By Mohammad Mazhari

Soleimani was architect of the model for expanding Iran's influence:  MP

January 17, 2021 - 17:0

TEHRAN – An Iranian parliamentarian describes Qassem Soleimani as a strategist who engineered the model for expanding Iran’s power and influence after the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

“According to all of Soleimani's friends and foes, he was a person with a strategic insight and he was the one who engineered a model for expanding the Islamic Republic’s influence after the Iran-Iraq war,” Ahmad Naderi tells the Tehran Times.

“Martyr Soleimani was one of the few important strategists in the world,” Naderi remarks. 

He was not only a general who understood “geopolitical relations” he also was also an active player in “establishing, maintaining, and changing regional equations.”

The following is the text of the interview:

Q: What characteristics made Qassem Soleimani a prominent figure in Iran, the region, and the world?

A: If we want to briefly study Martyr Qassem Soleimani’s personality, it must be divided into two categories: his material and spiritual dimensions.

His spiritual or mental dimension backs to the value system that Martyr Soleimani believed in. This value system arose from a kind of “pure Islam” and a firm belief in the first-hand interpretation of Shia educations inspired by the thought of Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

Martyr Soleimani believed in the concept of jihad and supporting the oppressed people, and these concepts appeared in Soleimani's behavior and actions.

But in the material dimension, Martyr Soleimani was one of the few important strategists in the world. One of the generals who not only understood geopolitical relations, but also played an active player in establishing, maintaining, and changing regional equations. 

According to all of Soleimani's friends and foes, he was a person with strategic insight and he was the one who designed a model for expanding the Islamic Republic’s influence after the Iran-Iraq war.

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, a lot of restrictions were imposed on Iran including an 8-year war, which was in line with the dictates of the domination system.

The slogan of exporting the revolution would have expanded the influence of the Islamic Republic much sooner if it had not faced the restrictions imposed by the Western superpowers at the beginning of the road. 

For this reason, the Western states tried to derail the Islamic Republic from its main slogan (exporting the revolution), adopting a deterrent strategy (against Iran). The war that Saddam imposed on Iran must be understood within this framework.

After the 8-year war, Iran began to expand its influence. A large part of the influence that the Islamic Republic has gained in the region is the result of the thoughts and efforts made by Martyr Qassem Soleimani. 

Our sphere of influence in its first layer extends from the Chinese border with Afghanistan to the Mediterranean Sea and then extends from the Russian borders with the Caucasus and Central Asia to the Gulf of Aden. 

We have other layers; the second layer extends to Africa and the third to Latin America. 

Martyr Soleimani succeeded to expand Iran's influence by applying his strategic idea.

Q: How do you see the position of Martyr Soleimani and Iran when it comes to a clash of civilizations?

A: I have said many times that I see all the equations of the world after 2011 in the context of the battle of civilizations.

Both the war in Ukraine, which started in 2011 and of course stopped, and the wars and bloodshed in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen can be understood in this framework.

Discussing the clash of civilizations, Samuel Huntington basically claims that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world is divided into eight civilizations, where the future of the world will be determined by the battle of these eight civilizations.

Unlike Francis Fukuyama, Huntington does not believe that the world is moving towards “the end of history” and the triumph of the Western liberal democracy.

In fact, Huntington is fundamentally critical of Fukuyama’s theory who emphasizes “a transition from state-centered to civilization-centered.” In a sense, we are passing state-centered geopolitics towards a civilization-centered geo-culture.

According to Huntington’s theory, among these eight civilizations, three of them are important in the final confrontation, the first of which is the Chinese-led Confucian civilization, claiming that China acts as the core-state. 

The other important civilization is a Western civilization which is represented by the U.S. as its core-state and the third Islamic civilization. 

Huntington does not specify representative of Islamic civilization, but from some evidence he has presented and due to the consolidation of ties between Iran and China in that period, Iran can be considered one of the options. In fact, Iran is a serious option for the representation of Islamic civilization.

Nevertheless, Huntington’s theory can be criticized from two perspectives: one is Edward Said’s approach, which calls into question Huntington’s holistic view. Edward Said has an article called “Clash of Ignorance” in which he sees the holistic concept as fundamentally at odds with the anthropological approach. Huntington put forward a “whole” that contains many contradictions within itself.

The second criticism I make is that Huntington is optimistic about civilization and has not taken into consideration the Orthodox civilization at all, which may have been due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the absence of post-Soviet Russia. But today we see three civilizations that have risen up against Western civilization on the fault line in Syria and Iraq. (According to Huntington’s theory, violence caused by the clash of civilizations usually occurs along these fault lines).

These three civilizations (namely the centrality of Islamic civilization in Iran, the Confucian civilization in China, and the Orthodox civilization in Russia) have worked closely and cooperated with one another.

In a role sharing suggested by Soleimani, China helped economically, Russia provided air support and Iran fought on the battlefield. 

The alliance of these three civilizations against the Western counterpart changed the equations in Syria. The bleeding that occurred in the fault lines is also a sign of a change in the world order. We see in history that the change of order has always been accompanied by great collapses such as the collapse of empires and bloody events and wars. 

Therefore, we see that the unipolar order which was ruling the globe after the collapse of the Soviet Union is moving towards a multipolar order. The future of world order depends on this battle, and, of course, this battle is not over yet, but the decline of America is evident. This is admitted by American strategists, including Brzezinski, who said “we are no more hegemon.”

The region in recent decades has witnessed the emergence of new powers like China, Russia, India, and Iran which are important players on the global stage.

On the other hand, the spread of Corona reinforced “nationalism” and accelerated the formation of a future multipolar order.

In all the equations we mentioned above, it was Martyr Soleimani who represented the role of Iran. The main idea belongs to Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution, but the agent of these equations was Martyr Soleimani.

Q: It seems that Soleimani was not just a military general. He also advanced strategic ideas in social and cultural arenas as well. What is your comment?

A: Martyr Soleimani's goals for expanding Iran’s sphere of influence within a civilizational equation have basically two dimensions: a soft dimension and a hard one. 

The hard dimension is represented in his military moves and the overall power of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of course, I consider Martyr Tehrani Moghaddam (father of Iran’s missile program), the symbol of Iran's hard power, because of his non-stop efforts to develop Iran's missile technology.

But Martyr Soleimani, along with his role in strengthening Iran's hard power, should be seen as a symbol of the soft power of the Islamic Republic and Islamic civilization. Soleimani represented the soft power of Iran by finding and strengthening socio-political movements in the region based on local cultures, especially Islamic culture.

In all places that are considered Iran's sphere of influence, we find Iranian cultural impact. Therefore, Martyr Soleimani made every effort to find and strengthen common cultural affinities.

Martyr Soleimani's approach is a “soft power” policy in various fields. For example, in the natural disasters that occurred inside Iran, we see that Martyr Soleimani was appearing as a volunteer force and serving the people.

One of the reasons that Soleimani was loved by Iranians and the people of the region was that he won the hearts.
 

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