, oh my...


Houthi Hamas Hezbollah

The world is going to Hell in a handbasket by Iran’s 3H Club: Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthi’s. The 4717 explains in this week’s Whisky Tango Foxtrot…


 

First things first; The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded in 1979 as a Shi’a Muslim theocracy that was never intended to be a ‘republic’ in any real sense of the word. Gunning against the corrupt and comically pathetic Shah, the radically conservative religious sorts were trying to gain the support of the country’s liberal left for a coup. The secular liberals didn’t pick up on the wheeze until the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power and the death squads showed up. Proving George Orwell correct when he wrote: One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.


In 1917, the Bolsheviks envisioned not so much a nation but a revolution to be exported and eventually take over the world. The Iranian wanted to export a revolution to end the world. During the revolution Khomeini started referring to himself as “Imam.” It’s a loaded historical term that had been out of general usage for hundreds of years and the educated, religious elite didn’t approve of his using it. Iran’s left-leaning urban seculars didn’t really care. The pious, superstitious rural population would have taken it as a reference to the 12th Imam: Islam’s final Shi’a Imam who disappeared in the 10th century and, it was said, would return at the end of days. Heady stuff.


A year into the revolution, Iran found itself in what would be an eight-year war with Iraq that ended in a draw. They learned their lesson and decided that it would be easier to pay other people to bring on the 12th Imam. Strictly speaking, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a doomsday cult. Which is the sort of thing a functioning body of nations likes to steer clear of.


The Shi’a make up only about 10-12% of the global Muslim population, and in Tehran there is an aggravated sense of persecution about it. There is also a hesitation to come right out against other Muslims. And in that world, as well as American universities evidently, beating up on the Jews is low-hanging fruit. So, the stated aim of the revolutionary government is to destroy Israel and will trigger the end of days in a what will presumably be a big Shi’a jamboree.

 

How did – or do – they plan to do this without going to war themselves… with Iran’s “3H” Club.

 

Hamas:

Hamas is running hot and scared now – but they seem a strange choice for Iran’s full-throated support: They are violently Palestinian, who are Arab, so the Persian Iranians look down on them. They are also violently Sunni, so the Shi’a Iranians actually think that they are in league with the devil. Yet, they all hate Big Satan and Lil’ Satan – the US and Israel – somehow worse than each other.


So Hamas, to Tehran, is like a creepy mechanic who you’d rather not deal with, but man does he keep the engine running. Or in this case the rockets flying. And the West pulling out its hair.


Hamas is also an inside man: The parts of Israel controlled by Palestinians are the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The Palestinians of West Bank are more middle class, and less inclined to suicidal attempts to blow the whole place up. I suspect that most Gazans would have rather not be involved, but Hamas took over the area in a coup in 2007 and Israel thought better of intervening.   

 

Hezbollah:

Hezbollah is camped out in Lebanon, on Israel’s northern border and it appears to be getting started. It is Iran’s first, and most successful, attempt at exporting its revolution – not due to Iranian ingenuity so much as the place was fertile ground for chaos. Lebanon has a sizable Shi’a population along with 17 other recognized groups of varying numbers. and since no one has bothered with a census since 1932, it is impossible to tell just how sizable any of them are. Its government is a creature built on identity politics: The President is always a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister must be Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of the Parliament will be a Shi’a Muslim, with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament being Eastern Orthodox. Nearly every groups has its own militia. I trust you see the problem.


In 1968, waves of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) militants moved into south Lebanon to carry on the fight after losing yet another war. They started clashing with some Christian militia’s and by 1975 the place was in civil war between a spattering of broadly aligned (or not) militias of Christians, Sunni, Shi’a and Druze – who are neither Christian nor Muslim but sort of like both – and drew in Syria and Israel. The war lasted It until 1990 with the Syrians and Israelis hanging around until the 2000s. Hezbollah kicked up the fighting against Israel again in 2006. They appear to think it is time to start back up. And why not, everyone else is.

 

Houhtis:

The Houthis are Arab, but that’s just a little ethnic snobbery; but at least they are Shi’a. Their charming fight song is:


God is the Greatest

Death to America

Death to Israel

A Curse Upon the Jews

Victory to Islam

 

Apparently, they are persnickety about the color scheme when printing this out, and Tehran likes that sort of attention to ridiculous detail. So naturally, they supported the Houthis in Yemen Civil War which happened to be right on Saudi Arabia’s southern border. So let’s not put too much weight on Iran’s purity of thought or motive, despite their religious caterwauling about the Jews, Saudi Arabia is the real enemy.


The Saudis got involved in the Yemen civil war on the side of the legitimate government because it didn’t need the Houthi’s stirring up the its Shi’a population. Yet it withdrew when the Biden Administration said that the US would pull all military support for Saudi offensive operations in the war. The Saudis withdrew, and you have to assume they are enjoying the hell out of the fact that now the US is fighting the same cranks directly.  

 

This latest development, amusing as it is to the Saudis, presents a problem for the Iran. Its entire strategy depends on never actually fighting anyone, least of all the United States, directly. Which is exactly what has happened with in-country terrorist attacks from Islamic State in Afghanistan and a real shooting war developing with Pakistan. True the peace-loving legitimate government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, has called for a de-escalation – but they are pretty much giggling themselves to sleep over this.  

 

The question is can Iran afford to keep the three H’s going while it’s fights its own war. The whole point of a proxies is to have two adversaries talking two other adversaries into fighting for them. With the US striking the Houthi’s directly, there is only one thin, nebulous desert tribe between the US and a war Iran knows it can’t win. Now the Islamic Republic – so deft at starting wars for everyone else – is fighting nearly everyone.


It’s going to lose, no doubt, the question is how badly. And in a nuclear age I mean how badly for the rest of the planet.

 

 

 

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