For the first time since 625 CE, Iran has restored its control over a contiguous territory that extends from the east of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean coast.
With the complete collapse of the Syrian armed opposition expected before the end of this year, Tehran would have subdued the three Arab countries that are sandwiched between its Western border and the Mediterranean. The dream of the founder of the Islamic Republic and its first Supreme Guide Ruhollah Khomeini will be finally recognized.
The collapse of the Syrian opposition is not the milestone that marks the rise of the Iranian Empire. It is rather Hezbollah’s military parade in Qusayr, and the Syrian regime’s announcement of the integration of Hezbollah in the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) elite Fifth Corps. News of Hezbollah’s integration in the SAA came simultaneously with Baghdad’s announcement that it planned to assimilated the Shiite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) into the Iraqi military.
In both Syria and Iraq, the pro-Iranian militias integrated into the regular forces will maintain their independent structure and decision-making process. The purpose of integration, however, is to give these militias a local legal cover, and hide them from international accusations of terrorism. With such militia developments from Syria and Iraq, reports of Hezbollah integrating into the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) should be expected in the near future.
The assimilation of militias into state armies in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon does not mean handing over the keys of local government to these Iranian militias. On the contrary, by being part of the Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese regular forces, these militias will control — on Tehran’s behalf — their respective armies, and by extension the governments behind these armies.
Iran will copy the now defunct Syrian model of Hafez al-Assad in Lebanon by preserving a semblance of national sovereignty and local politics in these states, while Tehran calls the shots from the backstage. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was the first Arab sovereign to become an Iranian subordinate. Beirut followed with the election of President Michel Aoun, the Lebanese version of Abadi. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was the last of the three Arab sovereigns to become an Iranian vessel.
The model of local kings, historically known as satraps in ancient Iran, is an old Persian scheme. After invading neighboring territories and forcing their leaders to concede, rulers of ancient Iran would keep the local king in power, on the condition that the king pledges allegiance to the Iranian king (Shah in Persian). Thus the Iranian ruler became the King of Kings (Shahnshah).
The last Iranian Shahnash lost control over the Mediterranean coast to Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, who ruled between 610 and 641 and launched his war against the Persian Empire in 622. Since then, no Iranian sovereign has ruled any stretch of land west of the Euphrates, until the recent collapse of the three neighboring Arab governments of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Such collapses came under different circumstances, but the end result has been the same. Now Iran is the actual sovereign over these three Arab states.
What next? Knowing that the Islamic Republic of Iran was built on an expansionist ideology, which at times took the form of exporting a revolution, Tehran should be expected to shift its attention toward the Arab Gulf. Already Iran controls the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, and has its eyes on Bahrain, Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia. It is a matter of time before Iran starts agitating its clients in these countries in a bid to force their governments to collapse and replace them with subordinate states on the model of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
The Iranian nuclear program was a diversion that the world fell for and which Iran exchanged for its ability to amend the structure of Arab states in order to recreate its lost empire. By the time Iran is done controlling Arab states, its nuclear deal would have expired, and adding a few nuclear fireworks to its military arsenal will only make sure to seal the deal and make Iran’s long-sought empire as permanent as it can get.