The Priorities Behind the Iranian Regime’s Hostility Toward the US

by M.J. Javani

The United States, as an ally of the Gulf Arab States, has thwarted Tehran’s numerous attempts to export its revolution to the Arab side of the Gulf. As a result, Tehran is hostile to the US and will continue to remain so regardless of any efforts towards rapprochement by Washington.

Over the past several weeks, tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran have increased dramatically. The latest episode involves Iran’s escalation in shooting down a US Navy drone over international waters. By blaming the US and President Trump for Iran’s behavior, Democrats and their allies in academia demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of Tehran’s behavior. They assume the Iranian regime does not have its own priorities independent of actions taken in Washington.  They also assume that appeasement towards Tehran will change its behavior.

In reality, no matter what America does, Tehran will continue to define itself as a force in resistance to Washington. One of the issues used by the founding fathers of the Islamic Republic to agitate public opinion against the late Shah was his alleged dependence on the United States. The Islamic Republic on the other hand declares its foreign policy objectives are based on Shia Islamic priorities. One of these priorities is the struggle between the forces of justice and injustice. In this narrative, the Islamic Republic views itself as the leader of the forces of justice without ties to any of the global powers.

The leaders of Islamic Iran claim that Tehran is an independent pole of influence on the global stage. The regime claims that its legitimacy derives from numerous passages in the Quran that advocate the defense of the oppressed against oppressors. In this battle, the Islamic Republic claims justification for any action it takes on behalf of the oppressed. These actions often include support for groups the international community has defined as terrorists. The list includes Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. However, Iranian policymakers view their support of such groups as a part of their efforts to facilitate the return of the Imam Mahdi to lead the army of justice in the struggle against injustice.

Another one of Tehran’s priorities is to remain vague and ambiguous about its true intentions. For instance, proxies always carry out acts of aggression against the international community, from the marine barracks bombing in Beirut to the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. According to Iranian strategic theorists, Tehran must mislead other nations about its true intentions and capabilities so they can never be sure how to counter its actions. Here again, the Iranian regime relies on the lessons learned from its Shia Islamic past to shape its defense policies and programs.

The Shia Islamic filter helps to determine both Tehran’s friends and its enemies. This filter is another reason why the United States, seeking to spread the ideals of liberal democracy, is identified as the main enemy of Islam and Iran. According to this principle, the farther a nation moves from the central tenets of Shi’ism, the greater the threat it represents to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The export of Shia Islamic Revolution is also a priority for the regime in Tehran. It is the foundation of Tehran’s geopolitical strategy since its birth and continues to remain so. Given Khomeini’s particular interest in this objective, he quickly transformed this goal from the realm of theory into reality beginning in Iraq. The Iraqi people, especially in the cities of Najaf and Karbala, were encouraged to protest in 1979 in emulation of similar gathering in Iran. Other protests led by Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Sadr took place in Baghdad and Diyala Province.

These activities were followed up by the provocation of Shia in the rest of the Middle East. Shias in Eastern Saudi Arabian cities such as Qatif were agitated to protest in the aftermath of the victory of the revolution in Iran. In Bahrain, the people have been provoked to overthrow the Al Khalifa Monarchy since 1979. Given this priority any nation that stands in the way of the export of the Iranian Revolution is considered an enemy. The United States, as a guarantor of regional stability, and as an ally of the Gulf Arab States, has thwarted Tehran’s numerous attempts to export its revolution to the Arab side of the Gulf. As a result, Tehran is hostile to the US and will continue to remain so regardless of any efforts towards rapprochement by Washington.

The American public must understand that Iran’s strategic priorities are a product of Shia Islamic doctrine. The result is an Iranian foreign policy emphasizing animosity towards the US as the representative of injustice. Tehran also prioritizes a security posture based on ambiguity and actions aimed at deception towards Washington. Finally, the export of the Islamic Revolution is another enduring priority for the Iranian regime, ensuring its long-term enmity towards the US. Therefore, no amount of appeasement towards Tehran by Democrats in Washington or their allies in academia will change this reality.

Article first published on Apadana Chronicle.

Mr. M.J. Javani is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs. He has spent the majority of his career with the Department of Defense and the CIA.