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Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani is the senior editor with Trend News Agency and is a journalist, author and political analyst based in Baku, specializing in the Middle…

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Arab Leaders Finally Awake to Growing Iranian Threat

In order to survive revolutions must continue to propagate themselves or else they die; that was true of revolutions on the left that saw their golden years in the late 1950s and ‘60s in much of Latin America and communist Eastern Europe, and it true of today’s Islamist movements. To survive they need to keep moving. Understand that and you understand the basis of what drives Iran’s Islamic revolution.

Since its inception the Islamic Republic has followed a clear political line without deviating from it as much as an iota, and analysis of the current situation leads to believe there is no reason for change in the foreseeable future. Since the very beginning Iran has been implementing the philosophy of "Wilayat el-Fakih," as set up by Ayotallah Khomeini.

The Wilayet el-Fakih calls for the “recognition of the absolute and supranational political and religious authority of the Supreme Guide, the wali el-fakih (now Khamenei, and before him, Khomeini). This constitutes one of the main characteristics (if not the central characteristic) of both the Iranian revolution, as well as that of its proxy militia, Hezbollah.

A deep understanding of the Wilayat el-Fakih system is indispensable in understanding the behavior of the Iranians.

Iran wants to become the major regional power and will pursue its nuclear program. It will continue to attempt to export its revolution to other countries in the region. It will continue to buy time, as it negotiates with the West until it is either defeated from within, as was recently attempted in the aftermath of the recent presidential elections, or reaches the point of open conflict with one of its neighbors.

So long as the current regime remains in power expect no change, no deviation and no softening of Tehran’s positions. Rather, expect the West to change, bend and do everything it can to try and accommodate the Iranians. But make no mistake: so long as the principle of Wilayet el Fakih remains in force you can expect no change in relations between the Islamic Republic and the West. Or rather, I stand corrected: there will be change, but it will be for the worst.

Meanwhile, think how much we have gone back and forth, shifting policy: now we talk to you, now we don’t. Now impose sanctions, now we don’t. And so on. From Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to George Bush to Bill Clinton, to George W. Bush and now to Barack Obama.  Look at how different US foreign policy changed under those different administrations.

Now compare it to what the Iranians have been attempting to accomplish: Export their revolution, something they have not given up on and despite drawbacks of the early years, they have now succeeded in gaining a foothold in Lebanon, through Hezbollah, in Palestine through Hamas and in Syria through badly executed US foreign policy that pushed Syria into the arms of the ayatollahs.

The majority of the Arab leaders were slow in recognizing the dangers of rising Iranian influence. In fact it is only recently that some of the Arab leadership have begun to take notice of, and react to, Iranian interference in Arab affairs.

First, the Moroccans recalled their ambassador in Tehran last February after an Iranian cleric made statements claiming Iranian sovereignty over Bahrain.

Later in the year Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to leave the Palestinian issue to the Palestinians and to stop interfering in Palestinian affairs.

And more recently Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned against Iran's meddling in Arab affairs, stating that Egypt “will not hesitate to take a stance that opposes the attempts to destabilize the country.”

Indeed, is scanning the official press in Cairo one comes away with the feeling that Egyptian authorities have started to feel somewhat edgy about Tehran’s rising influence in the Arab World.

Iran’s footprint today is visible in a number of Arab countries, most noticeably in Lebanon through Hezbollah, the primary Lebanese Shiite movement whose armed wing is believed to be stronger and better equipped than the Lebanese army.

Iran’s influence is present in Gaza where they support Hamas through finances and weapons. And of course, Iranian influence is widely present in Iraq, where about 60 percent of the population is Shiite.

Iran has also been accused by a number of sources to be at least partially responsible for the recent armed skirmishes between Saudi Arabian forces on the one hand and Houthi rebels in Yemen; and Yemeni forces on the other, fighting the same rebel forces along the Yemeni-Saudi frontier.

Of late, the Egyptian press, in what appears to be a reflection of the government’s views, lashed out at the mullahs, accusing them of fomenting trouble around the Middle East.

Besides the obvious danger of a nuclear-armed Iran is the added danger of a nuclear arms race in the region. If Iran goes through with its nuclear program it is very likely that a number of Arab countries – notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia would follow suit. Not a pleasant thought as we enter a new year.

By. Claude Salhani

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