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Rouhani to Sunnis: Iran not seeking 'Shiite crescent'

In a speech before the Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani sought to send a message of reassurance to the Arab world that Iran is not seeking a "Shiite crescent."
Iran President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference in Rome, Italy, January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi - RTX246ST

Amid developments in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has moved to reassure Sunni Muslims that the Islamic Republic is not seeking to form a so-called “Shiite crescent” in the Middle East. In a speech Dec. 15 before the 30th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran, Rouhani said, “Both Shiite crescent and Sunni axis are wrong. Shiites and Sunnis are brothers and followers of Islam and the manner of the great Prophet [Muhammad].”

“Fallujah, Aleppo, and all of Iraq and Syria will be liberated from the hands of terrorists in the near future,” Rouhani said. “If the world powers and some dictator and dependent states in the region assume that they can secure their interests and domination in the region via terrorist groups, then they are making a big mistake.”

The Iranian president continued, “Shiites and Sunnis, different sects and ethnicities have lived alongside each other for centuries. We all lived alongside each other, we respected one another, we didn’t insult the sanctities of sects, and all Muslims respected the companions and household of the prophet.”

Rouhani said, “It is not Shiites and Sunnis who have stood up against one another. The late imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] said that it is ‘American Islam’ that has stood up to the pure Muhammadan Islam.”

Mentioning the Islamic State and the massacres the group has committed, the Iranian president stated, “We are proud of the holy war [jihad], which is in accordance with the Quran, and we don’t recognize any holy war except [that which is] resisting oppression and defending the honor of Islam and Muslims. Since when has holy war become equivalent to murder and Muslim confrontation with [other] Muslims by the order of the major powers?”

Indirectly referring to some regional states, Rouhani said, “Is there any catastrophe bigger than that some Muslims are holding a grudge against each other instead of the colonizers, looters of Islamic countries’ resources and also the [Israeli] regime, which is the biggest danger of the region and has made Muslims engage in dispute, war, conflict and aggression [with each other] for 70 years?”

Rouhani then pointed the finger at “some Western powers who taught the terrorists the way of terror” and “bought their smuggled oil,” further charging that “some Islamic countries” have given “money and weapons to the terrorist groups.”

In response to a question about the invitation of some groups, such as the Taliban, to the 30th International Islamic Unity Conference, Secretary General of the World Forum for Proximity of the Islamic Schools of Thought Ayatollah Mohsen Araki said in a press conference Dec. 13, “The Taliban itself has various currents [within it] that we can have contact with, and this year some of them will take part in the conference. We are attempting to have contact with anyone with whom dialogue is possible.”

Of note, Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Reza Bahrami said as recently as Dec. 10, “We have contacts with the Taliban, but we don’t have a relationship. Our contact is aimed at controlling [them] and having intelligence domination.” He added, “We are interested in and are trying to provide the grounds for holding negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.”

Meanwhile, in response to a question about the followers of Ayatollah Sadeq Shirazi, also known as “Shirazis,” Araki said, “This current is not a new phenomenon, and it rose against the marja'iyya [Shiite religious establishment] in Iraq 50 years ago. They are the first people who stood up against Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim and started breaking the unity established by the marja'iyya following the order of England and the financial support of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The Shirazi current is an organized group with the purpose of spying and destroying the Shiite marja'iyya.”

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