Iran faces a moment of truth

Iran is now in a real bind: It is no longer acceptable that it remains in Syria.
Friday 18/05/2018
Encroachment at work. Portraits of Iranian-born Lebanese cleric Musa al-Sadr (top L), Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (top R) and the head of the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah on display outside a mosque in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Sir. (AFP)
Encroachment at work. Portraits of Iranian-born Lebanese cleric Musa al-Sadr (top L), Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (top R) and the head of the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah on display outside a mosque in the south

According to Iranian President Hassan Rohani, Iran does not seek to create any tension or trouble in the Middle East. Fair enough. So then, can Rohani explain what Iran is doing in Lebanon, where its sectarian proxy militias are wreaking havoc and even considering the Shia community in Lebanon as their own private hunting ground?

Let’s leave Lebanon aside. What about Syria?

What’s Iran doing launching missiles on Israeli targets in the occupied Golan Heights?

Why is Iran taking part in the crimes against the Syrian people from a purely sectarian angle?

What is it doing in Iraq, where its sectarian proxy militias are doing their best to replace the state’s purposely weakened security institutions?

Now let’s go to Bahrain.

Why is Iran trying hard to split up Bahraini society and ignite a civil war in that tiny kingdom?

What’s it doing in Yemen, where the northern region has been transformed into a virtual Iranian military base for missiles aimed at Saudi Arabia?

Even Gaza has not been spared. What is Iran doing there besides using the Israeli embargo on the unfortunate Palestinian population for its own political agenda? What has Iran done for the Gazan population other than driving them into a political dead end by encouraging suicide bombings, especially following the Oslo agreement?

All of a sudden, Rohani is calling for ensuring stability in the region. Strangely enough, his call came after Iran’s latest confrontation with Israel. But Israel has always been the first to reap great benefits from Iran’s policy in the region. Not a day goes by without Iran offering Israel another excuse and opportunity to tighten its colonising grip on the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem.

Back in 1979, the Iranian revolution began under the banner of “liberating Jerusalem.” Thirty-nine years later, not only has Iran not liberated Jerusalem, but everything it has done in the region has contributed to offering it to Israel on a silver platter. How? Simple, Iran continued to threaten Israel with imminent annihilation and US President Donald Trump decided to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. It’s a shame that there was no serious opposition to that decision, locally or internationally. Every Arab country was instead more worried about the dangers coming from Iran.

If Iran is genuine about playing a positive role in the region, all it has to do is take a hard look at its actions and stop bargaining with the Palestinian cause. It is, however, rather difficult for the Iranian leadership to admit that when Iran scores victories over the Iraqis, the Syrians, the Lebanese and the Palestinians, it is helping Israel more than anybody else. Worse, it must recognise that these victories for Iran are in fact disasters for the countries it enters.

Well, Iran had to save face by launching a few missiles at Israeli targets in the Golan Heights. What these Iranian shenanigans demonstrated to the regime in Tehran is that Israel is capable of retaliating, and fast. So Rohani suddenly transforms into a peace dove. He beseeches German Chancellor Angela Markel not to pull out of the nuclear deal.

The Iranian nuclear deal was flawed right from the beginning. Former US President Barack Obama, who was the driving force behind the deal, was oblivious to recommendations to include in the deal clauses limiting Iran’s meddling outside of its borders. He simply ignored Iran’s crimes in Syria, Iraq and, as always, Lebanon.

Who cannot recall how Obama overlooked Iran’s and the Syrian regime’s transgression of all red lines, especially in the summer of 2013 when the Syrian regime used chemical weapons?  Thousands of Syrians paid a heavy tribute of blood so that Obama could boast that he achieved something significant outside the United States during his term.

Right now, new negotiations on expanding the Iranian nuclear deal look worse than the US pull-out from the deal. This is because Iran is ready to deal with any worst-case scenario in order to remain in Syria and elsewhere.

The moment of truth for Iran is slowly approaching. Iran cannot carry on with its expansionist plans. It tried its luck with Israel but all it got was the systematic bombing of all of its military installations in Syria. Despite its destructive influence in this Arab country or the other, Iran is now in a real bind: It is no longer acceptable that it remains in Syria. So how can the Iranian regime withdraw from Syria without crumbling at home?

The Iranian regime faces a vicious circle: It can’t withdraw from Syria but can’t start a confrontation with Israel. The other terrible news is that its Russian ally is not very enthusiastic about its stay in Damascus. Everything seems to indicate that Vladimir Putin’s position on the subject is not far from Israel’s.

Iran is in a bind and that might lead to a major showdown in the region. Every Iranian official, especially Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, knows that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic would rather start a war outside its borders than admit to the misery of life inside Iran.