Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Iran’s Bets on the Arabs and the International Community

Iran’s Bets on the Arabs and the International Community

Sunday, 30 June, 2019 - 14:30

For those monitoring Iranian affairs for some time, Tehran’s recent military escalation in the Gulf comes as no surprise. They have always expected the Iranian leaders to raise the tempo in order to send a clear warning message that the cost of a military conflict would be extremely high.

‘The Samson Option’ has always been central to the way of thinking of a regime based on all forms of dictatorships: religious, through the ‘Vilayet e Faqih’ theocratic identity; military through its army, Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and sectarian militias; and Mafia-style economic network structurally tied to the previous two.

Furthermore, ‘Exporting the Revolution’, as a strategy, represents those three forms of dictatorships outside Iran and the international waters; as does the resurrected nationalist hubris of a nation that accepted Islam on its own conditions and according to its own definition.

Thus, it is impossible to separate the political identity of the Iranian regime and the strategy of ‘Exporting the Revolution’, which actually means imposing Iranian hegemony on neighboring countries, and undermining them through sectarianism whenever the need arises.

We always hear that there are disagreements within the Iranian leadership. Well, this may be true. There may exist a rational bloc confronting an adventurist bloc. There may be moderate figures who prefer showing patience in achieving their goals without the need to provoke the whole world against Iran, against figures who are keen to impose their will today rather than tomorrow. Perhaps there still are true ‘reformist’ groups which courageously believe that quiet approaches can open holes in the wall blocking international relations against militant ‘field commanders’ who are convinced that ‘attack is the best means of defense’.

All this is possible; however, we need, as Arabs who have had a long and uneasy history with the political culture of ‘our neighbors’ across the Gulf and Zagros Mountains, to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst!

Recalling the days of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who aspired to be ‘the Policeman of the Gulf’, we today realize that the leaders of the ‘Islamic Revolution’ went much further in that project. Also, and needless to repeat facts known to every sane Arab about what Iran has perpetrated in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, we must not underestimate the latest developments in the Gulf of Oman and southern Saudi Arabia while rationally weighing up the situation, interests, expectations and bets.

On a GCC level, one has to admit that the internal cohesion of the GCC could be stronger and more secure than that it is now. Indeed, even if we overlooked this reality, the Tehran strategists know what is going on and are exploiting the situation efficiently.

On the Arab level too, the overall situation does not show the much-needed solidarity in the face of the arrogance and aggression of the Tehran regime. Iraq’s unfortunate position during Makkah’s three summits speaks volumes, and what remains of vestiges of a state in Syria is a living expression of an Iranian-Russian satellite.

As for Lebanon, it is living under an authority that is nothing but a thin veil barely covering the identity of its real rulers. This became clearer with the background of Tehran’s release of Lebanese prisoner Nizar Zakka, and the antagonistic attitude of the President and government towards Syrian refugees.

In the meantime, the situation in Yemen has already become a worrying sign of international collusion with the Iranian leadership of which the Houthi rebels are an appendage in the southern gateway of the Red Sea. Even Arab countries, that have so far escaped Tehran’s hegemony, seem to be suffering serious political and security problems that may open the floodgates to serious threats.

Finally, let us have a look at the international scene, and share some candid thoughts about the following facts:

-Fact One: the US tough stance against Iran’s latest actions in the Gulf of Oman gives signs of seriousness against any aggression targeting shipping in the area, as well as on the insistence that Tehran has to change its ‘behavior’. However, without questioning the real reasons for this tough stance Washington continues to declare that its intention is not regime change.

-Fact Two: there is no consensus, even in Washington, in support of President Donald Trump’s Iranian policy; in fact, the vast majority of Democrats continue to follow his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama’s commitment to appeasing Iran.

-Fact Three; the general political climate in Western Europe, particularly in Germany and France, opposes any escalation against Iran. This has been made clear by the European support to JCPOA. Furthermore, this position stems in part from European dislike of Trump himself as well as his ultra right-wing policies. This, means that Tehran, by default, has found ‘indirect’ allies who are actually backing its aggression and destructive regional actions.

-Fact Four: the Tehran regime is not ignorant of the mechanics of European and American politics, not to mention its exploitation of its strong tactical relations with Russia and China. In Europe, the Iranians can rely on the continent’s leftists and liberals, while in the US the Tehran regime benefits from a very active political ‘lobby’. Moreover, most of Iran’s Khomeinist foreign ministers, since Sadegh Ghotbazdeh (Velayati, Kharazi, Salehi and Zarif), lived in the US, studied in American universities, and interacted with American culture; so they know America’s strengths and weaknesses, and its interests and counter interests in both the Middle East and globally.

-Fact Five: American sanctions against Iran have, no doubt, been effective to the extent that they have pushed its leaders to ‘escape forward’. They are escalating militarily in order to blackmail the international community, with the tacit threats Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been reiterating that “the war will be costly to all”. The attack on Abha (civilian) Airport, just a few hours before the attacks on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as well as the ongoing drone attacks, clearly point to the culprit and intentions.

What we have witnessed lately is a very serious development. Would the international community misunderstand it … yet again?!

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks