By Ali Huseyin Bakir
Lately, many articles have confirmed Iran’s loss in the Arab revolution, although we still don’t know where exactly things are heading.
We should not rush to judge because such an attitude will make us relaxed, drive us to draw wrong conclusions and lead us to lose in the end. Things can change fast and this is what seems to be happening right now.
Rami Khouri published an article titled “Iran Is Losing from the Arab Uprising” in the Lebanese Daily Star on Oct. 5, stating the four main reasons for his claim. Yes, there is a great possibility that Iran might lose from the Arab revolutions, but there is also a great possibility that it might not. Recently, Tehran quickly took many initiatives in order to readjust its position while the sands move under its feet in the Arab world. Unlike what Khouri wrote, I say Iran is unfortunately still in the game for at least four reasons:
1. The Assad regime is still in power at the moment, and unless we see Bashar al-Assad and his circle out of the country or in front of the courts, we cannot say that Iran has lost. Iran has been pursuing a new tactic in Syria as of late. In order to prevent the negative strategic implications of the possible fall of the Syrian regime, Iran is trying not to keep all its eggs in one basket. The Iranian regime has softened its tune lately by asking Assad to hear the voice of the people. The aim of such statements is to save the regime in the best possible scenario and open channels with its opposition in the worst.
2. As a reaction to what is going on in Syria and its fear of losing its strategic ally and thus geopolitical influence, Iran is now trying to secure other areas it already controls, like Lebanon and Iraq, while searching for opportunities in Bahrain and Yemen. Tehran is openly forging a Shiite axis, utilizing all its resources in order to help the Assad regime and promote the overall strategy of Iran in this critical moment.
3. Parallel to all these efforts, Tehran is seeking to win the ultimate prize in the Arab world: Egypt. Although Iran is not so powerful in Egypt right now, the fall of the Hosni Mubarak regime allowed it to take its chances with the new regime. It has its own powerful and influential figures there. Iran is betting on two things: winning the hearts of some Islamic factions (through ideology) and some other non-Islamic factions (through money), not to mention its exploitation of the anti-Israel and anti-American sentiments there.
4. Iran always has a plan B in the Arab world. The Palestinian issue is back in the arena again; Iran — with the help of the catastrophic policies of Israel and the US — is playing the “resistance card” again.
In his article, Khouri says: “Iran’s third loss is that its attempts to gain Arab favor by rhetorically attacking Israel are being almost totally marginalized by two concurrent developments: The center of gravity of Arab-Israeli issues is shifting to the UN and other diplomatic arenas and Turkey has stepped up and assumed the role of regional power that is challenging Israel diplomatically in a far more credible manner than Iran has ever done,” but thanks to open and unconditional American support for Israel, the issue is shifting again to the angry Arab street.
As for Ankara on this issue, the Turkish role is facing some difficulties due to a lack of experience in the Arab world and some flawed tactical steps taken during the last few months. Unlike Iran, it does not have deep knowledge of Arab dynamics.
A US veto against Palestinian statehood will serve Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah axis, fortify their stance, and strengthen their influence in the Arab world again. The problem is that the US’s support for Israel in this stage of history will quickly shift and effectively direct the debate toward Palestine rather than rights, the rule of law, democracy and economic issues. This will feed populism rather than rationalism, which may drive the region toward intolerance and chaos, the main playground of Iran!
In his Book “The Art of War,” the famous Chinese General Sun Tzu says: “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or you may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”
So, unless we are fully aware of these points and of the current tactics of Iranian policymaking, we will be the real losers when we assume that “Iran has already lost.”
Ali Huseyin Bakir, JTW Columnist. This article is firstly published in Today’s Zaman.