It seems hard to believe today, but Iran once had warm relations with its Arab neighbors in the region.
Before the Iranian revolution, it was typical for Arabs in the Gulf to spend weekends in the Iranian cities of Isfahan and Shiraz, enjoying their beautiful and historic sights. Arab families would holiday in the Caspian Sea provinces of Mazendaran and Gilan. In addition, Iranians were welcome in Arab countries around the region and the world.
That changed in 1979 when the Iranian people’s revolution was hijacked by Shiite clerics who have since transformed the country from a modern state into a sectarian one. Iran’s transition to militant theocracy is written into the new Iranian constitution: “The official religion of Iran is Islam of the Shia Twelver sect and this article is inalterable in perpetuity.” Elsewhere, the Iranian constitution allows Iran to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs to protect what it calls “oppressed people,” by which it means Shia minorities.
As a result, Iran routinely intervenes in the internal affairs of other countries. In Lebanon and Iraq, Iran sponsors violent terrorist militias. In Syria, it fuels the atrocities of the Assad regime. In Yemen, Iran instigated a rebellion that catapulted the country into chaos. Iran has also extended its influence to Africa, particularly Nigeria.
But the greatest victims of Tehran’s violence are Iranians. Since the 1979 revolution, an Iranian passport has become a barrier to international travel. Numerous restrictions on Iranian passport-holders force them to try to hide their nationalities or to say they are Persian.
The economic situation inside Iran deteriorates every day. Forty percent of the population, 50 percent of retirees, 75 percent of teachers, and 90 percent of laborers are living below the poverty line, according to Iranian government statistics. Prior to 1979, under the tyranny of the Shah Reza Pahlavi government, Iranians were better off economically. But they didn’t have freedom. They rebelled, hoping for liberty and a better life. Today, they have neither.
As the ordinary Iranian citizen suffers under difficult economic situations, he or she may wonder why funds from the sale of Iran’s abundant natural gas, oil, and other resources go to the followers of the Iranian regime in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, while the Iranian people suffer.
The world watched the celebration and joy of young Iranians after the signing the nuclear arms deal with the United States a year ago. It looked like they had just won the World Cup. They weren’t celebrating Iran’s preservation of uranium-enrichment rights. Rather, according to many Iranians, they celebrated the hope that sanctions would be lifted and their lives would improve.
But, again, they were disappointed. The latest Iranian internal-opinion polls show that 73 percent of Iranians haven’t noticed any improvement in their living conditions a full year after the nuclear deal was signed. In addition, the popularity of President Hassan Rouhani has sunk.
Despite this, the Iranian regime continues to focus on foreign adventures and intervention at the expense of its people. It supplies Shiite militias in the region with modern weapons and equipment. It supports terrorism and hosts Al-Qaida fighters, as the U.S. recently confirmed. The hopes and dreams of the Iranian people after the nuclear agreement have evaporated.
To be sure, Iran is seeing some economic benefits from the lifting of sanctions. But those benefits don’t seem to trickle down to its citizens. Instead, the regime uses them to bolster its regional terrorism and foreign interventionism. Foes of the nuclear deal warned of this and now it is coming true.
The Iranian people have the right to live with dignity and respect, not to be treated like pariahs in their region and in the world. Sectarian conflicts that divide the region today were largely unknown prior to Iran’s 1979 revolution. Sunnis and Shiites coexisted in integrated communities in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.
If the region has any hope of returning to a more tranquil state, there must be a second revolution in Iran. But this time the people should choose democracy and an end to the current theocratic and violent state.
Source: Diplomatic Courier