Iran and the Arab Revolutions: Narratives Establishing Iran’s Monopolism

This paper examines Iranian visionary narratives related to the Arab revolutions based on the premise that they intertwine to constitute a 'grand narrative'. This narrative asserts the significance of Iran’s influence within the Islamic world and promotes Iran’s 'right' to lead it.
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[Aljazeera]

This paper reviews Iran’s narratives about the Arab revolutions as it sets off from the perception that these narratives encompass a grand Iranian visionary narrative based on Iran’s significant influence on the Islamic world and its future. The narratives are presumed to promote Iran’s ‘sovereign right’ to lead the Islamic world. 

The paper describes how Iranian narratives dealt with the Arab revolutions as an influential event shaping the region’s future in which Iran must play a role. As part of this vision, Iran received the Arab revolutions of Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen with enthusiasm that quickly faded out. In Libya, Iran’s initial enthusiasm was offset by its apprehensions after the NATO’s military intervention there. Iran continued to support Bahrain’s status as a ‘genuine revolution backed by divine power’. However, Iran’s position on Syria differed as it condemned the Syrian revolution early on. The paper notes that the Iranian narratives over the Syrian revolution have been brief, abstracted and heedless toward the victims of the conflict. 

The paper identifies the Iranian narratives along the following modules:

  • The Islamic State’s (ISIL) threat.
  • Foreign intervention and the targeting of the ‘resistance’.
  • Fighting terrorism and the new Iran.
  •  Mahdism – the Government of “Imam al-Zaman” (The Leader of the Time).

The issue of Mahdism has been described by the paper as pivotal to the Iranian vision, justifying part of the logic behind Iran’s military intervention in the Arab region, particularly in Syria. In this respect, the Revolutionary Guard has been employed to prepare the ground for Imam Al-Zaman’s emergence in order to serve as the potential guard for the ‘Anticipated Imam’. Moreover, an ideological reframing of the Guard and its redeployment for a new mission protracts its scope and presence and legitimises the rationale for expanding its influence and involvement in Shi'a and non-Shi'a arenas outside Iran. 

For the five years following the Arab Spring, Iran remained engaged in putting together its own visionary narratives about this transformation in a sustained and continuous way, with not one, but multiple forms, titles and levels. 

This paper outlines several Iranian narratives on the Arab revolutions and discusses their dimensions with the premise that these narratives involve both explicit and implicit, fixed and changing elements that may seem contradictory in many aspects. However, the final grand Iranian narrative primarily proclaims Iran’s ‘excellence’ and vital influence in the Islamic world and its future and promotes its ‘merit’ and ‘supreme right’ to lead the Islamic world. This is associated primarily with the role Iran wants to play and keeps pushing the world for. 

The Arab Revolutions: A Narrative of Enthusiasm and Conviction 

Iran has welcomed the Arab revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, two countries in which it maintains significant relations with Islamist movements. For Iran, these transformations were seen as a historic opportunity to create a strong relationship with the two countries and their new leaderships. However, the reactions of the leaders of Islamist movements in Egypt and Tunisia caused Iran's enthusiasm to decline when they reasserted that they would not replicate the Iranian model.(1) After the Arab revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the latest changes in the Islamic world as "an introduction to a significant transformation and the rule of Islam". He stated that Ahl al-Bayt (the descendants of Prophet Muhammad’s family) should "support these Islamic movements". This view was an obvious attempt to give these revolutions an ideological background as "a cry of protest against Western domination". Khamenei described ousted president Hosni Mubarak as "an obedient servant to the Americans and Israel for thirty years".(2) The Iranian perception has emphasised the Islamic component in these transformations: "The people of the region want Islam and dignity and America should never block their drive for self-determination".(3) 

According to Khamenei, the youth movements in Islamic countries constitute a blow to secular political schools, saying “seeking to fulfil their hopes and aspirations, the youth in Muslim countries favour the teachings of Islam over secular beliefs.’ He attributed this to "the ‘Iranian people’s struggle". Khamenei has further described the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen as a “divine empathy” which must ‘fully end the dominance of key enemies: the Zionists and the Americans’. 

Iran’s narratives dealt with the Arab revolutions as an event that would ultimately reshape the region's future in which Iran should play a role. “The dictators who depend on America and the West are falling off one after another while the region’s future remains vulnerable to diverse possibilities that should be monitored closely”.(4) This observation seems to express an urgent need for Iran to relaunch the concept of religious democracy for Muslim populations. This is in addition to Khomeini’s plan to establish a ruling system aiming to "refill the vacuum created by the future trends of these events". The ‘religious democracy’ Khamenei has talked about can ‘fill in the vacuum of future developments in the region and find its way through the rhetorical model of revolutionary Iran’ and the call for ‘the religiously sanctioned rule of the people’. 

The fundamentalist movement has anticipated that the religious elites would dominate the scene of regional developments as a possible consequence. However, they did not rule out a possible "return in disguise by agents of former dictatorial regimes". This is what they described as "the grave danger of re-establishing western-dominated regimes under the guise of democracy and freedom".(5) Khamenei has acknowledged that the rebirth of nations is linked to their countries’ geographical, historical, political and cultural circumstances. "We cannot expect what has happened in Egypt, Tunisia or any other country to replicate Iran’s grand Islamic Revolution which was staged more than thirty years ago." But he talks about common grounds and clearly looks with great interest to the Egyptian revolution,(6) and the possible impact it could have on the Arab world and Iran’s relations with North Africa. 

The Iranian fundamentalist discourse clearly reveals an ideological reading of the Arab revolutions. These revolutions pose as an introduction to 'an Islamic Awakening, reflecting the spirit of the Iranian Islamic revolution and the Iranian people’s steadfastness for 32 years'. Khamenei expressed this in a speech in Tehran at an international conference on Islamic Awakening, held in 2011. “The Arab uprisings [were] inspired by the Iranian Islamic Revolution’s concepts and denotations."(7) Khamenei has re-emphasised the phrase: "religiously sanctioned rule of the people", warning the people in the region not to confuse "Islamic democracy, which values commitment to Islamic principles, with Western democracy which is anti-religious".(8) However, Iran’s enthusiasm towards the Islamic Awakening in several countries was not applied to Syria. This position led to deep disagreement between the Islamic Republic and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 

Iran’s early official reading of the popular Arab uprisings came before the emergence of any clear results, whether with regard to the revolutions that toppled their regimes or those that remained uncompleted. However, Khamenei warned that it would be a mistake to consider the toppling of regimes as the desired result. "Traitor regimes do not fall when their prominent leaders exit from power. If they are replaced by their aides, nothing will change as it would only be a ploy set for the people." 

Moreover, in his analysis about the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, former Iranian president Mohamed Khatami cited the political and social conditions prevailing in the two countries. He attributed the situation in Tunisia to dictatorship, tyranny and anti-religious sentiments. As for Egypt, he focused on the regime’s corruption and compliance with foreign powers.(9) Khatami also cited Egypt’s history and ancient civilisation, asserting that they have greatly impacted the Egyptian revolution and exhibited Egypt as analogous to Iran. 

In this regard, Khatami appraised the ranks of both Egypt and Tunisia in the Islamic world. He described the two countries as representing the Islamic world’s “pair of wings”, adding that in the absence of either of them, the Islamic world would not be able to "fly". He noted that each of the two countries enjoyed a rich cultural heritage combining an ancient civilisation dating back to thousands of years and an Islamic intellectual centre. “If Iran has a rival, it would be Egypt. If Egypt has an equal, it would be Iran”, Khatami asserted. He spoke about common features of the Islamic movements in Iran and Egypt, such as the reappearance of religious fervour, patriotic devotion and intent to confront foreign domination, injustice, imperialism and Western hegemony. Khatami also referred to the impact of deteriorating economic conditions on the revolution in Egypt but he underscored the sentiment of “contempt” originating primarily from dictatorship. He had warned earlier the Egyptian Islamists from applying an extremist model in the name of religion. He had also warned patriotic movements in general from adopting the Western model that would eventually undermine religion. Finally, he asserted that Egypt was in need of an Islamic regime resembling that of Iran. 

From Support to Criticism and Censure 

Iran has continued attempts to develop its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood despite differences over several issues. At the forefront lies its position on the Syrian revolution. Iran has expressed its desire to covey the Iranian model to the revolutionary Brotherhood. Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran’s Foreign Minister and Former Senior Adviser to the Iranian government's Supreme Guide, Ali Khamenei, has approved this trend when he said the Muslim Brotherhood was, among all Islamist groups, very close to Tehran.(10) However, he added that "Egyptians today need a system that resembles our Islamic velayat-e-faqih [Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist]." The Muslim Brotherhood has categorically rejected this gesture, saying “Egypt has its own circumstances and policies and does not follow the policies of any other state”.(11) 

After Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was ousted, Iran criticised the Brotherhood’s government performance and held them accountable for the incumbent military coup in Egypt. “Last year, the Egyptian people went to the polls several times and approved the constitution, but those who took the reins of power in Egypt did not perform competently, and paved the way for the coup”.(12) 

Leader of the Friday prayer in Tehran, Ahmad Khatami, also criticised the group, arguing that they had “supported extremist groups or remained silent about them, rather than calling for the unity of the Islamic world. They erred in distinguishing friends from foes, dealt harshly with Iran and promoted further Iran-phobia and Shi'a-phobia".(13) 

What distinguishes the Iranian model, despite its confusing and contradictory nature, is that Iran has maintained an ideological approach and insisted that "the Arab people need the Iranian model by applying the principle of ‘religiously sanctioned rule of the people’". Iran views the Muslim Brotherhood’s failure in Egypt as a result of their "refusal to follow the Islamic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s advice". These views were aired from the pulpits of the Friday prayers,(14) when Khatami, called on the Brotherhood to reassess their political and religious ideology, “as their poor performance had created a fertile ground for the Egyptian army to overthrow Morsi".(15) Ayatollah Emami-Kashani gave another sermon on ‘the catastrophe that befell Egypt’ in the absence of the velayat-e-faqih system.(16) While imams of mosques provide readily prepared solutions to the problems of the Egyptian people, the Iranian press was busy publicising Khamenei's earlier statements about the ‘religiously sanctioned rule of the people’ and warning the people about confusing "Islamic democracy, which values commitment to Islamic principles, with Western anti-religious democracy".(17) 

Initially, Iran became busily engaged in a ‘retaliatory’ reaction, celebrating the Muslim Brotherhood’s fall, sometimes timidly and at other overtly. Iran has not forgotten Morsi’s speech in which he challenged the Shiite intellectual establishment in its own backyard, and his criticism of the Islamic Republic’s role in Syria. During his brief 4-hour visit to Tehran, Morsi evaded a meeting with the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. A quick reading of what happened in Egypt was marked by a regretful tone, as Morsi’s speech fell short of Iran’s expectations after he declined to take a “hard-line stance on Israel”. According to Khamenei, Morsi recanted his own initiative to resolve the crisis in Syria peacefully, and instead made a lot of mistakes and was finally branded as ‘inefficient and arrogant’.(18) The Fars News Agency published an analysis by an Iranian expert on the Middle East affairs, Mohammad Reza Moradi, who refuted attempts to link Chavez’s temporary overthrow in Venezuela with what happened in Egypt. Moradi advised the Muslim Brotherhood to “accept the realities and advise their followers to withdraw from the streets if they wanted to keep abreast with the political process in Egypt. His rationale was that "the movement would not be able to confront the majority of the Egyptian people". However, he said that “the Muslim Brotherhood has likely reached this conclusion, and its determination to stay in the streets was an instrument of pressure to win concessions from the military in any possible future negotiations".(19) 

Iran’s welcoming impulse, more or less, was followed by a pause and retraction to review the scene in another way: “What is happening in Egypt indicates a political shift towards the Arab moderation axis”, a return that, somehow, would not be in Iran’s interest. Although it did not change its tone – and continued to blame the Brotherhood – Iranian observers became apprehensive about an opportunity that became a threat. They now saw what they once called 'the Islamic Awakening' as an insomnia that haunts the Islamic Ummah. 

Iran has been counting on good relations with Egypt, viewing the Islamist party as a ‘competent’ contributor to influential relations through which Iran’s influence in Africa may be promoted in one way or another. But the military coup gave the army full control of the course of events and future relations. This is the same Egyptian army that oversaw thirty years of estrangement between Iran and Egypt and played a major role in the abortion of all attempts at rapprochement, whether by intellectuals or partisans and politicians from both sides. 

After the ‘celebratory’ outburst following Morsi’s fall subsided, Iranian voices began to resound with warnings against the consequences of allowing a political situation to develop, while the military establishment cooperated with secular powers to reverse Egypt’s ‘Islamic’ orientation. 

Iran has described the revolution in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen as ‘divine empathy’ that must ‘completely end the domination of the enemies’. Nonetheless, there was fear of the results in several countries. This was clearly shown in a letter by Iranian leader Habibollah Asgaroladi to the Muslim Brotherhood, published by Resalat newspaper. Asgaroladi attributed the causes of the Egyptian crisis to the political naivety in which the group dealt with the United States when it reversed its cautious attitude toward the latter. Asgaroladi predicted that the Islamist crisis would extend beyond Egypt’s borders to Turkey and other countries, thus prompting a review of the Brotherhood’s path and the recent mistakes they made.(20) 

Iran also responded with similar apprehension to the Libyan revolution’s course after the NATO’s intervention. It described several revolutions as unfinished or ‘standing in the middle of the road’, as is the case in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. Iranian analysts tried to explain this further(21)

  • Tunisia: The revolution’s leaders confronted each other and abandoned their revolutionary goals. Complaints over long-term problems that plagued Tunisia have been reiterated.
  • Libya: The NATO’s intervention threw the country into chaos, so much so that no achievements could be attributed to the revolution as the situation became much worse than it was before the uprising.
  • Yemen: The absence of unity among the Yemenis and the multiplicity of directions made it difficult for former to put an end to Saleh’s dictatorial regime. Later, Iran invested in its relationship with the Houthi rebels, who turned against the legitimate government and took control of Sana'a. Thus, they dragged Yemen into a new cycle of violence.
  • Egypt: Following the general elections, the coup against the first democratically-elected president circumvented the January 25 revolution’s demands. 

According to Iran’s analysis, the common factors linking these revolutions are as follows: ‘The revolutions, though diverse in terms of claims, all lack a unified command. This is contrary to cases of all other revolutions that triumphed under a single command. Without Khomeini's leadership, rebels in Iran would not have managed to fly the revolution’s flag, while the continuation of Iran’s revolution today has been attributed to velayat-e-faqih. "Had it not been for the velayat-e-faqih, Iran would have turned into a situation worse than that of Iraq, with an outcome similar to that of Egypt".(22) 

Bahrain: ‘Divine’ Support

The most common Iranian characterisation of the Bahrain protests, which erupted in February 2011, was ‘the right revolution in the right place’. During the past few years, the Iranian discourse varied between denying the intervention, which was issued more than once by the Supreme Leader, and the threat directed by Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani to the Government of Bahrain. 

In a Friday sermon on 3 February 2012, Khamenei said: “Bahrain’s revolution will be victorious with the help of God...and to accuse us of interfering is a downright lie...If we intervened, the situation would have been different”.(23) Years later, the Revolution’s Guide reaffirmed Iran’s non-interference in an interview on Eid al-Fitr (in July 2016): “We do offer advice, but we do not interfere”.(24) 

Khamenei has described the Bahraini government's decision to revoke the citizenship of Bahraini opposition figure Sheikh Isa Qassim(25) as ‘foolish’.(26) General Soleimani warned Bahrain’s government of “armed rebellion, if Isa Qassim is hurt’.(27) Soleimani’s threat carries two messages:

  1. Protests in Bahrain will not remain peaceful.
  2. Bahrain's Shi'a will not be left without effective external support.(28) 

While some prominent Iranian religious authorities reserve their comments and deal with all of the Arab revolutions with caution, they were clearly outspoken and supportive towards the protests in Bahrain.(29) At the same time, Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani (a well known and generally accepted religious authority in Shi'a Islam) saw the demonstrations in Bahrain as similar to the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, but with Western imperialism aided by regional governments to suppress them. Ayatollah Sobhani criticised ‘the Organisation of Islamic Conference’s silence and denial of support to the Bahraini people’. 

The Iranian attitude towards Bahrain is based on a combination of factors. One of which is the historical perspective and the religious sect as well as Iran’s traditional policy toward enemies and friends, the environment, and the dominating mentality. Iran does not view its relationship with Bahrain as separate from the soft power that it has adopted there.(30) The expansion or decline of Iranian influence in the region seems to depend on the existence of alliances or enmities in the region, particularly the existing relationship between Iran and Iraq, and the potential relationship between Iran and Bahrain. This significantly undermines international threats to Iran, primarily that of the United States.(31) This has been successfully achieved by the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group. Consequently, the Bahraini situation is of high importance to Iranian decision makers in terms of both ideological discourse and strategic interests. 

Iranian analysts agree that “the Bahraini regime’s fall would open the door for a Shiite government that would strengthen Iran’s position and weaken that of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. It would also create obstacles for US bases in the region",(32) which would enhance Iran’s strategic power. 

Iran’s policy towards Bahrain differs from its policy towards other Arab countries as it involves a security challenge for Iran in the Gulf region linked to Western military bases in Bahrain. The challenge increases with the presence of Saudi troops in Bahrain which Iran views as a Shiite country. The resulting deep sympathy within Iran towards the Bahraini protests has been attributed to this factor.(33) 

The nature of Iran’s relations with Bahrain makes it difficult for observers to deal with. Most proposals put forward via discussions and papers on the issue of Bahrain reflected calls to immediately address the issue from a security perspective to limit the influence of regional and international players and provide ideological support within a long-term strategic vision to counter potential national security threats to Iran.(34) 

Most Iranian proposals suggested by research papers, conferences and workshops have directed decision makers on Bahrain to focus on the following:

  • The need to support the Islamic Awakening in Bahrain and a democratic transition because a democratic majority would enable the Shiite sect to rule Bahrain.(35)
  • By employing its foreign policy, Iran has to prove to the GCC countries that without the participation of Iran and Iraq, the GCC’s security system would be flawed and useless.
  • The Islamic Republic seeks to convince the Gulf people that the GCC, led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the West, was created to stand against Iran.(36)
  • The need to provide moral and material support for Bahrain’s Shiites 

The Revolution Iran Has Fought 

The Islamic Republic of Iran has not welcomed the Syrian revolution with the same enthusiasm with which it hailed other Arab uprisings. Iranian rhetoric quickly excluded the Syrian case from the realm of revolutions that it previously labelled as part of the Islamic Awakening, and exhibited a sort of pride over it because it "carried the spirit of the Iranian Islamic Revolution and the continuity of the Iranian people’s steadfastness".(37) Although some Iranian voices(38) used the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions to emphasise their argument for the "religiously sanctioned rule of the people" and warn against confusing "Islamic democracy which values commitment to Islamic principles with anti-religious Western democracy", the same voices condemned the Syrian revolution and warned of its consequences.(39) 

Iran, represented by the Supreme Leader of the Revolution; government officials; military leaders; MPs and religious authorities, did not hesitate to declare a pro-regime stance since the Syrian revolution’s outset. The Iranian regime has partially reproduced the Syrian storyline, adding a clear Iranian dimension to it in understanding and evaluation. Meanwhile, Iran’s media and television channels focused on a range of notions, including:

  • The Syrian revolution does not enjoy the legitimacy of other Arab revolutions
  • The Syrian revolution has links with the outside world and aims to undermine the "resistance" in Syria
  • The Syrian government has tightened control of the situation, and it will never meet the fate of Ben Ali, Mubarak or Gaddafi.
  • The Iranian narrative described the Syrian situation with terms similar to those used against Iran’s domestic protests following the 2009 presidential elections, such as "sedition", "treachery" and "foreign-aided plotting".
  • Iranian support for the Assad regime began with political propaganda and soon turned into financial and military support. As revealed in a leaked report, Iran’s urgent financial assistance to Syria totalled $600 million to prevent its economic collapse. Iran’s military support began initially with "military advisers", as defined by Iranian media, but later culminated into direct participation by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Forces (the Quds Brigade). The Iranian forces suppressed Syrian protesters and later brought armed Afghani, Pakistani and Iraqi Shiite militias to fight under the umbrella of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. 

The Source of the Narrative: The Supreme Leader 

The Supreme Leader’s narrative is the "mother" of all generated narratives depending on each case. 

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution’s position on the Syrian revolution began with condemnation and scepticism,(40) then deliberate disregard(41) and then the former once again, condemning and criminalising the Syrian revolution. 

[Al Jazeera]

Within this narrative is the following:

  • The US plan in Syria originally aimed to strike the axis of "resistance" in the region because Syria defends the Palestinian and the Lebanese resistances
  • Iran defends any reforms in the people’s interest and opposes intervention by the United States and its allies in Syria’s internal affairs(42)
  • What is happening in Syria is a "deviation" and a proxy war,(43) but what is happening in Bahrain is "the right revolution in the right place"(44)
  • Iran cooperates with all those who fight terrorism in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Moreover, it fights Zionism(45) 

It is obvious that questions about the morality of the Iranian support for the Assad regime and the contradictory nature of Iran’s suggestions in this context have posed concern and a challenge to the proponents of the source of the narrative. Aware that this was a crucial point, the Supreme leader dedicated a significant portion of his response to the issue during his speeches and meetings. He deliberately revoked the stance on the Syrian revolution in addition to other stances, depending on the specific details of each case. While doing this, however, the commitment to "supporting revolutions" has been maintained while the emphasis of the term “Islamic Awakening” remains in conformity with and continuity of the Iranian slogans, as per the agenda posted on Khamenei’s official website. 

To eliminate any contradictions, the Syrian revolution has been excluded from the list of revolutions and stripped of any content that would characterise it as a ‘revolution’, and the Syrians were removed from the "vulnerable" list. The content was replaced with different attributes such as deviation, sedition, treason, proxy war and other qualities that make Iran’s mission less difficult in this respect. 

Question

Answer

1. What are the roots of the Islamic Awakening?

Revival of pride and human dignity under Islam

2. Why are the regional uprisings considered Islamic?

Islamic nations oversee justice, freedom, and the rule of the people within an Islamic framework, unlike other schools.

3. What are the enemies’ strategy to confront the Islamic Awakening?

- Invoking discord among Muslims

- Aborting revolutions

- Simulating revolutions in Iran and Syria

- Stripping intellectuals from their rational reference sources

4. What are the foundations of the revolutions in the region?

 

- The revival and renewal of national pride and dignity

- Defiance toward intervention and domination and upholding Islam

5. What is the role of the "distinguished" figures in the leadership of these revolutions?

Finding a line of thought; inclusive discourse and a unifying intellectual trend

6. What is the historical significance of the Islamic Awakening?

The path we are on will change the world’s history and political profile.

7. What is the relationship between the Islamic Awakening movement and Occupy Wall Street?

The yout

References

(1) (2011) "Rachid Ghannouchi returns to Tunisia", Al Jazeera Net, 29 October, www.aljazeera.net/news/arabic/2011/1/29/راشد-الغنوشي-يعود-إلى-تونس (accessed 25 January 2017).

(2) (2011) "Tehran Friday Sermon", The Official Website of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 4 February, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/speech-content?id=10955 , (accessed 5 September 2016).

(3)Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami (2011) "Ayatollah Khatami: Wilayat al-Faqih: Unity and Revolutionary Spirit are Steadfastness Factors for the Islamic Republic", Mehr News, 1 April, http://www.mehrnews.com/fa/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1279686  (accessed 25 January 2017).

(4) (2011) "Meetings of the Members of the Assembly of Experts with the Leader of the Revolution", The Official Website of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 8 July, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/news-content?id=17222  (accessed 25 January 2016).

 Ibid.

(5) (2011) "Leader of the Revolution at the First Conference of the Islamic Awakening: ‘When I saw the Egyptian people in Tahrir Square, I was certain of victory’", Tabnak, 17 September, www.tabnak.ir/fa/news/191007/وقتي-ملت-مصر-را-در-ميدان-تحرير-ديدم-به-پيروزي-آنها-يقين-کردم  (accessed 25 January 2017).

(6) (2011) "Critical of the NATO intervention in Libya, Khamenei praises revolutions and ignores Syria", Al Jazeera Net, 17 September, http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/8E7F1D81-F7FF-40A0-A9A5-4D13776F6B4A.htm?GoogleStatID=20  (accessed 25 January 2017).

(7) (2011) "Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran is worried about the arrival of the Arab Spring tsunami to Iran", DW, 17 September, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6620698,00.html  (accessed 22 October 2016).

(8) (2011) "Seyyed Mohammad Khatami: Human beings bear hunger but they do not bear insult", Entekhab News, 8 February, http://www.entekhab.ir/fa/news/1210/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%85%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%86-%DA%AF%D8%B1%D8%B3%D9%86%DA%AF%DB%8C-%D8%B1%D8%A7-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84-%D9%85%DB%8C-%DA%A9%D9%86%D8%AF-%D9%88%D9%84%DB%8C-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D9%82%DB%8C%D8%B1-%D8%B1%D8%A7-%D9%86%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D9%88-%DA%A9%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D8%AC%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%B1-%D8%B4%D9%88%D8%AF  (accessed 22 October 2016).

(9)Ibid.

(10) (2013) "Khamenei Adviser: Egypt needs velayet-e-faqih and el-Erian objects", Al Madina, 23 February, http://www.al-madina.com/node/435608  (accessed 25 January 2017).

(11) (2013)"Friday imams strongly attack Brotherhood and the Government of Morsi: He was an enemy of the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt", Abna News Agency, 6 July, http://fa.abna24.com/service/important/archive/2013/07/05/437231/story.html (accessed 22 October 2016).

(12) (2013) "Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami in Friday sermon in Tehran: The poor performance of officials is the reason for the coup in Egypt", Fars News Agency, 5 July, http://www.farsnews.com/printable.php?nn=13920414000403 (accessed 22 October 2016).

(13) (2013) "Tehran Friday Sermon: The situation in Egypt is a great misfortune because it lacks a fair leader and velayet-e-faqih", Farsi al-Arabiya, 12 July,  http://www.farsi.alarabiya.net/fa/iran/2013/07/12/امام-جمعه-تهران-شرايط-مصر-يک-مصيبت-بزرگي-است-چون-رهبري-عادل،-فقيه-و-ولايت-ندارند.html (accessed 22October 2016).

(14) (2011) "Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran is worried about the arrival of the Arab Spring tsunami to Iran", DW, 17 September, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6620698,00.html (accessed 22 October 2016).

(15) (2013) "Morsi was weak and arrogant; Iran is a supporter of revolutionary Islam in Egypt", Rahpo, 10 July, http://rahpoo.net/post/464 (accessed 25 January 2017).

(16) (2013) "Remarks at the International Islamic Awakening Conference", The Official Website of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 17 September, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/speech-content?id=17269 (accessed 29 January 2017).

(17) (2013) "Tehran Friday Sermon: The situation in Egypt is a great misfortune because it lacks a fair leader and velayet-e-faqih", Farsi al-Arabiya, 12 July, http://www.farsi.alarabiya.net/fa/iran/2013/07/12/امام-جمعه-تهران-شرايط-مصر-يک-مصيبت-بزرگي-است-چون-رهبري-عادل،-فقيه-و-ولايت-ندارند.html (accessed 22October 2016).

(18) (2013) "Analysis: 'Morsi 2013 is not the Chavez of 2002!'", Fars News Agency, 26 July, http://arabic.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=9204027214#sthash.5i9YH8dB.dpuf (accessed 26 July 2013).

(19)Habibullah Askar Awladi (2013) "A Letter to the Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood ", Fars News Agency, 10 July, http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13920419000184 (accessed 26 July 2013).

(20) (2013) "A Study of the Common Denominator  in Revolutions: Why do the revolutions of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya remain unfinished?", Mashreq News, 11 July,  http://www.mashreghnews.ir/fa/news/229964/چرا-انقلاب‌هاي-تونس-مصر-ليبي-و-يمن-نيمه‌کاره-ماند(accessed 15 October 2016).

(21)Ibid.

(22) (2012) "Leader of the Revolution: If we had intervened in Bahrain, the situation would have been different", Entekhab, 3 February, www.entekhab.ir/fa/news/51615/هبر-معظم-انقلاب-اگر-در-قضيه-جزيره-بحرين-دخالت- مي‌کرديم-ماجرا-جور-ديگري-ميشد(accessed 15 October 2016).

(23) (2016) "Leader: We do not interfere in Bahrain, we advise", Roshangari, 9 July, http://roshangari.ir/video/43229 (accessed 15 October 2016).

(24)Bahrain's Interior Ministry announced on 20 June 2016 that it revoked Sheikh Isa Ahmad Qassim’s citizenship, accusing him of seeking to foment sectarian division in the country. According to the ministry's statement, "It revoked Issa Ahmad Qassim’s Bahraini, who has since gaining Bahraini citizenship established parties that follow an external religious and political authority, playing a key role in the creation of an extremist sectarian environment, and dividing the society according to the sect and to the subordination of his orders." The decision followed the closure of Al Wefaq headquarters and dissolving of the Islamic Awareness Organisation in June 2014. Born in 1941, Sheikh Isa Ahmad Qassim is a Shiite religious scholar and Bahraini political activist. He was a disciple of Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr and a member of both the Constituent Assembly and the National Council of Bahrain. Qassim acted as a mentor and a spiritual leader to the Bahraini protests. He is also a member of the Supreme Body of the World Gathering of Ahl al-Bayt, and the leader of the Bahraini Al Wefaq Association.

(25) (2016) "Severe condemnation of the plot against the Mujahid, Sheikh Isa Qassim", The Official Website of the Office of the Supreme Leader, 25 June, http://www.leader.ir/fa/content/15879/%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D8%AE%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%87-%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%87%D9%81%D8%AA%D9%85-%D8%AA%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%8C-%D9%85%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B9-%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%85-%D9%88-%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B7%D9%85%DB%8C%D9%88%D9%86 (accessed 15 October 2016).

(26) (2016) "An unprecedented warning from General Soleimani to the Al Khalifa regime: The violation of Sheikh Isa Qassim will lead to armed resistance and the fall of the regime", Fars News, 20 June, http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13950331001400 (accessed 15 October 2016).

(27) (2016) "Bahrain and the Concerns Steering Soleimani", Mashreq News, 22 June, www.mashreghnews.ir/fa/news/593129/بحرين-و-فرمان-آماده‌باش-سردار-سليماني(accessed 15 October 2016).

(28) (2011) "Positions of the Honourable Ayatollahs Safi and Sobhani on the crimes of the Bahraini and the Saudi regimes", The Official Website of the Judiciary in Iran, 17 March, http://www.humanrights-iran.ir/news-19224.aspx (accessed 10 October 2016).

(29)Hassan Ali Totti and Ahmad Doustmohammadi (Summer 2013) "Developments of the Bahraini Revolution and the Study of its Resulting Iranian Foreign Policy Strategies", Periodic Readings of the Islamic Revolution, Vol. 10 (33), p. 210.

(30)Ibid., p. 215.

(31)Ibid.

(32)Ademi, Mousavi, and Totti (Spring 2012). "Developments of the Revolution in Bahrain and the Sectarian and Geopolitical Conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia," Periodic Political Investigations, Volume 4 (10), p. 159.

(33)Ibid., p. 163.

(34)Ibid.

(35)Ibid., p. 164.

(36) (2011) "Critical of the NATO intervention in Libya, Khamenei praises revolutions and ignores Syria", Al Jazeera Net, 17 September, http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/8E7F1D81-F7FF-40A0-A9A5-4D13776F6B4A.htm?GoogleStatID=20 (accessed 25 January 2017).

(37)The readings of the Arab revolutions differ from one political party to another. The Green Movement sees in itself an inspiration for the rebellious Arab people that "consider the protests that erupted in Tehran after the tenth presidential elections an [inspiration]". The Green Movement found in the Arab revolutions an opportunity to reopen the debate on democracy and citizenship rights in Iran with the current efforts to implement the principles that were violated by the Constitution (such those pertaining to freedom of thought and writing, expression, assembly and partisanship, elections and lifestyle as well as the prevention of torture and the interrogation, and Article 27) as well as principles regarding the participation of Iran’s ethnic minorities in state-building and democratic processes (Articles 15 to 19 of the constitution). For this reason, insisting on the Constitution’s application without any concession makes it feasible for the Green Movement to achieve its objectives faster and at a lower cost with the support of a wide range of people. These objectives are: the establishment of democracy through free elections with all the conditions required rather than the abolition of the constitution or further violence and the violations of citizens' rights.

(38) (2011) "Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran is worried about the arrival of the Arab Spring tsunami to Iran", DW, 17 September, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6620698,00.html (accessed 22 October 2016).

(39) (2011) "Khamenei: We do not support a revolution fuelled by America", Al Jazeera Net, 4 June, http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/F44A0332-0E46-4323-86EE-E6C9E0A4A349.htm (accessed 25 January 2017).

(40) (2011) "Critical of the NATO intervention in Libya, Khamenei praises revolutions and ignores Syria", Al Jazeera Net, 17 September, http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/8E7F1D81-F7FF-40A0-A9A5-4D13776F6B4A.htm?GoogleStatID=20 (accessed 25 January 2017).

(41) (2012) "Islamic Jihad in Palestine", The Official Website of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 31 January, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/news-content?id=18890 (accessed 10 August 2016).

(42) (2013) "The Leader of the Revolution Answers 20 Questions about the 'Islamic awakening'", The Official Website of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 29 April, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/speech-content?id=22406 (accessed 6 September 2016).

(43) (2011) "Ayatollah Khamenei: The leadership stands solid with its correct position; As long as I am alive, I will not allow for a deviation in the Ummah's path", Fars News, 23 May, http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9002030860 (accessed 6 September 2016).

(44) (2015) "Remarks at a meeting of the state officials and ambassadors of the Islamic world", The Official Website of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 14 May, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/speech-content?id=29736 (accessed 6 September 2016).

(45)From Evin prison, the well-known reformist and Green Movement member, Mostafa Tajzadeh chose to address religious authorities in Qom. See (2011) "We and the Syrians", Rahesabz, 8 September, http://www.rahesabz.net/story/42323 (accessed 6 September 2016).

(46)In his letter, Tajzadeh is in favour of the Syrian revolution, describing those who started it as "Mujahideen" and "free students". He mentions the role of the clergy, addressing them as "independent" and "liberal" in their support of the right of people to seek freedom in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Syria. The letter explicitly condemns the silence of religious authorities about what is happening in Syria including the repression and killing, and asks whether the fatwa of Ayatollah Sistani on the right of people to demonstrate peacefully is only applicable to Iraq or universal. Tajzadeh argues that the fatwa has imposed a double standard on the Syrian people who were not supported in the same way that their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain were.

(47)Tajzadeh compares the foreign policies of Iran and Turkey, and believes that the policy of the former since the Arab Spring have caused its popularity to decline, while that of the latter has succeeded in supporting the democratic struggle in Arab countries. He believes that the struggle of the Syrian people is similar to that of the Iranian people throughout history. He also clarifies that these are in pursuit of fair elections, the elimination of tyranny, civil rights and democratic principles.

(48)During the protests in Tehran after the tenth presidential election, opposition protesters declared "Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon…my soul is for Iran."

(49) (2013) "Taib: Syria is the 35th province for Iran; The protection of Syria is more of a priority than [the protection] of Khuzestan", Kaleme, 14 February, http://www.kaleme.com/1391/11/26/klm-133479 (accessed 14 February 2013).

(50) (2014) "Commander Sardar Hamadani: The Syrian regime is not in danger of falling", Fars News Agency, 4 May, http://www.freezepage.com/1400231878ACSQLZBDZM (accessed 11 October 2016).

(51) (2014) "The Guard in Syria: 42 Brigades and 138 Battalions are ready", Dolate Bahar, 14 May, http://www.dolatebahar.com/view-10934.html (accessed 11 October 2016).

(52) (2016) "Iranian army commandos deployed in Syria", Shargh Daily, 5 April, sharghdaily.ir/News/89460/استقرار-تکاوران-ارتش-ايران-در-سوريه(accessed 11 October 2016).

(53) (2016) "Recommendations of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah to Hamadani; A Proposal to Save Syria: What is the message of the last martyr to his wife?", Fars News, 5 October, http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13950713001187 (accessed 11 October 2016).

(54)Ibid.

(55)Ibid.

(56) (2016) "Ten other Iranians including the Guard’s Commander are killed in Syria", Anadolu, 13 August, aa.com.tr/fa/ايران/ده-ايراني-ديگر-از-جمله-يک-فرمانده-ارشد-سپاه-در-سوريه-کشته-شدند/638330(accessed 10 September 2016).

(57) (2016) "Meeting of the families of Afghan 'Shrine defender' martyrs with the Leader of the Revolution: Film and Photos", 11 May, http://www.yjc.ir/fa/news/5605169/%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AE%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%87-%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B9%DB%8C%D9%86-%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%BA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A8%D8%A7-%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A8%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%82%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D9%81%DB%8C%D9%84%D9%85-%D9%88-%D8%B9%DA%A9%D8%B3 (accessed 2 October 2016).

(58) (2016) "Supreme Leader: If it were not for the shrine defenders, we would have needed to fight in Kermanshah and Hamedan", Tasnim News, 3 February, https://www.tasnimnews.com/fa/news/1394/11/16/991703/ رهبر-انقلاب-اگر-مدافعان-حرم-مبارزه-نمي-کردند-بايد-در-کرمانشاه-و-همدان-مي-جنگيديم(accessed 3 October 2016).

(59) (2016) Vaisi, Morad, "Leadership and operations structure of Iran in the Middle East", Mihan, 15 August, http://mihan.net/1395/05/24/827 (accessed 3 October 2016).

(60) (2016) Simons, Jake Wallis, "Inside 'the Glasshouse': Iran 'is running covert war in Syria costing BILLIONS from top-secret spymaster HQ near Damascus airport'", The Daily Mail, 6 September, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3718583/Leaked-intelligence-dos…. html # ixzz4M6L3eJcF (accessed 26 January 2017).

(61)Ibid.

(62) (2016) Hashemi, Syed Hamid, "Syria: Heritage of Pessimism", Mihan, 15 August, http://mihan.net/1395/05/24/825 (accessed 5 September 2016).

(63) (2016) "Iranian Public Opinion, One Year After the Nuclear Deal", Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), July 2016,  http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5525d831e4b09596848428f2/t/578657… Deal-FINAL.pdf (accessed 26 January 2017).

(64) (2012) "'I wanted to die’: Syria's torture survivors speak out", Amnesty International, 14 March, http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/i-wanted-to-die-syria-s-torture-survivors-speak-out (accessed 26 January 2017).

(65) (2015) "If the Dead Could Speak: Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria's Detention Facilities", Human Rights Watch, 16 December, https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/12/16/if-dead-could-speak/mass-deaths-and-torture-syrias-detention-facilities (accessed 26 January 2017).

(66)Ibid.

(67) (2015) "Mass Abductions in Syria", Amnesty International, 6 November, https://www.amnesty.org.nz/mass-abductions-syria (accessed 26 January 2017).

(68)Peter Yeung (2016) "Russia committing war crimes by deliberately bombing civilians and aid workers, says Amnesty International", The Independent, 21 February, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/russia-civilians-war-crimes-amnesty-international-a6887096.html (accessed 26 January 2017).

(69)Rayyan Mohammed (2015) "Changing demographics in Syria through the siege of starvation", The New Arab, 31 August, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/2015/8/30/%D8%AA%D8%BA%D9%8A%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A8%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%BA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D8%A8%D8%B1-%D8%AD%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AC%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%B9 (accessed 5 September 2016).

(70)Ben Taub (2016) "The Shadow Doctors", The New Yorker, 27 June, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/27/syrias-war-on-doctors (accessed 26 January 2017).

(71) (2016) "The start of evacuating residents from the besieged Syrian city of Darayya", BBC, 26 August, http://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast/2016/08/160826_darayya_siege_syria (accessed 26 January 2017).

(72)Hassan Rouhani (2013) " President of Iran Hassan Rouhani: Time to engage", The Washington Post, 19 September, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-of-iran-hassan-rouhani-time-to-engage/2013/09/19/4d2da564-213e-11e3-966c-9c4293c47ebe_story.html (accessed 26 January 2017).

(73) (2014) "Dr. Sajjadpour: The Arab world is strategically paralysed", Shafaqna, 23 June, http://www.shafaqna.com/persian/shafaqna/item/77665-%D8%AF%DA%A9%D8%AA%D8%B1-%D8%B3%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%BE%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D9%86%DB%8C%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%AF%DA%86%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%81%D9%84%D8%AC-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA%DA%98%DB%8C%DA%A9-%D8%B4%D8%AF%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA.html (accessed 5 September 2016).

(74)Ibid.

(75) (2015) "Ten countries asked for Iran's help to counter extremist groups", Fars News Agency, 7 February, http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13931118000332#sthash.8QyiZTcN.dpuf (accessed 29 January 2017).

(76)Matthew Levitt (2005) "Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God", The Washington Institute, February, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-finances-funding-the-party-of-god (accessed 29 January 2017).

(77) (2014) "Iran will stand by Iraq until end of anti-ISIL fight: Zarif", Press TV, 7 December, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/12/07/389192/iran-will-back-iraq-in-antiisil-fight (accessed 15 February 2015).

(78) (2016) "Larijani: America has no intention of fighting terrorism", Fars, 5 October, http://ar.farsnews.com/iran/news/13950714000384 (accessed 29 January 2017).

(79) (2012) "The Middle East is the centre of Imam Mahhdi's emergence; The Imam will come to confront the West's objectives in Iraq", Mehr News, 27 July, www.mehrnews.com/news/1659242/خاورميانه-مرکز-پشتيباني-ظهور-امام-عصر-مقابله-با-مهدويت-يکي-از (accessed 16 August 2016).

(80)Hossein Alizadeh (2015), "The Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Hegemony of Shiism", Mihan, 22 De