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The Jeremiad of Persia: A Letter to the SupreAnchorme Leader of Iran

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Dec 31, 2019 - 17:11
Election Articles

Dear Mr. Khamenei: please stay vigilant for tonight! Yesterday when you were watering others’ fields in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, they flooded your own gardens in Khotan and Kashmir. They have already declared Xinjiang a Hans’s majority province and will declare Kashmir a Hindu majority state tomorrow morning before you wake up. The Pashton lions have been roaring in the cage that the British Empire had built for them and waiting for you to send someone to break the now rusted lock and set them free.They are ready to guard the natural boundaries of their ShiranZamin as they have done so for millenniums.

In order to prevent impending plunder and colonization of Iran and other Muslim nations in the region by the rising powers in Asia, the Islamic regime must turn down its attitude of hostility towards the United States. Establishing unity and compatibility among indigenous Muslim communities is the most practical and efficient weaponry to protectthe otherwise atomized Muslims whose lands are conducive for exercise of fantasies by alien powers.Similarly, a stronger, bigger and more prosperous Iran is in favor of the West-led worldinfo-icon order. Iran neither needs a regime change nor international sanctions. In reality,it needs to implement a cultural revolution by reinstituting its own historic values and practices. A revolution that is compatible with the Islamic and national identity of Iran as well as of the entire region. The phenomenal decision will turn a new chapter in relationship between Iran and its neighborsas well as with the rest of the world. The change will serve as a catalyst for reunification of smaller nations under the Iranian leadership to collectively embrace long awaited opportunities and meet challenges presented as a result of dismemberment of the former USSR, elevation of China and India as the second and third largest economies of the world as well asthe presence of international terrorist and extremist groups in the region. Similarly, the craft can be used to reintroduce Iran as a pillar of stability for the region and the current world order. The current theological leaders of Iran are best-fit to lead and bring about the rationally required change. The Cultural Revolution will disarm Iran’s regional geostrategic competitors, many of whom happen to be also Muslim countries, of using Shiism as a pretext for isolating Iran from the rest of the Muslim community and the world at large.

Iran needs to redefine its position in geostrategic architecture of the region. The world around Iran has dramatically changed since the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the emergence of China and India as the second and third largest economies of the world (Tabatabai, 2018) and(Paul T. , 2018). While these changes present numerous opportunities for the entire region, they also bear impending challenges with grievous consequences for the sovereignty and wellbeing of Muslim communities from Kashmir and Xinjiang to Caucasus. Iran, asan important heir of ancient Persia and great Islamic civilizations, can help the newly independent Muslim states in Eurasia to overcome their identity crisis after their almost a century long association with an alien culture; Czarist Russian and Socialist Soviet Union (Adams, 2010). Many of these countries, in addition to Afghanistaninfo-icon and Iran, formed the ancient Persia(Starr, 2013) and (Beckwith, 2009). By empowering smaller nations around itself, Iran can lead the entire region to greater prosperity and secure itself and its surroundings from negative externalities that would emanate from presence of multiple world powers in its close vicinity. Before it helps other countries to overcome their identity crisis, Iran needs to implement some reforms within its own polity so that it becomes more capable and eligible to reintroduce and reconnect the Eurasian countries to their own cultural roots.

What makes Iran different from all other Muslim societies in Central Asia, Afghanistan, China, Pakistaninfo-icon, and India is that most of Iranians are Shite Muslims, whereas, majority in the other societies are Sunnis (Saikal, 2014). Majority of Iranians were forced to accept Shia Islam by the Safavids in 16th century after the population had accepted and practiced Sunni Islam since the religion had reached Persia (Armstrong, 2002). Later ruler of Persia reinstituted Sunni Islam in 18th century, though,it was short-lived because the Qajar dynasty, again, introduced Shia as the official religion of Persia (Armstrong, 2002). Since then, Iran has remained a Shia majority country and with the Islamic revolution, the practice of Shiism has reached its peak (Saikal, 2014). At world level, only 15% of Muslims are Shia (Saikal, 2014). It is time for the leaders of the Islamic Republic to reinstitute Sunni Islam as the official religion of Iran for the sake of unity and security of the larger Muslim community. No one else is more authoritative and also more responsible to implement sucha phenomenal and noble revolution, which is the requirement of the era that we live in, than the great Islamic scholars who are also contemporary political leaders of Iran.

Dear Mr. Khamenei: You can use your wise decision as a platform to open up Iran as an inclusive societyinfo-icon for all Iranians and introduce the country as a constructive member to the union of nations. Provide transparent and credible assurances to the world that Iran fully abides by international rules and norms while dealing with its counterparts in the international community. Similarly, assure Iranian citizens that their public affairs will be managed only by elected politicians whose mandates will be decided at polls not behind closed doors by a few individuals.

The wise and pragmatic decision by the Islamic Republic of Iran will lead to formation of strategic alliances with and between all Muslims nations of the region and even reunification of Iran and some of its neighbors within one polity. Afghanistan is a primary candidate for reunification with Iran within a confederation.  Afghans and Iranians are not estrange to each other (Frankopan, 2015), (Starr, 2013) and (Beckwith, 2009). After Iran becomes a Sunni Muslim state, there will be no further fundamental difference that will prevent the reintegration of the two parts of the same society. Pashtoinfo-icon and Farsi will be constitutionally recognized as the official languages of the new country, which is already the case in today’s Afghanistan. Furthermore, a decision can be made about whether to name the new polity Afghanistan, Iran or one of the other ancient names of the same land. It could also be a new name like ShiranZamin or the land of lions. Afghans and Iranians see lion as a symbol of pride, strength, egalitarianism, respect and free spirit which also represents their own characteristic as a people. The security pact(s) between Iran and other Muslim countries of the region will mark itself as a forward move by the indigenous people of the region for maximum usage of potential opportunities and also a physical forward movement by the greater Iranto explicitly show its readiness to meet potential challenges and stand firm toprotect the rights of Muslims. In their own turn, China and India both see central Asian countries and Afghanistan as conducive environmentinfo-icon for the growth of terrorism, extremism and separatism that eventually will impact societies within their own territories. But a strong, prosperous, and international-and-Islamic rule abiding Iran will eliminate such fears for its neighbors and the world at large.

Efficiency and application of best practices will elevate the country to an ideal zenith which will become the envy of Iran’s competitors in the region. Empowerment of citizens and communities within Iran will become the priority of the state rather than correcting the rest of the world by exporting revolutions to foreign countries. Iranian citizens will see no restriction in connecting with their creator, Allah almighty, either as a Shia or a Sunni. Followers of other religions will find themselves as safe and secure as Muslims; or even more; because they will, in addition, benefit from their preferential constitutional rights that are solely given to minority groups. Citizens will have full tenure over properties they own including on/and underground natural riches. The days of imposing infamous treaties such as “the Gulestan” and the “Turkmenchay”or the “Durand Lineinfo-icon” will never come again once Iran and  other Muslim countries which once formed ancient Persia complement each otherwithin a confederation (Tabatabai, 2018) and (Saikal, 2014). The strategic alliances will enable Iran to be considered, internationally, as a counterpart to other regional powers such as to India, rather than the least and weakest member of a “triple axis” where China and Russia are the masters (Tabatabai, 2018).

It is obvious that the Shia theological regime and the United States have remained hostile with each other since the installation of the Islamic republic in Iran. This fact has incapacitated Iran from fulfilling its natural constructive role for its own citizens, for its neighbors, and for the world. Even with presence of hostility with the United States, many in the West, and the entire world, are unaware of the good that the Islamic revolution of Iran has done for protection of liberal values in the world by preventing pro-communist groups from taking power in Iran 40 years ago (Frankopan, 2015) and (Saikal, 2014). It will always be a matter of contention whether to credit the last monarch of Iran for uplifting the theological leaders in the society to counter the growing influence of pro-Moscow and pro-Beijing groups in Iran or to impute the marvelous achievement to the leaders of the Islamic revolution for their preempting act and staging the revolution (Tabatabai, 2018). If Iran fell to communism in 1970s and 80s, we would have had a different world, indeed. Once Iran became a red country, the entire region would have gone red too. The Jihadinfo-icon against the Red Army in Afghanistan might have failed, most probably, as a consequence of Iran becoming a communist state. As the phenomenon has not happened, it is easy for the unaware viewers to underestimate the power of Persian culture and Iran’s influence over the greater Middle East, Eurasia, and South Asia. For many it would seem incredible that once Farsi used to be the court language even in China (Frankopan, 2015).

It is another matter of contention whether the West would have been better if it stayed engaged in Afghanistan during 1990s after the Soviet forces had withdrawn from the country or as a result of its intervention in the country in response to the 9/11 attacks in the United States. United States and other NATOinfo-icon members supported the resistance of Afghan people against the Soviet Union. Afghans did not only liberate their own country but initiated the fall of the Warsaw Pact by forcing the Red Army to withdraw from Afghanistan after it had occupied the country for ten years. Yet the Western world, which had generously flooded Afghanistan with billions of dollars worth of arms and ammunition, to be used against the Soviet Forces, abandoned the tiny war-stricken and landlocked country to take charge of rehabilitating their country and social institutions. Western countries, as well as the rest of the world and particularly Afghanistan has been paying the cost of shortsighted policies implemented by Western politicians whose motives are driven by their domestic partisan politics and limited office terms. Without having a legitimate replacement for the regime, the United States and its allies have been making another grave mistake by weakening the Islamic Republic, which might lead to collapse of state in Iran. The void that had been created in Afghanistan had been filled by non-state actors like al-Qaeda (GANNON, Jihad, history link Talibaninfo-icon to al-Qaida in Afghanistan, 2019). Whereas, Iranian void will be filled by more serious challengers of the United States: China, Russia, and India. In addition, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other similar groups will find their safe havens in Iran and the greater Middle East. Afghanistan did experience collapse of state and consequently a bloody civil war during 1990s; Iran might go through the same experience quite soon.

Russia has been using any opportunity and venue to reintroduce itself as a world power. It has frequently used Iran; its physical territory and also its image, symbolically, as a Muslim nation; to further Russia’s sphere of influence over greater Middle East(Tabatabai, 2018). Russia’s hostile performance against the post-Cold War world order is well recognized. China and India have increasingly been using their newly found riches to build their military powers(Belanger, 2018). The two have rivalry between themselves over territories along their 3500 kmsshared border;over natural resources in Eurasia and elsewhere; and also over status at the regional and world level(Paul T. , 2018), (Shankar, 2018), (Chen, 2018), and (Pu, 2018). They have been designing and implementing projects in the region and beyond to push one another to periphery and putting itself into a dominating position(Paul T. , 2018). Both of them look at Muslim lands in Eurasia, South Asia, and the Middle East as supply stocks of energy products and other raw materials for their gigantic and still growing economies(Chen, 2018), (Pu, 2018), (Tabatabai, 2018) and (Grigas, 2017). At the same time, they have their military buildups in areas which would turn territories that belong to Muslims into their potential military action fields(Belanger, 2018). Treatment of Muslim communities by Chinese authorities as well as the recent move by the Indian government to revoke constitutional rights of the Kashmiris do not present Muslim well-wishing approaches by these two newly rich Asian powers (BBC, 2018) and (Zahoor, 2019). Their approaches, in reality, reflect their own appreciation and historic experience from dealing between powerful and weak partners. They both have lived for over a century under colonial rule and what they term as a century of humiliation (Paul T. , 2018) and (Tabatabai, 2018). For them, now, the roles have switched. They have become stronger and see others as the weaker partners.

One Belt and One Road (OBOR) or Asia-Africa Growth Corridor are massive “geopolitical” projects by China and India. In order to counter China’s initiatives, India has sought to underpin its strategic cooperation with Japan, Australia, and Vietnam. India, together with Japan, has been trying to build an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor that will counter the OBOR. To counterbalance China’s expansion in South China Sea and Indian Ocean, which includes building ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for example, India has been conducting joint naval exercises with the United States and also offering to provide fuel and maintenance services to American naval vessels (Paul T. , Explaining Conflict and Cooperation in the China-India Rivalry, 2018).

According to Professor Stephen Kotkin from Princeton University, China cannot materialize its dream of becoming a superpower of the world as the United States is today, because the latter has California and China does not. He further explains that China has been working on, therefore, to compensate for its disadvantage of not having its own “California” by deeply integrating itself into Pakistan which will enable the Asian giant to have its “California” and access to Indian Ocean. A privilege that will enable China to materialize its aspirations to become the Superpower of the world (Kotkin, 2017). That explains the hypocritical approaches by Chinese authorities towards Muslims at home and in Pakistan. In Xinjiang, one in every eight Uyghur Muslims are held in custody centers by the authorities because they believe in and practice Islam (BBC, Xinjiang territory profile, 2018). In contrary, Pakistan is the largest recipient of Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). That investment which is about $60 billion (USD) is an invitation, in reality, of a catastrophic risk to the second largest Muslim country in terms of population by its own rulers. If China intention is to challenge Indian marine force which is the  dominant in the Indian Ocean since decades; by using Gwardar and other ports in Pakistan; and challenge the superpower status of the United States at the world level, by establishing tenure over the Chinese “California”, then a retributory action from India and the United States will be inevitable. Consequently, the names of Rawalpindi and Lahore might become synonyms for Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Whereas, China truly becomes world superpower, then the Muslim people of Pakistan will be welcomed by their Chinese masters to the Uyghur club.

United States and Europe must support Iran to materialize its natural role as a balancing power in the region. After the Iranian leaders, who must implement policies that further harmonize Iranian ideals with those of other Muslim communities in the region, the responsibility falls on the United States to actively synthesize closer ties between Iran and its greater surroundings, in particular with Afghanistan.Without a fundamental policy change by the Western and Iranian leaders, the continuation of the status quo negatively affects the entire region. International sanctions on Iran negatively affect economic and social wellbeing of all countries surrounding Iran(Nephew, 2018). The United States, European Union, and the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) need to provide plans that mitigate negative impacts of their sanction on Iran for Iran’s neighbors. As a proposal, for example, the United States should declare Afghanistan as a filter zone for its sanctions imposed on Iran. European Union and the Security Council of the United Nations also need to follow the US lead. The decision will mean that any trade between Iran and the rest of the world that happens via the territory of Afghanistan be considered sanctions free. Let Iranian oil and gas reach Chinese market via Afghanistan and Azerbaijani oil and gas via Iran and Afghanistan to Indian and Pakistani sea ports from where the products could also be re-exported to South Korea and European markets, for example.

Dear Khamenei: tonight is not a night to be negligent. Tonight, ShiranZamin needs you to do what SayidJamaluddinal-Afghani would have advised you to do for them. Tonight, Iran needs you to guide and lead it through this gloomy, dark night. Tonight is not the night to sleep, for if you sleep tonight, Iran may not see the light of day tomorrow.

References

Adams, L. L. (2010). The Sepctacular State Culture and National Identity in Uzbekistan. Duke University Press.

Armstrong, K. (2002). Islam A Short History. New York: Modern Library.

BBC. (2018, October). Xinjiang territory profile. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-16860974

Beckwith, C. I. (2009). Empires of the Silk Road A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Belanger, Z. H.-F. (2018). Balancing Strategies and China-India Rivalry. In T. Paul, The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era (pp. 95-111). Georgetown University Press.

Chen, C. (2018). China and India's Qest for resources and its impact on the Rivalry. In T. Paul, The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era (pp. 117-132). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Frankopan, P. (2015). The Silk Raods A New History of the World. New York: Vintage Books.

GANNON, K. (2019, September 17). Jihad, history link Taliban to al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Islamabad. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://apnews.com/868aa4bf2ec64b80b7ee625d6f0ff602

Grigas, A. (2017). The New Geopolitics of Natural Gas. Harvard University Press.

Khurana, G. S. (2019, April). India as a Challenge to China's Belt and Road Initiative. Asia Policy, 14(2), 27-33. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/724109/pdf

Kotkin, S. (2017). What is Eurasia? Foreign Policy Research Institute. Retrieved November 14, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=what+is+Eurasia

Nephew, R. (2018). The Art of Sanctions A View from the Field. New York: Columbia University Press.

Paul, T. (2018). Explaining Conflict and Cooperation in the China-India Rivalry. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Paul, T. (2018). The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Pu, X. (2018). Asymmetrical Competitors Status Concern and the China-India Rivalry. In T. Paul, The China-India Rivalry in Globalization Era (pp. 55-68). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Saikal, A. (2014). Zone of Crisis Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. London and New York: I.B. Tauris.

Shankar, M. (2018). Territory and the China-India Competition. In T. Paul, The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era (pp. 27-48). Georgetown University Press.

Starr, S. F. (2013). Lost Enlightenment Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane. Princeton University Press.

Tabatabai, D. E. (2018). Triple Axis Iran's Relations with Russia and China. London , UK: I.B Tauris.

Zahoor, M. (2019, November 11). In Pictures: 100 days of crippling lockdown in Kashmir. Srinagar, Kashmir, India: Aljazeera. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/pictures-100-days-crippling...

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.

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Author’s brief introduction

Said Mohammad Azam is an independent researcher of energy geopolitics in Central and South Asia. Recipient of Fulbright Scholarship from the US State Department.Alumnus of the American University of Afghanistaninfo-icon (AUAF) and the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.Former Afghanistan Correspondent of Agence France Press (AFP).

 

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