Those reports have noted that expanding Iranian power and influence in the wake of last year’s seven-party nuclear deal has steadily increased anxiety among the traditional Sunni adversaries of Shiite Iran. But separately, the same trends have also encouraged concerns and led to newfound defensive planning among other enemies of the Islamic Republic, as well as among countries that had not previously had very hostile relations with Tehran.
An obvious example of the former is Israel, and this fact was reiterated by reports that emerged on Friday regarding Israeli military planning and pro-Israeli lobbying within the United States. In the first place, the Jewish Press reported that the Jewish state had made short term plans to purchase a new Dolphin-class submarine from Germany. The Israelis have also established long-term plans for the purchase of two more of the same military vessels, with an eye toward replacing older models and upgrading Israel’s fleet of five submarines.
Although the plans do not include actual expansion of the current size of the fleet, the Jewish Press puts the upgrades specifically in the context of Israeli defensive posture toward the Islamic Republic of Iran. Furthermore, the report indicates that Israeli officials have already reported that their current fleet is capable of striking anywhere in Iran.
Previous maneuvers by some of the Dolphin class have reportedly been aimed at demonstrating readiness in this regard. And of course, Israel has repeatedly referenced the possibility of military action since the conclusion of the nuclear agreement, which a number of leading officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have described as “paving the way” to an Iranian nuclear weapon over the long term.
Naturally, lobbying activities have continued on this point, in the interest of convincing US officials and other Western governments that unilateral Israeli action might be justified if the international community does not make more concerted efforts to curtail Iran’s future ambitions.
Although this lobbying diminished in the wake of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Matzav reported on Friday that the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee had recently prepared a memo for American lawmakers and the Pentagon, criticizing the latest alleged White House elaboration upon the JCPOA.
The memo referred to new Treasury Department rules concerning international transactions with Iran. The Treasury now advises that Iran is not barred from access to the US dollar, as was previously understood, but may trade in that currency through European banks, provided that the transactions do not directly touch the US financial system. Critics view this as the latest in a series of concessions to the Islamic Republic, and groups such as AIPAC have warned that access to the dollar is likely to lead to increased funding for hardline entities like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is directly involved in a number of regional conflicts including the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.
Increased IRGC funding can also be expected to broaden Iranian influence in regions that are not currently conflict zones, but might become such in the event of increased sectarian tensions. Iran’s hardline Shiite influence is certainly a threat to states like Saudi Arabia, which are participating in regional conflicts on the opposite side. But they are also a threat to countries that are facing primarily internal threats, especially from Shiite militant groups with demonstrated ties to Iran.
One prominent example of this is Nigeria, whose military recently launched an attack on alleged Shiite militants. The Nigerian news source Omojuwa reported on Thursday that the Iranians had predictably condemned this incident. But it is worth noting that Iran has condemned lesser offenses in the past, and has thus recognizably contributed to expanded sectarian strife. In January, for instance, Saudi Arabia executed a Shiite cleric that was accused of inciting violence against the government. Iran responded by using state media to portray this as an attack on all Shiites, leading to mob attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad.
Iranian dissidents have accused the regime of personally organizing these attacks, and contemporary reports indicated that security forces were on site but did not intervene for upwards of an hour. In any event, Saudi Arabia subsequently severed all diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic, escalating tensions and leading to the current situation of spreading sectarian conflict and escalating proxy wars.
Critics of the Iranian regime are quick to point out that the Iranian constitution specifically calls for the export of the Islamic revolution – something that could manifest itself in the reproduction of Iran’s own mob activities in foreign territories like Nigeria. This sort of accusation was levied against Iran on Friday in another report by Omojuwa.
The article referred to article 154 of the Iranian constitution, which calls for worldwide protection of “the oppressed” but fails to define this term, allowing for the regime to frame the mandate in terms of protection of the global Shiite minority against the Sunni majority. Iran is certainly known for sectarian propaganda, as evidenced by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s effort to challenge the Saudi stewardship of the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
The sort of propaganda certainly contributes to worries about militant uprisings in a range of Sunni-majority states. And the Omojuwa report suggests that such an uprising is imminent in light of the Iran-linked Islamic Movement of Nigeria planning a demonstration to urge the release of Sheikh Zakzaky, the movement’s Nigerian leader who was implicated in an attack on a convoy containing the Chief of State of the Nigerian Army.
While some members of the IMN insist that the planned demonstration will be peaceful, others have referred to it as the storming of the capital of Abuja, suggesting that it could be aimed at local emulation of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. And for many nations and groups that are concerned about the growth of Iranian influence, this ideological connection to the Islamic Republic is potentially just as significant as the violent or peaceful nature of the demonstration itself.