x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Iran’s recent wave of diplomatic statements have different meanings at home and abroad

Iranian sweet talk is aimed at western audiences hoping for the best and domestic audiences hoping for a strong Iran. Other views: Syria is a multinational conflict, with fighters from more than 70 countries; and GCC union will be a boost for stability.

“Iran’s recent wave of diplomatic statements are a mere PR campaign aimed at two different target audiences: a foreign audience which has bought into believing that a deal with the Islamic republic would mark an end to the malevolent Iran, and a domestic audience lulled into thinking that the dream of a powerful Iran is about to come true” wrote Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the daily Asharq Al Awsat, commenting on Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s interview in The Washington Post.

President Rouhani is no exception. He has been preceded by two Iranian presidents, who, in a show of openness, carried the same broad smiles and glittering promises. Hashemi Rafsanjani tended his hand to Gulf countries in the wake of Saddam’s defeat and expressed willingness to normalise relations. Saudi Arabia signed security and economic deals with him in what was heralded then as an end to conflict.

In 1996, however, Iran masterminded a spate of bombings in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, that claimed 19 American lives. During Rafsanjani’s term, Iran annexed the remainder of the UAE’s Abu Musa Island.

Khatami, Rafsanjani’s successor, was known to have a cleaner slate, pledging to change Iranian foreign policy and to normalise severed relations with Arab countries and the West. Nothing of this materialised. Worse still, Khatami was unable to preclude Iran’s intelligence services from arresting his own allies. Rohani’s promises may fly on the face of the foundations of Khomeini’s philosophy, the country’s history, and its public.

But the number of executed prisoners during Rouhani’s supposedly bright tenure far exceeds the number executed during Ahmadinejad’s bleak reign.

The government has executed 16 Baluchi opposition members on fake trials in retaliation to the latest bombings in tumultuous Baluchistan, as well as four Ahwaz opposition members.

“So what has changed in Iran aside from the broad smiles and the bright promises? Nothing of note,” Al Rashed commented.

For the first time, Iran dares to dispatch battalions of its Revolutionary Guards to Syria, fighting along with its allied Hizbollah militias and Iraqi Asa’ib Ahl Al Haq, which does not seem to bother the US Administration as much as Al Qaida does.

“We are concerned by Al Qaida and have waged a war against it, while Iran continues to send its extremist combatants,” Al Rashed noted.

Zarif says he pays little heed to the criticism of Maj Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, considering the limited Iranian military capabilities. “This statement is either a repeat of the usual Iranian drama, with Zarif playing the good policeman and Jafari the bad, Or that Zarif is seeking to play the Pope’s role,” Al Rashad concluded.

Syria’s chaotic fight is no longer a revolution

A recent report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation in London revealed that between 3,300 and 11,000 fighters from more than 70 nations have joined the struggle in Syria against president Bashar Al Assad since 2011. It is an indication of the dire state of affairs in Syria and in the Arab world in general, the columnist Amjad Arrar wrote in the Sharjah-based daily Al Khaleej.

“For a country to become a multinational battlefield of such proportions suggests that that a verdict has been issued to execute it and confiscate its future. The rhetoric about democracy becomes dreamy romanticism at best and a most convenient cover for the decimation of an Arab country in its entirety,” he said.

Based on the report, thousands of militants of every shape, ethnicity, purpose and background engage with hundreds of thousands of troops on Syrian soil. In the meantime, the nation’s population is stuck in the middle. Fearing death, millions are driven across borders only to succumb to miserable conditions in refugee camps.

“Throughout history, there has never been a more catastrophic or a more chaotic revolution.”

Countries under occupation or tyranny are liberated only at the hands of their sons and daughters. What is going on in Syria is no longer a revolution, but chaos.There is a big difference between revolution and vengeance, between fight and outright murder.

A GCC union is a good guarantee for stability

The hubbub that accompanied the recent revival of the proposal to move the Gulf Cooperation Council towards union was exaggerated, said the columnist Mohammed Al Assumi in Abu Dhabi’s daily Al Ittihad.

“The transformation, should it take place, will be a routine procedure and it wouldn’t have much of an effect on the nature of cooperation,” he explained. Just as it is in the European Union, member states all hold veto rights and no decisions could be passed without the consent of all the members, guaranteeing their sovereignty.

Gulf states’ unification is essentially centred around economy and security. Economic cooperation has been slowly picking up pace in the Gulf bloc and a full customs union is expected to be implemented a year from now in addition to a joint Gulf market.

Shifting from cooperation to union would give the Gulf states bloc additional influence at the international level and would equip it to face serious challenges, namely threats from surrounding regional entities.

Bridging the gaps in economic cooperation among Gulf countries is crucial for the success of the proposed union. The more GCC states rely on one another, the stronger their economic interests and the better the guarantees for development.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk