The Syrian conflict and the Iranian nuclear programme are two facets of the same issue: the Tehran-led axis of opposition and resistance’s quota in the reshuffling of power in the Middle East, observed Abdullah Iskandar, the managing editor of the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.
The so-called axis of resistance and opposition represents political Shia. Therefore, its quota, according to its self-assigned role, includes all forces that belong to pan-Arab and pan-Gulf Shia, he added.
“In depth, it means that efforts and negotiations pertaining to the Iranian issue and the conflict in Syria involve determining Tehran’s power share and perimeter in the region.”
It is an organic correlation between the two issues that can be felt in Iran’s behaviour on the ground, not only in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon but also in Yemen and Bahrain, and in its attempts to interfere in the affairs of other Gulf states.
This can be seen in Iran’s negotiations approach regarding its nuclear programme and Syria, the writer noted.
Iran’s military and intelligence interference in the Arab region is direct and substantial through the Al Quds force and its various branches, mainly Hizbollah. Whereas interference was at times justified as necessary for the protection of the “rights of Shiite citizens”, in Syria, it took on a severe sectarian aspect, the writer went on.
During talks with the P5+1 last week, Tehran explicitly demanded that its negotiators acknowledge its vital shares in the region and its right to pursue them along with its right to enrich uranium.
“It is this aspect of the Iranian approach to negotiations that is causing concern among Gulf states since it touches directly on their interests.”
In the negotiations over the Syrian war, Tehran deemed that its stake in Syria entitle it to participate in the second Friends of Syria conference in Geneva, not because it wants to agree on a mechanism to withdraw its forces that are fighting there, but to ensure that its stake is preserved in any future regime change, he noted.
“And so, Iran defends one cause and one cause only regardless of the many forms it takes from the Gulf to the Mediterranean while it drowns its negotiators in technicalities here and there,” the writer said.
As the last round of talks in Geneva ended, it was still unclear what its foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif agreed to or rejected in the nuclear issue.
It seems that the Islamic Republic has managed to impose its ambiguous approach to negotiations. It is a technical approach used to camouflage the real political nature of the issue and to buy Iran time.
Iran’s approach has been successful in buying it time so far, the writer observed.
US can afford a tough stance towards Tehran
“Speak softly and carry a big stick.” This was the motto of US foreign policy since Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. Recently, however, when it came to dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, the US seemed to put the stick aside and instead wave a big bunch of juicy carrots, said columnist Rajeh Al Khoury in the Lebanese daily Annahar.
This shift in political approach was clearly felt when the White House warned Congress this week that the failure to reach an agreement with Tehran would mean war and the American people don’t want war.
“It is indeed interesting that Washington, which used to threaten Iran with war, is now addressing similar ultimatums to the US congress and, consequently, to the American people,” the writer said.
“I don’t know why the White House would want to convey a message of fear of an impending war. It is a known fact that the US is withdrawing from the wars it got involved in the past decade. It is also known that President Barack Obama doesn’t want to get implicated in any more wars, as was proved in his reaction to the crisis in Syria.”
At the same time, Iran doesn’t seem to be worried in this regard.
The only threat that concerns Tehran is that of additional economic sanctions, which, eventually, would accelerate the negotiations process over a solution to the nuclear issue, the writer noted.
Iran must consider its regional surroundings
It is safe to say that what distinguishes the new Iranian administration is that it realises solving its internal crises impels it to rebuild bridges with the rest of the world, said the Dubai-based paper Al Bayan in its editorial on Thursday.
Iran is also aware that it has no hope for stability as long as its people are weighed down by the economic hardships due to harsh western sanctions. The sanctions have denied Iran the revenues of its oil sector, the backbone of its economy. Oil exports fell by 60 per cent this year, leading to added inflation and other pressures, the paper said.
“The nuclear issue represents a vital bridge that Tehran could use to mend its relationship with the world and its requires intense diplomacy and a big amount of time.
“But, at the same time, the new Iranian administration should realise that it can’t pass over its regional surroundings. The Iranian people are aware of the strong links that bind them and their interests to their geographical environment and their leadership must move within this context,” the paper added.
Until the present, however, the Rouhani administration has yet to issue any statement that Arabian Gulf states could see as reassuring.
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk