Dealing with Iran in the next phase

Sawsan Al Shaer
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It has been proven that the only way to paralyze Iran is by firstly hitting all its allies in the region with an iron fist, and also building on internal rifts that ultimately lead to a lack of support from its allies. Only then will Iran stop its inflated dreams and its expansionist hopes and ambitions. Iran is actually testing the water. Before expanding, Iran waits for reactions. If circumstances allow it, it takes over territory - if not, it quickly retreats in a pragmatic opportunistic manner.

As such, the Gulf Arab states need to draw a new strategy to confront Iran, that keep pace with the rapid changes that are now taking place on the battleground, in terms of the US-Iranian relations on the one hand, and on the domestic front in the internal Iranian relations on the other.


Differences over who will be the next supreme leader are starting to emerge. The strongest candidate is Mahmoud Shahroudi who is feared by many in authority, but enjoys popularity even in Iraq, especially after he politicized the judiciary branch 10 years ago. Here we have a turbulent Iranian House that needs an effective internal arrangement and the eradication of the existing differences in preparation for such a paradigm shift at the top of the pyramid.

Any warning discourse toward Iran is usually exploited by the Iranian leaders to play the role of the victim inside the country against what it calls the global arrogance

Sawsan Al-Shaer

Another level

Iran has also many other fears and concerns. The opposition has threatened to fuel unrest at the upcoming presidential election in May, which will coincide with the anniversary of the Iranian revolution. On another level, all the achievements celebrated by Iran regarding the lifting of sanctions following the nuclear agreement are hanging by a thread. After a long journey of negotiations that barely got Iran out of the economic sanctions, Iran finds itself threatened by Trump.

Fundamentally, we do not need rhetorical battles with Iran that will delight our ears while the Iranian regime rushes to take advantage by uniting its various fronts. And we should also not fall for Iran’s schemes. The Iranian regime seeks to unify its internal fronts by employing any external threat to their own personal agenda. Consequently, the Gulf states need to work on finding a way to spread awareness among people and the opposition that what Iran is doing is interfering with the sovereignty of other countries while igniting sectarian conflicts in the region.

Any warning discourse toward Iran is usually exploited by the Iranian leaders to play the role of the victim inside the country against what it calls the global arrogance. This helps the regime to re-motivate the masses and win their support.

Changing discourse

The reality is, Iran would alleviate its discourse in the near future to avoid any direct confrontation. Iran is not prepared to fight a direct battle between its agents and other enemies. Generally, Iran only engages in battles through its agents in the region. And the Iran-Iraq war is still fresh in its mind, so it was not surprising that Iran withdrew in the face of the threats made by the new president, Donald Trump, and the former national security adviser Michael Flynn when the latter said that: ‘it is an official warning’.

The Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan rushed to deny US reports about Iran retesting a missile, in a statement to reporters in the province of Jilan, northern Iran, asserting that: “these are false allegations that aim to cast away Iran as perpetrator”, as quoted by the Iranian news agency IRNA. This could only be interpreted as a retreat against the successive intimidations of the administration of President Trump, especially after the imposition of new harsh sanctions against Tehran. The Iranian minister assured Americans that those assertions were meant to create a so-called ‘Iran phobia’.

Testing Trump

The withdrawal is expected, especially after US Vice President, Mike Pence advised Iran: ‘not to test the severity or the resolve of President Donald Trump’. In an interview with ABC channel, Vice President Mike Pence disclosed that: ‘It is better for Iran not to test Trump, and ought to rethink its ongoing hostile actions in the region’.

This was not the first time that Iran has made vain rhetorical speeches and then quickly retreated. We all recall the statements that accompanied the Iranian ship heading to Yemen in May 2015, when the assistant chief of staff of Iran Massoud Aljaziri, warned the United States and Saudi Arabia that: ‘Iran will be obliged to take what he described as specific procedures if Saudi Arabia and the United States embarked on preventing the arrival of the Iranian aid ship to Yemen.’ Ironically, the ship was forced to backpedal and eventually unloaded its cargo in Djibouti.

This is what I meant by the Iranian policy that reacts according to the pragmatic reactions without feeling embarrassed, and it has two sides: the face with which it addresses the people and the allies, and another façade for the outside world. Iranian leaders launch sentimental emotional speeches full of rhetoric, threats and promises such as ‘we will not surrender’ or ‘you won’t humiliate us’ then quickly put on the second mask when they notice that the world is taking into account the Iranian aggressions. To summarize, we need to expose these maneuvers, we need to exploit and employ variables in terms of US-Iranian relationship as long as the conditions are in our favor.

This article first appeared in Asharq Al-Awsat on Feb. 13, 2017.
Sawsan Al-Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. Her Twitter handle is @sawsanalshaer

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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