Sawsan al-Shaer

Iran’s Interest Hinges on it Changing its Behavior

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stated on Tuesday that Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Saeed had informed him that Egypt wants to restore relations with Tehran. Raisi informed Sultan Haitham that Tehran welcomes the position.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, however, has not commented on the statements that were reported by Iranian media. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri had last month said bilateral ties with Iran were “as they are. When there’s an interest to change the approach, then we will certainly always seek interests.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah paid a visit to Iran last week. Iran has yet to offer any realistic initiatives beyond rushing to reopen embassies and consulates. On the contrary, hardliners in the regime attempted to undermine the visit by obstructing the name change of a street where the Saudi embassy is located. The street is called “Nimr al-Nimr" and they claimed that the municipality was hindering the change.

Moreover, a portrait of Qassem Soleimani was placed in the hall where the Saudi minister was supposed to meet Iranian officials. The Saudi officials insisted on changing the location of the meeting, which would not have been held were it not for the wisdom of the Kingdom’s delegation.

Iran must realize that advancing Arab-Iranian ties, whether with the Gulf countries or Egypt, hinges on Iran’s commitment to abandoning its expansionist agenda in the region. The agenda is at the heart of the matter, and it remains to be seen whether Tehran will offer any initiatives to that end.

Calls and statements by Iran will remain unanswered as long as its proxy militias continue to operate in the region, including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Yemen. They will continue to be unanswered as long as it does nothing to curb drug smuggling, which has become a real threat to Gulf security. Iran’s statements will continue to be useless and have no impact as long as it doesn’t take action on the ground to contain its malign activity.

The change in the Iranian position lies in Iran itself. The country is divided between two camps: One that still insists on pursuing its wild dreams that are based on the belief that its stability and security can only be guaranteed by expanding in the region, destabilizing it and threatening and extorting its countries. The other camp believes that the time of the revolution is over and that a viable state needs to be established in Iran.

A decisive position needs to be taken with the camp that believes that arming groups in Arab countries grants it power at no cost. The camp eventually realized that it cannot keep financing these groups indefinitely, given the deterioration of the economy in Iran and the sanctions imposed on it, so it allowed them to finance themselves through the drug trade.

At the end of the day, the Iranian regime has not achieved the security and stability that it craves. All the loud statements that its regime officials are making stem from a constant sense of being threatened and insecure.

Had the regime made the right calculations, it would have realized the benefits of improving relations with the Gulf. The rewards would have been reaped by Iran, its people and even the regime itself. Had it made the realization, the regime would have immediately cut off relations with the armed groups and instead, bolstered relations with the countries of the region.

On the security level, the countries on either side of the Arab Gulf could fortify their waters as long as mutual trust is there. On the economic level, mutual investments can revive the Iranian people, who are yearning for life. This will in turn stabilize the regime and strengthen its internal security.

The Iranian regime has a once in a lifetime opportunity to benefit from the dramatic change spearheaded by Saudi Arabia. It would be committing a grave and idiotic error should it exploit these changes to only catch its breath and regroup.