[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he idea that Iran is entitled to have a sphere of influence in the Middle East ignores the wishes and aspirations of the majority population in the region. From a religious point of view, the majority of the population in the region is made up of Sunni Muslims, and most of those, while demonstrably religious, may not want to live under theocratic rule, especially when the version under consideration is premised on an extremist interpretation of Shiism. In terms of nationality, the majority population in Middle East is made up of Arabs, Turks and Kurds, and one of whom relish the prospect of Persian domination.
But then, Iran is not even a sincere spokesman for the Shiites of the region nor a genuine protector of their security and interests. Iran’s leaders have their own particularistic agenda that mixes their own sense of Persian belonging, religious worldview and narrow financial interests. This agenda calls for using the diverse Shia communities outside Iran as tools and pawns and is not in the least concerned with their well-being, for all the rhetoric about Shia solidarity. Additionally, Iran’s interventionist policies would further widen the divide between these communities and their Sunni counterparts, creating more instability and more conflicts.
Still, there is definitely an argument to be made that Iranian activities in this regard are no more or less legitimate than Saudi, Qatari or Turkish ones. Indeed, it does not take a genius to realize that the policies adopted by all these countries have contributed, perhaps in comparable measure, to the current instability in the region, but ignoring or defending* Iran’s policies on geopolitical grounds while criticizing those of its Sunni rivals as being ideological driven is disingenuous to say the least and overlooks the main point involved, namely that none of these countries has any legitimate right to intervene in places like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen or Bahrain, their geopolitical interests and ideological predilections notwithstanding. People often criticize the West and America for such behavior, why not Iran and Saudi, especially at a time when their behavior is obviously far more detrimental and destructive than anything Western countries are doing?
“If the leaders of the free world continue to act with indifference towards it all, or, worse, if they choose to fall back on amoral approaches in the name of realism and real politick, what hope is there?”
What is good for Iran is not necessarily good for all Shia communities in the world, just as what is good for Saudi or Turkey is not good for all Sunnis. The agendas espoused by the ruling elites in these countries are not that halal, especially when they go against the main interests and aspirations of the peoples of the region, not to mention their own people.
By rebelling against their authoritarian and corrupt rulers, the peoples in Syria and Yemen have demonstrated their desire to be free, only to find out that regional powers have other agendas and interests in mind. The way this played out is by turning their peaceful revolutions into armed insurrections and, consequently, into civil wars. Throwing Russian, American and European interests, and you end up with an ever-widening regional conflict in which all legitimate aspirations are quashed in favor of Faustian deals of one sort or another. All become guilty, no one remains innocents, and considerations of freedom and dignity becomes secondary, if not irrelevant.
If the leaders of the free world continue to act with indifference towards it all, or, worse, if they choose to fall back on amoral approaches in the name of realism and real politick, what hope is there? As each power, emerging and established, democratic or authoritarian, end up adopting similar approaches to “foreign” policy, one that shuns moral and ethical considerations, and legitimizes bloodshed, no matter how large the scale and how heinous and repulsive the methods, how can we even dream of a better world? We can come up with such wonderful legal and moral precepts such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The Responsibility to Protect, only to abandon them when tested, what does that say about us? When are we going to learn the true implications of our interdependence and of the moral obligations that come with power?
Until we can come out with satisfactory answers to these questions, there is no point in talking about “game-changing” “legacy-setting” “tough principled diplomacy.”
One reason for handling Iran as a “great power” with “legitimate” geopolitical interests in the region and not affording Saudi Arabia the same treatment is related to the reductionist way with which so many experts and politicos in the United States and Europe view the latter. Saudi Arabia is still seen as tribal society devoid of any real modern potential and capable technocrats, except perhaps when it comes to managing the country’s oil wealth. While there is an element of truth in this, and the role to tribalism and clan loyalties cannot be underestimated or ignored, there is much more to Saudi Arabia than this view allows, and there is a modern Saudi educated urban elite who can see the dangers facing their country, and there are many on the ground who do look up to them for leadership. The ruling class as well, and for all is conservative tendencies, can clearly see now that they are indeed facing an existential crisis. One way or another, the two sides will find a way to work together to fight back against having their country sidelined by Iran and her newly acquired Western backers.
Whether Saudis will succeed in their defiance or not is beside the point for now, for their defiant actions will be more than enough to complicate all calculations regarding the future of the region, and beyond, and no “equilibrium” will be reached there except on the battlefield – a region-wide battlefield and, through support to various terrorist networks, this showdown might extend far beyond the region’s borders (isn’t that how “cold wars” work out?). This is the point that Obama Doctrine misses, or does not want to publicly acknowledge. This is why the Iran Deal comes as a recipe for more mayhem and is bound to spark a nuclear arms race that may not be confined to the region. The problem is many of the powers involved in this new Cold War have markedly anti-modern tendencies, one that leaves the doors wide open for the adoption of the Samson Option, that is, a willingness to go down the road of mutual destruction.