ANALYSIS: Is the Arab Summit alliance raising stakes for Iran?

It appears the recent Arab League Summit in Jordan should be considered an important development in the path of further isolating Iran in the Middle East. At a first glance, this was a conference in which the highest number of state leaders participated in comparison to previous such gatherings.

A more in-depth perspective places us before this important conclusion that most speakers strongly criticized Iran’s meddling and highlighted the necessity of solidarity and alliance amongst Arab states to confront this phenomenon. Leaders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan specifically expressed their grave concerns over Iran’s interference across the region, especially Syria, sectarian warmongering and Tehran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.

“Tehran provokes sectarianism and hinders efforts to resolve regional crises,” said Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Iran’s setback

Significant is the fact that the Arab Summit initially prepared a relatively low-profile draft resolution adopting a soft tone in relation to Iran. However, the final resolution prepared and published by Arab League Foreign Ministers reflected the majority members’ position, being completely against Iran and the mullahs’ policies of meddling and supporting terrorism.

However, a few Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon – literally taken hostage by Iran – or Algeria, enjoying specific interests in its relations with the mullahs’ regime, could not jump on this resolution train.

This left the remaining member states before two options: either refusing to sign, forgoing any possibility of forming a consensus and accepting resulting rifts; or financing on their common grounds, being the subjects of Palestine and opposing any meddling in others internal affairs (without specifically mentioning Iran). Although the terms used in the resolution falls of short of directly pinpointing the mullahs’ regime in Iran, it is quite obvious who the crosshairs were placed on.

Importantly, of grave significance for the main member states in this conference was to enjoy Iraq’s signature, and that of its Prime Minister, on this initiative. Considering the new international status quo and Washington’s new policies, the gradual distancing of Iraq from Iran, and further advances in this regard is seen in the forecast.

Although the terms used in the Arab Summit resolution falls of short of directly pinpointing the regime in Iran, it is quite obvious who the crosshairs were placed on. (Reuters)

A new era

It is worth noting the Obama years rendered a complete passive and inactive American policy in regards to Iraq. Through a disastrous strategic mistake in pulling out prematurely from Iraq, Washington practically giftwrapped Baghdad to Tehran.
This policy has currently changed and American policymakers have made it crystal clear how they will not permit Iran take on any wished measures.

US CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel in a recent hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Forces Committee emphasized on the necessity to confront Iran as the main long-term threat before stability in the Middle East. Votel also went the distance to insist on considering military assets and other capabilities to stop this regime.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently visited Washington and signs indicate he has been briefed and received specific instructions over the America’s major policy overhaul and shifts in relation to Iraq and the entire Middle East. To this end, Arab leaders saw it very important to have Iraq – a party voting against previous summit resolutions – to sign this new initiative. This allowed the summit to maintain its fabric and unity over two main subjects of Palestine and condemning meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

General James Jones, former NATO commander and US national security advisor, recently called on all Gulf States to establish a defensive alliance similar to that of NATO against the threats Iran poses for regional states. Such an “Arab NATO” will enjoy America’s support, he added.

Global front against Iran

When we use the terms a substantial alteration in international politics, we must mention a recent hearing held at the British Parliament discussing Iran’s meddling in the region, widespread condemnations targeting the mullahs’ human rights violations, calls to establish an Arab alliance aimed at evict this regime from regional countries. For such a cause, designating the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization would be a prelude measure and act as a necessary springboard.

This goes in line with further measures to enforce the flawed deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Rest assured if the Arab World adopts a firm stance and demands Iran’s eviction from their soil, the US will most definitely be encouraged to blacklist the IRGC and defang Iran’s meddling.

Moreover, the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Youssef bin al-Ottaimeen, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, envoys of the US And France in this conference indicated the decisions made in this platform enjoy enormous international support, rendering further worldwide isolation for Tehran.

Reactions seen from Iran prove the fact this Arab Summit in Jordan ended as a complete failure and delivered heavy damages to Tehran’s interests. As usual, the mullahs’ media resort to low-standard lies that deserve no repetition. The mullahs, however, cannot cloak their utter anger and fear of such a united position against its meddling in Arab countries.

As we close in to Iran’s presidential elections in May, rest assured this isolation on the international stage will have a major impact on Iran’s domestic politics, and the Iranian society – described as a powder keg – is watching very closely.

Originally published in Al Arabiya English

Iran Nuclear Deal Dilemmas Fueling Elections Standoff

Ahead of elections later this year, Iranian politics remains riven by disagreement over the 2015 nuclear deal.

 

Tensions are intensifying quickly in Iranian politics. Recent comments by senior U.S. officials, such as Ambassador Nikki Haley and CENTCOM chief General Joseph Votel, explaining the threats posed by Tehran have resulted in an intensified domestic political debate.

The atmosphere has sparked a major standoff within the regime prior to sensitive presidential elections in May. This is critical in the broader scheme of Iranian politics as expectations were high following the deal clinched in 2015 with world powers aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The fact remains, however, that Iran is not a democratic state with political parties enjoying a healthy deliberative process. Iran is a unified entity with different factions seeking one strategic objective: guaranteeing their regime’s survival while realizing both personal and factional interests.

Recently, media outlets and figures associated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as a failure of the faction loyal to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, given the shortcomings in sanctions relief.

“If constructive engagement means succumbing to the enemy’s cruel belligerency and forgiving their betrayals, what we are witnessing is nothing, but increasing naïvety,” said Mullah Dolabi, a member of the regime’s Assembly of Experts.

“People’s main questions are about the government’s unfulfilled promises, such as its promise that all sanctions would be lifted on the very first day of the JCPOA’s implementation. These pledges have not only never been fulfilled, in fact dozens of new sanctions have been added,” Hossein Shariatmadari, Khamenei’s representative in the official Keyhan daily, said in remarks reported by the semi-official Fars news agency, affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Another Khamenei loyalist, former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaie, who currently holds the chair of the secretariat of the regime’s Expediency Council, issued an open letter titled “Instead of War & Anti-War, Focus on the Economic War.”

“His Excellency and a group of your friends made remarks using new terms such as war and anti-war,” he said in reference to the Rouhani faction. “Considering the threats posed for our national security in the use of such language, I saw it necessary to remind you that conditions in the Middle East have changed with the Trump administration taking over in the U.S… There is a need for more vigilance by your government. If His Excellency’s war or anti-war remarks reflected achievements during the Obama days, such remarks may be misused by pro-war advocates in the current U.S. administration, considering the fact that all remarks must be made at a specific timing and place. Without a doubt our situation has changed in comparison to the former U.S. administration.”

And of course, media outlets and figures loyal to Rouhani’s faction have not remained silent.

“Unfortunately, there are those who constantly attempt to deny the achievements made. Public opinion must be brought to understand the JCPOA will not resolve everything. But it’s also no Treaty of Turkmenchay,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, in reference to a humiliating agreement under which then-monarchical Persia surrendered control of several South Caucasus areas to Russia.

The official Aftab Yazd daily, meanwhile, published a piece citing widespread corruption in previous cabinets loyal to the rival faction.

“Sanctions would have increased without the JCPOA. And considering the lack of goods, prices would have skyrocketed, leading to inflation. And considering the illegal influx of currency, all of our money would have been wasted and the country would see more cases similar to that of Babak Zanjani and continuous scenarios of embezzlement,” the piece reads, referring to a case of an Iranian oil tycoon who used his influence to pocket billions through Iran’s oil trade.

It is crystal clear such domestic disputes are fueled by the upcoming presidential elections in less than three months. To this end and considering this objective, rest assured such factional feuds will only increase and boost the possibility of sparking public outrage and uprisings similar to the episode witnessed in 2009. This is one issue every regime faction and element are extremely concerned of, knowing all too well the current powder keg situation riddling Iran.

Originally published in The Diplomat