Ben Cohen — Algemeiner Oct 27, 2017
A leading Syrian opposition figure has warned of an Iranian takeover of the Middle East, facilitated by the inability of Western policymakers to understand the shifting dynamics in the region, especially with regard to their potential impact upon the State of Israel.
“Western strategy in Syria leads in one direction — an Iranian takeover,” Kamal al-Lubani told Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon on Friday.
Al-Lubani, who is currently visiting Israel, is a member of the political bureau of the National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces and long-standing critic of Iran’s expanding regional influence. In 2013, it was al-Lubani who rejected an offer from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to “mediate” between the Syrian opposition and the Damascus regime of President Bashar al-Assad, pointing out that the proposal was “laughable” because Iran was “part of the problem.”
Four years on, al-Lubani remains convinced that Iran is the principal source of instability in the region. “The old-fashioned notion that we are witnessing a religious war of Sunni against Shia Muslims is a mistake,” al-Lubani said during the interview at a Tel Aviv hotel.
Al-Lubani argued that the Iranians have navigated the region’s geographical, national and sectarian divisions with great skill, as evidenced by the recent assault by Tehran regime-backed Iraqi forces and Shia paramilitaries on the city of Kirkuk and other strategic areas of Iraqi Kurdistan.
“The Iranians have excellent relations with the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and threaten the Hashemite monarchy there,” al-Lubani added. “In Lebanon, they are supported by the Maronite Christian President Michel Aoun and by the Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose father was murdered by the Shia Hezbollah.”
He continued: “Hell, even Da’esh (ISIS) made a deal with the Iranians and Hezbollah in Syria, which enabled them to move from the Qalamoun mountains between Syria and Lebanon to Deir al-Zour (the largest city in eastern Syria). ”
Al-Lubani was scathing of those in Israel and the West who take the view that all sides in the Middle East were equally untrustworthy. “The decision-makers in Israel do not understand that the Iranians have a clear goal and plan,” he warned. “If Israel does not act, it will wake up too late to the reality of Iran that unites Shia and Sunni against the Zionists — not only on the northern border but also in Gaza and the West Bank.”
Al-Lubani praised Israel for providing humanitarian aid to thousands of Syrians and urged the Jewish state to boost its profile even further.
“You have to be active in the Middle East in a smart way, you have to act upon the distress the Syrians are in today, in order to create a peaceful life with the support of Israel and the United States,” he said. “To build schools and hospitals and life-sustaining infrastructure in order to convince them that the connection with Israel is much better and healthier for them than one with Iran.”
A former political prisoner of the regime of the late Hafez al-Assad, al-Lubani spent ten years incarcerated in Syrian jails, including three years in solitary confinement.
“Alone in a tiny cell, I slept on the floor and kept thinking, ‘The struggle is to stay sane,’” he recalled.