x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Iran aims at regional hegemony

"Amid internal conflicts and the ongoing debate between conservatives and reformists, the Iranian foreign ministry has taken its time and responded to a US offer aimed at avoiding military clashes in the future," wrote Saleh al Qalab in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida.

"Amid internal conflicts and the ongoing debate between conservatives and reformists, the  Iranian foreign ministry has taken its time and responded to a US offer aimed at avoiding military clashes in the future," wrote Saleh al Qalab in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida. "A ministry spokesman was reported as saying that Tehran is ready to engage in good relations with the US on condition that it is granted more freedom to exercise a wider regional role."

As many critics would argue, Iran  is less likely to confront the Americans or the international community. Iran simply craves power and hegemony in the Middle East. The outspoken claims by the Islamic Republic to support Hamas to establish a state in Gaza Strip and to free Jerusalem are nothing but paying lip service designed to win Arab and Islamic popular support. Such a vehement quest for regional empowerment actually has its roots back in the  pre-Islamic revolution era, when Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi considered himself the new "Cyrus".

On that account, "we can now understand that the real intention behind acquiring a nuclear bomb is not to eliminate Israel nor to liberate Palestine. Through means of power, Iran aims at imposing its dominion.This has been  explicitly mentioned by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has insisted that his country would forcefully seek to be a key international player." 

After the deaths of three extremists - Mohammed Youssef in Nigeria, Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, and Noordin Mohammed Top, the suspected mastermind of the Jakarta bombings - many believe that eliminating these symbolic figures will weaken the terrorist movements they represent, wrote Youssef al Qwailt in an opinion article in the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh. This is true since most of these organisations can at any time be  submerged in divisions due to their structure based either on tribal affiliation or on mercenaries. So in order to keep themselves  united, they need charismatic leaders. They guarantee consensus and act as strategists. "Targeting the leaders, thus, has proven an effective strategy to break down terrorist movements. This happened in Iraq  when  Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed in 2006. Since then, al Qa'eda has lost its hold of Iraq and consequently disintegrated."

Another strategy to keep these terrorist movements in check is to lure the leaders with money and other worldly advantages. This occurred in Iraq when the Awakening forces were created and encouraged to rebel against their original terrorist movements. The US is now planning to follow the same technique in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In an opinion piece featured in the UAE daily Al Khaleej, Sa'ad Mehio wrote that the Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan was preparing a comprehensive plan to address the Kurdish crisis. "Though the Turkish premier did not disclose any details, observers relate his intentions with what he said in July, 2005, in Diyar Bekr, capital of Turkish Kurdistan. There he admitted that mistakes had been made against the Kurds and it was time to rectify them. He said that that should be done within a scope of a new concept of national identity that advocates a multi-ethnic Turkey." Many wonder therefore if Turkey is on the verge of a historic transition. Indeed, Mr Recep Erdogan has made bolder steps since then. He licenced a  Kurdish-speaking television station, and vowed to settle the Kurdish issue in the context of wider democratic and cultural rights. He also promised to introduce  radical economic reforms.

The Turkish premier's initiative may, however, be opposed by secular circles and the military who reject negotiating with  the Kurdistan Workers' Party and giving any cultural concessions in favour of the Kurdish people. "Mr  Recep Erdogan is aware of these constraints. That is why he resolved  to draft his plan in association with the ministry of interior, the army staff and the  national intelligence organisation." 

"Is there any hope left for the Palestinian dialogue to yield positive outcome after Fatah members living in Gaza and Hamas members residing in the West Bank were held hostage?" asked Mohammed Salah in a comment piece that appeared in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. "It is less likely that the situation would look like what it was before 2006. Thus, all concerned parties, be they the Arabs countries, the international community or the Palestinians themselves, are required from now on to look at the issue from this perspective."

The international community would not accept, however, to settle the Palestinian issue any sooner because any solution reached amid such a "messy" situation would not bring the kind of safety  aspired to by the Israelis. The latter in fact should be happy now to see the differences among the Palestinians, and probably they wish them to continue longer. For their part, the rival Palestinian factions do not seem at all ready to give concessions, hence stalling any potential breakthrough in the foreseeable future. 

That would encourage Israel to further pursue its settlement policy, while the warring factions would continue their grip on the tiny territories left. Palestinians  will remain victims of their choices of leaders. * Digest compiled by Moustapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae