Whatever plans Iran has for the region is in disarray because it now finds itself increasingly isolated, including seeing the unexpected development of Arab nations, taking the lead from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, forming a united front against its actions.
The Council of the Arab League earlier this week added to the growing chorus of condemnation, saying the Iranian government’s continued intervention in the internal affairs of Arab countries was undermining security and stability in the Gulf region.
The bottom line for virtually everyone now is that Iran has been identified as the chief troublemaker in the region, despite attempts by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to distort the facts in a New York Times article published on Jan. 10.
Arabs are in a critical position now — they can either decide their future collectively or cease to exist. They have to prove to themselves and the world that they can manage their own affairs.Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
Zarif sought to shift the blame from the so-called peace-loving Tehran, claiming that Saudi Arabia was responsible for stoking sectarian fires in the region among Arab nations. He is entitled to his opinion, but the facts on the ground tell a different story.
He has clearly not taken into account that Arab nations themselves are now standing together and condemning Tehran. The Arab League in its communiqué issued following the meeting, held Iran responsible for the attacks on Saudi missions.
It also deplored what it described as Iran’s hostile and provocative statements against Saudi Arabia following the execution of several terrorists who were convicted and sentenced by Saudi courts. The council stated that Iranian statements were blatant interference in the Saudi judiciary and the internal affairs of the Kingdom, and incompatible with the U.N. Charter.
The Arab League also called on Iran to stop supporting armed militias and parties in Arab countries. The only country that did not sign the communiqué was Lebanon, because Hezbollah, now in the government, was mentioned in the statement.
Question of the Emirati islands
How can we believe the soft-spoken Zarif while Iran still occupies three Emirati islands and has rejected all calls to end its occupation? It has also refused to seek a resolution at the International Court of Justice because it knows it has no legitimate claim to the land.
All these events may just be a catalyst for Arab nations to take the lead and decide on action once and for all to end Iran’s intervention in their affairs. It is clear that Iran has never previously worried about the response of Arabs to its imperialist designs.
It has behaved as if it controlled the region. For instance, when the late Egyptian President Anwar Al-Sadat was assassinated, it renamed a Tehran street after the assassin. What greater form of ridicule can there be?
It continued on this path until it expanded to the south of the Arabian Peninsula, ignoring the fact that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations would never allow the strategically placed Yemen to fall under Iranian rule. Arabs don’t want Iran to transform from the Gulf’s “policeman” that it was during the Shah’s time in power, to the Gulf’s ruler in the era of the Supreme Leader.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir raised an important issue when he asked whether it was possible for Iran to modify its foreign policy by tempering attempts to export its revolution. Its behavior shows that it has not done so.
Presumably, any country undergoing a revolution would reach some form of maturity to ensure its policies align with those in the world, including noninterference in other nations’ affairs.
This is not beyond Iran’s capabilities. It has already made major modifications to its foreign policy out of necessity, as it recently did when it improved relations with the United States, this coming after years of dubbing it the “Great Satan.”
Arabs are in a critical position now — they can either decide their future collectively or cease to exist. They have to prove to themselves and the world that they can manage their own affairs, not only militarily but with other weapons such as trade boycotts or cutting off diplomatic relations. Only then will Iran know that Arabs mean business.
It is a cliché, but certainly true, that out of every bad situation a good opportunity arises. Arabs now have the chance to seize the day.
This article was first published in Arab News on Jan. 14, 2016.
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi