The recent Iranian presidential elections achieved the Iranian Supreme Leader’s objective, which is to resort to the diplomatic option represented by Hassan Rouhani in order to defuse the domestic political situation, remove the political and diplomatic isolation of Tehran, and lift the international sanctions imposed on the country due to its nuclear program. More importantly, the Western countries believe, erroneously, that Rouhani can overcome the stalemate imposed by the hardliners and bring about dramatic changes in Iranian foreign policy, and Khamenei wishes to play to this.
Khamenei has a good understanding of Western misperceptions of Iran and believes that these can be used in the regime’s favor, especially at the current time. Accordingly, he continues his criticisms of the so-called moderate bloc in order to create a perception of domestic political balance and ensure the continuity of Rouhani’s reconciliation policy with the West without appearing to be supportive of it, which could damage his own domestic status. However, Khamenei will never hand over management of Iranian foreign policy to the government, which is essentially a tool for administering his policies. These policies are decided not by Rouhani or any other administration official, but by Khamenei and his hardline fundamentalist advisors in the Leader’s Office [Bait Rahbar].
In his 2013 presidential campaign, Rouhani pledged to enhance Iran’s relations with its Arab neighbors, particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; as is very clear, this did not happen. Iran’s relations with the GCC countries have deteriorated to an unprecedented degree due to the Iranian regime’s actions and policies in the region. Rouhani’s insistence on using the same strategies with Arab nations which he used with the West ignores the fact that Iran’s regime is effectively treating Arab nations and governments as hostile entities to be conquered and subjugated, a completely different dynamic to the warm and positive relations the regime enjoys with the Western and other nations.
The Iranian regime continues to interfere to devastating effect in the internal affairs of Arab countries, escalating sectarian conflicts, and dedicating itself to exporting its exclusionary extremist Jurist Leadership ideology to neighboring nations. In fact, this regime has devoted all its religious and military organizations to making preparations for the appearance of the so-called ‘Absent Imam’ [Al-Mahdi Al-Muntazar] in the Arab region, heralding the End Times according to the Jurist Leadership doctrine; this represents a very real threat to the independence, stability, and sovereignty of these countries through these overtly sectarian appeals.
In his recent campaign for reelection, Rouhani repeated the same empty pledges of working for regional unity and Arab-Iranian harmony as in 2013. As the region is now all too aware, however, these promises are empty rhetoric, contrasting vividly with the aggressive reality of Iran’s regional policy, which offers no realistic expectations of reconciliation.
In order to promote a genuinely peaceful settlement, the Iranian regime must abandon its expansionist strategy as a measure of goodwill toward the region. This change, which would be a near-magical formula in bringing about a rapprochement between the Iranian regime and the Arab nations, could only be brought about through implementing the following two steps:
1. Khamenei would need to genuinely believe in enhancing relations with the Arabs, abandoning the Iranian regime’s expansionist project and changing the country’s status from that of a revolutionary entity to a civil state.
2. There would need to be dramatic changes in Iran’s policies to build up trust with its Arab neighbors, rather than simply attempting to replicate the strategies it uses with the West since the problems between Iran and the Arab nations and their geopolitical context are completely different to and separate from the regime’s relationship with the West.
Furthermore, the Iranian regime must learn from the past and give up its erroneous belief that enhancing its relations with the West would eventually reflect positively in its relations with the regional countries. Indeed, the regime’s gamble on this mistaken belief has been an epic failure, has complicated, and worsened Iran’s relations with its neighbors more than at any previous stage in the regime’s history.
Everybody wishes for positive neighborly and friendly relations between Iran and its Arab neighbors; nevertheless, these expectations need to be based on realistic efforts to promote such relation and to build trust between both sides in order to bridge the current huge chasm on both shores of the Gulf. Iran has to give up its imperialist factionalist ambitions and end its revolutionary sectarian project in the region at the expense of others’ freedom, independence, and sovereignty before it can hope for reciprocal positive sentiments from its Arab neighbors.
If the regime were to implement such dramatic and positive changes in its policies, Arab-Iranian relations would improve and flourish whatever the Iranian president’s political affiliations, whether reformist, moderate, or conservative, since the Jurist Leadership regime does not care about these nomenclatures nor is it genuinely influenced by them.
Translated Article: Watan Daily
Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of The Arabain GCIS