As the Middle East changes on a daily basis it’s hard to observe how events are impacting surrounding countries. But it seems the events are boosting Iran both in terms of its regional impact as well as its race to acquire nuclear weapons. I recently conducted an email interview with Mr. Barzilai, an ex-Mossad expert on Iran. The following insights are based on Giyus.org’s interview.
The revolutions in the Middle East along with the disaster in Japan and the war in Libya have diverted world attention from Iran’s nuclear weapon program.
In the short term period, the fall of Mubarak regime in Egypt is viewed as a positive development for Iran, one that increases Iran’s strategic impact in the region. However, this is a short term achievement since it is unclear if the fate of Assad’s regime in Syria will be like Mubarak’s in Egypt.
With oil prices crossing the $100 price per barrel, Iran has boosted its oil related income significantly diminishing the impact of global sanctions against its nuclear weapons program. The global economic constraints considering the impact of oil prices and the tsunami in Japan, limit the ability of the United States and its allies to take additional financial or political steps against Iran.
Those that hoped that the wave of revolutions will topple the Ayatollahs in Iran like it did in Egypt and Bahrain, are not so hopeful these days. The regime in Iran has been preparing for a wave of riots, concerned of the domino effect the revolutions in the Middle East will create in Iran. As a result any attempt to hold demonstrations has been severely crushed. In February alone 100 Iranians were executed by the regime. The iron fist of the regime coupled with the social economic hardships of the Iranian people are making it hard for the wave of revolution to take hold. But the anti regime pro democratic movement in Iran is alive and well despite the brutal acts against it.
Has Iran forgot the green revolution?
Since internal affairs in Iran are shaky, the regime shines its light on the events in neighboring countries and paints them as a success of the Islamic revolution. Ayatollah Khamenei recently described the revolutions in Arab countries as proof of the success of the Islamic revolution. He claimed the Iranian Islamic revolution is a role model for the Arab people and that the “Islamic awakening in region will surely reach fruition“.
Iran is quick to claim Israel is the real reason for the revolutions. Ayatollah Khamenei said the Egyptians revolted against Mubarak because of his ties with Israel. Major General Firuzabadi, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian armed forces, announced the Islamic wave that washes across the Middle East marks the beginning of the end for Israel and the return of the Jewish people to their countries of origin.
Furthermore, Iranian leaders claim the events in the Middle East mark the end of the United States’ hegemony over the region. In their view, Iran won the strategic battle with the United States on regional impact becoming the regional controlling power. Following the fall of Sadam Hussein regime in Iraq, Iran felt threatened by the US. But now with evidence to the failure of US’ foreign policy in the Middle East, and seeing Europe’s marginal impact on the events, Iran feels they’ve moved the pressure on to Israel.
With Syria and Hezbollah in the north, empowered Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the south, Iran feels Israel is surrounded. With the Muslim Brotherhood now operating freely in Egypt, Iran hopes Hamas will increase its impact in the West Bank and that the revolution will start in Jordan, the other country that dared to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
Add to that Iran’s close relations with Turkey, which is used to harm Israeli and western interests in the region. Iran is also heavily involved in Iraq, involvement which will increase as the American forces will withdraw. Iraq’s prime minister has asked President Obama to reconsider US’ plans to withdraw their forces by the end of 2011. He claimed Iran is already controlling the majority of Iraq’s parliament members and it may feel the vacuum created by the withdrawal of US forces.
If Assad regime will fall, Iran will feel a major setback in the region. But until that may happen, Iran is fueling revolutions in Sunni Arab States using their well trained methods of exporting the Islamic revolution. Special IRGC forces, which have created Hezbollah in Lebanon, are working in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bahrain. The Iranian leadership is openly against Saudi Arabia and is pushing the Shiite minority there to revolt. An official Iranian web site started enlisting suicide bombers ready to go out and act against Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Are we close to a Sunni-Shiite war? Will Iran create a provocation against Israel via its proxies, Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in Gaza, to save Assad’s regime in Syria?
While Iran benefits from the events in the Middle East for the moment, the internal situation with all its hardship has remained unchanged. As no one anticipated the events that toppled Mubarak, no one knows when the people of Iran will finally take action against the brutal Iranian Ayatollahs regime.
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