Iran’s nuclear program isn’t the only problem

Khairallah Khairallah

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The U.N. Security Council’s permanent members have finally reached an agreement regarding Syria's chemical weapons. The decision doesn't change anything considering that it doesn't frankly condemn the Syrian regime's usage of these weapons during its war on its people. The Syrian crisis cannot be summarized with the issue of chemical weapons. The same goes for Iran as its relation with the Arabs and the international community cannot be summarized with the issue of Iran's nuclear program.

The Iranian regime's desire is to limit negotiations over its nuclear program and make the world overlook all it has done in the region, beginning with Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and even in Yemen and Bahrain or any other Gulf country it can access for the sake of stirring sectarian tensions. The Iranian regime is also seeking to use the nuclear program to gain recognition of its regional role on the basis that Iran is also a regional superpower.

Syria’s chemical massacre

The international anger at the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons has come too late. The entire world knows that huge amounts of these weapons are stored in Syria. The entire world also knows that the only target of these weapons is inside Syria, against the Syrian people.

The problem with Iran is not in the nuclear program. The problem lies somewhere else. Is Iran a “normal” country that seeks to live safely next to its neighbors and to cooperate with them in all fields?

Khairallah Khairallah

What's unfortunate is that this world did not realize the threat of these weapons until they feared that control over it may be lost and will thus be used against Israel. This is what Russian president Vladimir Putin noted in the article he published on Sept. 12 in the New York Times. The article came within the context of the public relations campaign which Putin used to prevent an American strike against the Syrian regime’s military sites.

What applies to Syrian chemical weapons applies to Iranian nuclear ones. There is no concern in the latter issue except from the point that Iran may one day produce nuclear weapons that may be used against Israel. There's no concern worth mentioning stating that the nuclear reactor at Bushehr may harm Arab countries in the Gulf in case a malfunction similar to that which struck Chernobyl's nuclear reactor occurs. Kuwait is no more than 300 kilometers away from Bushehr.

Iran’s influence in the Arab world

The Iranian nuclear program is an important issue, but a more important issue must be focused on. What's more important is what Iran is doing in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and even Sudan and Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

Some examples must be provided to give an idea about the Iranian role. What is Iran doing in Lebanon? Why the insistence to obstruct forming a Lebanese cabinet headed by Tammam Salam? Why is there an insistence to have an Iranian sectarian militia of Lebanese members present in Lebanon and willing to go to Syria to fight a regime which can be described as sectarian? Whose interest is being served by Iran's fulfillment of this role that in the end will lead to destroying Lebanon and Syria?

Okay, let's put Lebanon, Syria and Iraq aside. What's the benefit of the campaign launched by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah against a state like Bahrain? Is the aim to isolate Lebanon from its Arab surroundings and confirm that it's linked to the Iranian-Syrian regime upon a pure sectarian basis? Is the aim to confirm that Iran has influence in Bahrain and that it skillfully uses this influence from Lebanon when it doesn't want to engage in a direct confrontation?

Anyone with the least amount of political maturity realizes that a comparison between the Syrian and the Iranian situations are out of question and that the entire aim is to practice Iranian pressures on Manama and harm the Lebanese people present in Gulf countries. Yes, there are problems in Bahrain, but they are problems that can be solved. And they are in fact being solved. But these problems cannot be compared with what Syria is witnessing as the latter is witnessing a real revolution, in which the people are seeking to get rid of a sectarian regime that wants to enslave them and that only believes in eliminating others.

One cannot but welcome any American-Iranian rapprochement that leads to closing the nuclear issue. But at the same time, in case the U.S. ignores regional issues, particularly those linked to Iran's involvement in everything that helps divide the Arab region through inciting tensions, one must take a cautious stance from such a rapprochement.

The problem with Iran is not in the nuclear program. The problem lies somewhere else. Is Iran a “normal” country that seeks to live safely next to its neighbors and to cooperate with them in all fields? Or is it a regime that is aware that it's incapable of resolving any problem inside Iran so it therefore has to continually look beyond its own borders? The Syrian regime did this in the past for more than four decades. The result is what's currently happening in Syria.

Being open about the nuclear program is meaningless as long as the Lebanese, the Syrians, the Bahrainis, the Iraqis and the Yemenis and all Arabs in the region don't feel that there's a different Iran that does not bet on inciting sectarian tensions.

In clearer words, each Arab citizen needs to feel that Iran began to adopt a totally new policy with Hassan Rowhani's taking over as president after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Can Iran make this transformation before its people stage a coup against the regime which has made 40 percent of the Iranians live below the poverty line?

This article was first published in al-Mezmaah on Sept. 29, 2013.

Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer who has previously worked at Lebanon’s Annahar newspaper, he then moved to London and began writing political columns in Arabic language newspapers, including Al-Mustaqbal and Rosa El-Youssef.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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