Abstract. Iran is enforcing its influence over a key section of Middle Eastern Arab ethnicity and culture, and it generates disappointment in the hierarchies that had believed representing those features exclusively. King ʿAbd Allāh II of Jordan had predicted a Shiite territorial and political predominance from Iran to Lebanon, a “Shiite crescent”, in fact. The Iranians reject this vision and refer to “Shiite geopolitics”, concerning more the defence of real or symbolic interests of groups anyway minorities in the area. The Āyatollāhs never have called the fight against the Sunnis, and have instead promoted the cooperation with Sunni groups, such as Ḥamās in Palestine, with no claims of religious loyalty and political or territorial demands. We must recognise that the war events (the American invasion of Iraq, the rise of Islamic State), paved the way for a mobilisation of the Shiite militias in cooperation with Iran, which influenced the politics of the area as a whole.
Iran doesn’t curtail its geopolitical action to appropriate solidarity with Shiite minorities but shows legitimate ambitions of political influence its condition of regional power allows it. Recourse to the “Shia Crescent” argument looks like more a gimmick of its regional opponents to counter its interests. However, the Shiites of the Middle Eastern area do not act for a monolithic entity and are not all closely related to the concepts of the Iranian Twelvers. Their differences concern the doctrine, legal practice, history, and geographical concentration. On the other hand, the competition among some Sunni countries in the area denies there is a religious ground at the rivalries root. The identity of Middle Eastern peoples is a very complex issue, because many elements merge in its framework. The religious one is only a part of the composition, which can also refer to ethnic, tribal, sectarian, national, territorial, political, institutional constituents.
Keywords: Iran, Middle East, Shiite crescent, Shiite geopolitics, Shiite minorities, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Arabian Peninsula
Architect, independent scholar of Political Islam, writer, director and manager of the website www.islamicworld.it.