The West does not seem to appreciate the intensity of Iran's mission to protect the rights of Shi'a throughout the world. We Shi'a have long endured the hatred and persecution of our Sunni cousins. The frequency and intensity of this oppression increased when the ideologues of Wahabbism allied with Arabia's al-Saud clan in the mid-18th century. When oil was discovered on the Arabian Peninsula in the 20th century, Riyadh's power expanded exponentially from the petro profits. It's suppression of Shi'a rights expanded as well. From Bahrain to Pakistan, Shi'a are killed virtually every day by Riyadh-inspired vituperative lies about Shi'a.

Christendom may no longer believe that it has a responsibility to protect Christians in the Middle East from Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi sect intolerance. Consequently, Christian communities in the region for millennia are disappearing rapidly. But this is not the case with the Islamic Republic. Iran's forward policies in Persian Gulf countries that have a substantial Shi'a population should not be dismissed as traditional nation-state aggressive expansionism. Iranians of all political persuasions possess a profound sense of spiritual simpatico with their fellow Shi'a abroad. This sentiment is transcends the normative rules of international relations. It can be described as loyalty to the Shi'a Umma as expostulated by the largest Shi'ite organization in North America, the Universal Muslim Association of America which draws attendees from all over the globe at its annual conventions.

Much Western reporting that addresses Iran's supposed commitment to the Assad regime in Damascus is superficial journalism indeed. Iranian Shi'a are not Assadists but the Assadists are Shi'a. Iran's Shi'ite Ayatollahs have declared that Syria's Alawites are genuine Shi'ites. Therefore, the Shi'a clerics in Iran feel obligated to defend the interests of the Alawi Shi'a community. Though there is much to criticize Assad for, who would doubt that the probable alternative is worse.

Another dimension of Iran's support for regional Shi'ism which upsets the West, is Iran's growing operational relationship with Russia. The Shi'a are not naive about Moscow's real intentions but why should Iran make Russia an enemy? This is especially true when Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Gulf States have turned a blind eye to the substantial support flowing from their countries to Sunni extremists like al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, and Daesh.

In light of the recent execution of our Shi'ite Sheik Nimr al-Nimr by the barbarous Saudi regime, one would hope that the West would see the similarity between the atrocities of America's al-Saud ally and Daesh. Perhaps, it is not so cut and dry that the interests of Iran and the West are at opposing poles, on every issue.

Iran's commitment to Shi'a interests seems firmly linked to its idea of its mission, as well as to the survival of its revolutionary regime. Iran's theocracy is likely willing to pay a high price to safeguard this legacy. The West should not expect Iran to reduce its presence in Syria or Iraq, even under severe military pressure.