by Michael Rubin, Ahmad K. Majidyar
American Enterprise Institute
July 21, 2014
The Iranian clerical regime aspires to speak for the entire diverse array of Shi’ite communities in the Middle East. Yet it would be inaccurate and counterproductive to characterize Shi’ites in the region as Iranian puppets – most Shi’ite communities outside Iran actually resent the Iranian leadership, and in some cases Iran itself in regards to culture, politics, and religion. As sectarian violence rages in Iraq and Syria and simmers across the broader region – and as Iran seems poised to intervene militarily – the role of the Middle East’s diverse Shi’ite communities has become increasingly important for regional stability. Rather than concede and condemn Shi’ites to Iranian influence or bless injustices they may face at the hands of sectarian governments, it is essential that the United States court and co-opt each community to not only ensure religious freedom and liberty but also check Iranian influence, which fundamentally undercuts such values.