Radical fundamentalist Shia mullahs having military and religious power in Iran gives them huge advantages in the Middle East and North Africa not available to other states in the region. Properly exploited, these advantages will further advance Iran to the status of regional superpower.
1) Despite the number of Shia holy shrines in Iraq, the Iranian Mullahs are the religious leaders of the Shia Muslims of the world, inspiring and controlling the Shias, who outnumber the Sunnis in the entire region of the Middle East.
2) In contrast to the leaders of other Middle East nations who rely on their Sunni Muftis, the Shia Mullahs in Iran can directly instigate and mobilize their followers for Jihad to fight to the death against the Sunnis or any other foe.
3) Unlike Sunni Muftis, the Shia Mullahs, especially Ayatollahs, are the center of emulation; decrees given by the Ayatollahs carry much more weight than those of the Sunni Muftis.
4) The Shia Mullahs consist of a long chain of supply of Mullahs that could easily take over the leadership if required; the demise of one leader will not cripple the regime.
5) By any standard the Mullahs are shrewd and cruel. They have the mind and behavior learned from years of training in their religious schools in Qom, Iran. It is very difficult to understand their mindset unless one has studied them extensively.
6) The oil-rich region of the Middle East is located around the both sides of the Persian Gulf, areas with a large majority Shia population.
7) The Islamic Republic of Iran has already Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria under their direct or indirect sphere of influence and control; the other sheikdoms along the Persian Gulf and Jordan can be wiped away if the Shia Mullahs decide to do so and the political climate requires or allows. The only exception remains Saudi Arabia, which is being pushed into the corner as the Shia-Mullah regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran gains politically and strategically.
8) An invasion of Iran by the West, similar to those of Iraq, would be almost impossible for many important reasons: The Islamic Republic of Iran has a much stronger and bigger army backed by Russians than Saddam Hussein ever did. Iran is also a much bigger and mountainous territory compared to Iraq. Iranians are more nationalistic than Iraqis. Over 90% of Iranians may despise the Mullahs, but they would support the regime defending Iran from any foreign invasion, as demonstrated during the eight-year Iraq-Iran war. America and the West have neither the willpower nor capacity to invade Iran.
9) While Iran has not directly invaded any country in the past 100 years, the Shia-Mullah regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been active in throughout everywhere in the Middle East through such groups as Hezbollah.
10) Whether Iran already has a nuclear bomb, or creates it in the future, it would not take a large stockpile of nuclear weapons to create complete chaos in the region. Simply using one device at altitude to create an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) would decimate the economies and people of a vast area. This possibility must be seriously considered because such a threat could always exist. It would be very naïve to believe that the Mullahs would not employ this option if they were cornered, had nowhere to escape and were in possession of one or two nuclear bombs.
11) Whether or not it's true that ISIS/ISIL was created by the Americans, Saudis and Israel as a counterbalance to the Shia in the Middle East, ISIS/ISIL is no threat to the Shia-Mullahs. It has already served as an excuse for Iranian military action in Iraq, with the blessing of the U.S. Besides, chaos of any kind in the Middle East can only help the Shia- Mullah regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran to strengthen its grip on the region.
On the other hand, even if ISIS/ISIL drive the Shia out of the Sunni areas, they would come back to haunt Saudi Arabia, Israel and the rest of the region, as Hamas -- a creation of Israelis to counter al-Fatah - demonstrated clearly. If Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or his successor fails to establish his Caliphate in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic of Iran would be the big winner. However, if al-Baghdadi or his successor succeeds, the Saudi Arabian monarchy and others in the region would be eliminated. A Caliph does not coexist with kings.
Farid A. Khavari, Ph.D., is a noted economist and independent candidate for Florida governor in 2014. He is the author of 10 books including Environomics: the Economics of Environmentally Safe Prosperity (1993) and Toward a Zero Cost Economy (more...)