By Ali Hussein Bakeer
Last week, Umayya Center for Strategic Studies held a workshop in the Egyptian capital Cairo, entitled “the Iranian Agenda in the Arab World”. Sixteen researchers, academics and journalists from several Arab countries and of many different orientations (Islamic, seculars, liberals, pan Arab, Sunni, Shiite and even people from the al-Ahwaz province in Iran) were invited as speakers.
The workshop which was widely covered by the media and broadcast live on many channels including (Misir25) from Egypt, (Al-Rafidain) from Iraq and (Aljazeera Mubasher) from Qatar, focused on carefully examining Iran’s agenda in the Arab world, the dangers of Iranian policies in the region especially amid the Syrian revolution and the Mullah regime’s and its allies’ bloody involvement in it.
Participants discussed the pillars of the Iranian agenda in the region, the domestic factors of this agenda, “regionalism” in Tehran’s foreign policy, Iran and the Arab revolutions.
It was evident from the participant’s papers that Iran’s alleged legacy in the Arab world has entirely vanished. Previously, it was very hard for anyone to criticize Iran; the vast majority of public opinion in the Arab world was sympathetic of Iran, perceiving it as an Islamic country supposedly defying the “great Satan” (United States) and Israel. The workshop reflected a dramatic change in this perception of Iran in the Arab world.
Syria: The litmus test
The Syrian revolution has significantly affected Iran’s image in the Arab world and clearly had a negative impact on Arab perception of Iranian policies in the region.
Right now, even those who are neutral to Iran and its agenda are having a hard time explaining their position. The small number of people who still support Iran are viewed as sectarian, radicals or traitors. Participants reflected the general atmosphere in the Arab world that there can be no excuse whatsoever that could justify any person or country to support the bloody Assad regime against its people. Such a support could not be justified under any circumstances even if it served the purpose of resisting to Israeli occupation. This is a matter of freedom and a group of slaves can’t resist Israel or any other occupier.
Iran and Israel two faces of the same coin
Moreover, speakers explained that Arabs are against Israel not due to any anti-Semitics sentiments, but because they are occupying Arab lands, humiliating Palestinians, violating all kind of international laws and using espionage and spies to internally shake the stability of Arab countries, and this is not different in any way from what Iran is doing too in the Arab world.
Currently Iran occupies islands that belong to the UAE, claims that Bahrain in its entirety is an Iranian province that must be taken back, uses its arms and militias as proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Palestine, Kuwait, Syria and other countries, divides Arab societies on sectarian faults and inflames sectarian sentiments.
Both countries have regimes that operate with a Mafioso mentality in the region. They are not interested in any legitimate stability, they are not interested in prosperity of the region and welfare of its people, they strongly oppose any comprehensive and just peace in the region and on the contrary they play hard in order to make sure this doesn’t take place, both regimes use minorities in order to achieve political aims and in addition to all of these they use Arab countries as playground for increasing their influence in the region.
Iran and the Shiite
During the event, the participants showed a commitment to distinguishing between Iran and the Shiite. They stressed that commenting on Iran doesn’t mean in anyway commenting Shiite people. The speakers further agreed that the Mulla’s regime ultimate goal is to use Shiite in its agenda. Iran neither represents, nor protects the Shiite’s within the Arab world. Giving examples of this, the speakers noted Iran’s support for Armenia against Shiite Azerbejan, also noting the Iranian authorities’ treatment of the Arabs of Ahwaz province, although they are Shiite too.
Speaker warned that Iran is hiding behind slogans such as “Islamic unity”, “resistance” and other slogans in order to penetrate the public bases while covering its real intentions. Iran will not be ashamed from brokering deals with what it claims to be the “great Satan” (United States) and Israel when it is in their national interests to do so, as they did before many times during Mullahs rule.
Reaching the Iranian people
Participants assured that Arabs are not enemies of Iran or Iranian people, but they will stand strongly and firmly against the intimidating and reckless policies implemented by the mullahs’ regime in the Arab countries. As long as the current Iranian policies remain, the Arabs and Iranians will not have positive relations.
Considering the importance of directly reaching the Iranian public, speakers stressed the necessity of establishing new Arab media channels operating in Persian, in order to break the siege put by the mullahs on the Iranian people and to be able to deliver the message of Arabs directly without any interference from the mullah’s regime. This is especially critical when the mullah’s regime is using misleading ways to present false picture of events and stories as it did with the Egyptian president’s speech in Tehran few months ago.
Finally, the workshop participants restated their support for all Iranian people fractions and minorities in their struggle to obtain their rights.
Ali Hussein Bakeer
USAK Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies