Phillip Smyth researcher at the University of Maryland and purveyor of blog, Hizballah Cavalcade, joined Breitbart News Executive Chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, on Breitbart News Saturday to discuss Shiite Islamist militarism in the Middle East. Much of the conversation focused on Smyth’s recent monograph, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects.
Smyth explained that Shiism has embraced extremely radical ideologies, the best known of which is Khomeinism. The Islamic faction, inspired by the rise to power in Iran in 1979 of the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, along with other radical groups, gradually made their way into Iraq and Syria.
The Middle East expert told Chairman Bannon that most Americans perceive wrongly that because Shiites are fighting ISIS that makes them more virtuous than the Sunni Islamists. Smyth insists that thinking Shiites have a moral high ground is wrong.
The West deceives itself by thinking that “ISIS they want to blow up all sorts of shrines, they want to kill Christians, and do all these horrific things…so because Shia jihadists oppose them they must be better,” said Smyth.
“But a key portion of this is they are extremely anti-American, they’re extremely anti-west, and they are extremely anti-Israel,” Smyth asserted. He explained that Shiites have spread the notion that ISIS was created by the United States “to split Islam.” This is a “simple Khomeinist ideology” says Smyth. But, he adds that the Shiites are expanding this concept now to encompass not only the entire Shia world, but to “try and change the minds” of Christian and Sunni throughout the Mid East and “coalesce under Khomeinist rule.” Smyth considers the strategy part of an Iranian grand plan in the Middle East.
Breitbart’s Executive Chairman asked Smyth why the Obama administration and congress have such difficulty contextualizing this problem for people so that they can understand the conflict. Smyth answered saying that Americans have a hard time understanding “multi polarity…I like to think of it as a grand scale Lebanese civil war. You have one side fighting another one day, then another side fighting another the next day, and then their allies the next day, then their enemies the next.”
Despite all this it is ultimately “wrapped up into big picture grand strategies, big picture regional developments,” says Smyth. Of course ISIS has committed terrible atrocities and are “brutal, nasty barbarians,” Smyth fully notes, but the “Shia Jihadists have committed some really horrendous acts, it just doesn’t really get promoted all that much.”
In the Policy Analysis section on the website the Washington Institute Smyth offered an excerpt from The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects:
In 2012 and early 2013, media sources were widely reporting the imminent fall of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime to Sunni rebel groups. But not long thereafter, it began to show resilience, holding off further rebel advances and even retaking lost ground. This turnabout was fueled largely by Iran-backed Shiite proxy groups fighting on Assad’s behalf. While these groups often invoked the defense of the Sayyeda Zainab shrine as their rallying cry, their influx into Syria was far from a spontaneous expression of Shiite unity. Indeed, it reflected instead a highly organized geostrategic and ideological effort by Iran to protect its Syrian ally and project power across the Middle East. When fighting spread to neighboring Iraq, many of the Iraq-based proxies regrouped across the border to defend their homeland against advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).