Iran to assist Burmese Muslims

Reuters

A Muslim woman, displaced by recent violence in Kyukphyu township, cries after arriving at the Thaechaung refugee camp outside of Sittwe in this October 28, 2012 file photo.

Article Highlights

  • Iran’s outreach to Rohingya Muslims should concern Western policymakers

    Tweet This

  • Iranian charities have recently become involved in activities that concern US policymakers

    Tweet This

  • Iran uses charities they control to exploit and radicalize displaced persons as they have in Lebanon

    Tweet This

In June 2012, ethnic and sectarian violence erupted in Burma’s northwestern Rakhine state between Rohingya Muslims and the majority Rakhine Buddhists. The spark appears to have been the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman, albeit after the murders of ten local Muslims. Unrest spread quickly: within a week more than 30,000 were homeless. By October that number had grown to 100,000. The plight of the Rohingya Muslims and their “genocide” became a cause célèbre in the Muslim world. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), for example, condemned the “ethnic cleansing, killings, rape, and forced displacement” of the Rohingya.

Against the backdrop of growing violence in Syria, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, flew instead to Burma “to raise awareness” of the Rohingya Muslims’ plight. It is against this context that Iran now appears to be involving itself with the Rohingya Muslims. For Iranian officials to remain silent would effectively cede ownership over this populist issue to Sunni powers. Not only does Iran see itself in a sectarian competitor with Turkey, but it also sees the OIC as an extension of this conflict because OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu is a close friend to Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül.

Iran’s outreach to the Rohingya, however, should concern Western policymakers. The delegation described in the excerpted article includes the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee (IKRC). At first glance, the IKRC appears to be a legitimate aid organization: it provides food, fuel, and assistance for the disabled, elderly, and orphans in a number of countries.

However, with assets supplied by the Supreme Leader and many members veterans of the IRGC, the IKRC has in recent years become involved in activities which concern U.S. policymakers. In 2010, for example, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the IKRC branch in Lebanon as a terrorist entity for its aid and assistance to Hezbollah. Given that the Rohingya are not the only Muslim community experiencing unrest in the region—the ongoing Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand has been particularly intractable—any involvement of Iranian officials could ultimately prove detrimental to U.S. interests.

Seldom do organizations such as the IKRC offer assistance and then leave. That Iran’s outreach to Burma’s Muslims coincides with a renewed American and, more broadly, Western diplomatic and commercial engagement there might also have security implications should Iranian authorities use charities they control to exploit and radicalize displaced persons as they have in Lebanon.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin


  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5851
    Email: mrubin@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Ahmad Majidyar
    Phone: 202-862-5845
    Email: ahmad.majidyar@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The Census Bureau and Obamacare: Dumb decision? Yes. Conspiracy? No.
image A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
image Give the CBO long-range tools
image The coming collapse of India's communists
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.