Iran: Will It Be the Dominant Power in the Middle East?
The world was, more or less, split into two camps, until sometime before the end of the twentieth century; one was dominated by the Soviet Union and the other by the United States of America. Regional conflicts were never allowed by the two giants to exceed their limit in a way that could threaten world stability and the balance of power. The two superpowers, often engaged in a cold war, used to inflame conflicts by proxy, usually by igniting limited regional wars which they eventually brought to an end.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union which made the United States the only world superpower, the balance was lost and the world entered into a phase of uncertainty undermining world security and peace. The vacuum created by the fall of the once superpower diminished accountability and punishment of any aggressive action launched by any country. The USA started taking unilateral actions which affected the world, fearing no retaliation by any superpower. Such actions encouraged other countries to do the same in order to attain dominance of power in their areas.
We are now watching feeble attempts to fill the void created by the fall of the Soviet Union made by the European Union, China, Japan and even Russia. In the Middle East, Israel and Arab countries are separately waging a struggle, each to set an agenda in the area. But because of an enormous power imbalance between the two sides, where Israel dominates, a third party has managed to enter the political arena ‘to set its own agenda’ and try to eradicate Israel’s dominance, in a move that would greatly affect the prevailing status of its closest ally, the USA , in the Middle East.
Israel’s ambition is to maintain its dominant power in the Middle East, but has been faced in recent years with Iran’s growing influence which represents a serious threat to such designs that have been sustained by the Israeli apartheid regime and colonial occupation of Palestine. Unfortunately, Arab countries are drawing deep in ‘day dreaming’, not wanting to be awakened to face the bitter reality of the downfall of Arab nationalism which was once a dream and a vehicle to attain Arab unity. The Arabs’ disunity renders them too weak to stop the Israeli agenda which aims to split Arab countries into much smaller states based on ethnicity and creeds and keep them fighting amongst them.
Iran believes it can be the party making a difference in Middle East politics in the absence of a unity of Arab countries that are faced with the colonial Israeli policy, adamantly insisting on a ‘divine entitlement to Palestinian lands’. Iran is not using the former Shah’s approach of restoring the legacy of the Persian Empire; instead, the State is presenting itself as a ‘ religious and political authority’ in the region. The Iranian State is not only seeking to activate its religious Islamic base community incorporating Arab Shiites, but has also been attracting Palestinian Sunnis and other fellow Sunnis in the Islamic world who view Israel and the USA as the real enemies of Arabs and Islam.
However, many observers regard the Iranian political agenda from a different aspect; Could it be an Iranian move to become a ‘major partner’ to the USA especially that Israel, its chief ally in the region, can no longer obtain its upkeep costs and has become a real burden to the West and the USA in particular? In a recent development, Tehran has managed to impose its choice for the prime minister of Iraq, despite a consensus reached to elect the secular politician, Eyad Allawi. In addition, Iranian financial support to Hizbullah in Lebanon, estimated at $300 million a year, with thousands of missiles and other military hardware, has checked Israeli dominance in South Lebanon. Moreover, Tehran is financing traditional Sunni Arabs and non-Arabs. Its support to Hamas and ‘Sunni Jihadists’ is well known and documented, regardless of the Qaeda Organization’s attempts to inflame a so-called ‘Sunni/Shiite conflict’. The President of Iran, Ahmadi Najad, was greeted in Lebanon in a way never seen since Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser made his first visit to Syria in 1958, on the eve of its unity with Egypt. Even the United States has acknowledged that Iran has a role to play in Afghanistan in efforts to achieve a peaceful political settlement in the war-torn country. Even in Pakistan, the Iranian Islamic Republic is trying to aid and support the Shiite minority which is facing discrimination and bombings targeting their mosques. Therefore, Iran appears to be making what could be described as the ‘right’ political moves accompanied by the provision of a huge financial support to whoever stands in defiance of the Israeli and U.S.A. agendas in the Middle East. That is exactly what is gradually earning Iran dominance of power in the area. This leaves us with the very painful question: “Where is the Arab role?”
Complaining that Iran is using Palestinian and other Arab causes to achieve political gains leads to nothing. Yet, many observers see the picture close to this view; Iran has ‘picked up’ the Arab causes neglected by the Arabs themselves, especially in an era where Washington’s power is not being challenged, ‘filled a gap’ with arms and money, though plentiful in the Arab world, and ‘ran’ with it to win the race in the Middle East. We have only ourselves to blame.