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Is Iranian influence near?

High-ranking figures in Iran have recently suggested it carries inflkuence across several Middle East countries

Nayla Tueni

Published: Updated:

Iranian president Hassan Rowhani’s adviser on ethnic and religious minorities’ affairs Ali Younisi said last month that Iran was an empire whose capital is Baghdad. During the “Iranian identity” conference in Tehran on March 8, Younisi said Iran “has become an empire like it was before (with) Baghdad as its capital,” adding that the city is “today the center of our civilization, culture and identity, just like it was throughout history.”

The revolution of Imam Khomeini and the Iranian people were based upon the principle of confronting the expansive project of global colonizing powers

His statements stirred controversy and the clarification issued by the Iranian embassy in Beirut regarding them did not yield any results. The embassy said that Younisi’s statements were entirely twisted on purpose, adding that principles of the Iranian Islamic Republic’s foreign policy were based on respecting international rules. It also said that Iran’s foreign policy believed that the era of empires had ended and would not return, adding that the revolution of Imam Khomeini and the Iranian people were based upon the principle of confronting the expansive project of global colonizing powers. Younisi has also been summoned to a religious court and was accused of “providing a media material to arrogant powers.”

Directing towards the enemy

However, it’s clear that Iran’s will is to expand its tutelage over Iraq and Lebanon after it’s done so in Syria which it now controls. This will has not been deterred by the court looking into Younisi’s statements. Later on March 22, General Qassim Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying: : ”(Iran) is present in Lebanon and Iraq. These two countries submit, one way or another, to Iran’s will and ideas. Iran can control these revolutions to direct them towards the enemy. This possibility is available in Jordan.”

Soleimani’s and Younisi’s statements and Iran’s current adopted policies, especially amid Tehran’s negotiations with Washington, clearly reveal the intent to control all affairs in the Arab region and to bring the latter into Persia’s bosom - an approach that resembles that of the Ottoman empire. The intent may also aim to gain control over Lebanon in an approach that resembles the deal which Damascus made at the eve of the Gulf war when it received a U.S. authorization which it used to impose its tutelage over Lebanon. This tutelage lasted until the international community decided to end these services and even punish Syria for the entire previous phase.

The difficult question is: Will the experience of a Lebanese category in dealing with a tutelage repeat? Or have the Lebanese people learnt from previous lessons? Or are they aspiring to a tutelage which can achieve a new bullying phase that changes the Lebanese system and its identity?

This article was first published in An-Nahar on April 16, 2015.

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Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni

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