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28 October 2019  

Tunisia's sustainable democratisation: Between new and anti-politics in the 2019…

on Tunisia

By Larbi Sadiki On 13 October, the election of retired constitutional law professor, Kais Saied, as Tunisia’s new president triggered a wide array of reactions and energised hopes...

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04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

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06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

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04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

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14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

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28 October 2019  

Tunisia's sustainable democratisation: Between new and anti-politics in the 2019…

on Tunisia

By Larbi Sadiki On 13 October, the election of retired constitutional law professor, Kais Saied, as Tunisia’s new president triggered a wide array of reactions and energised hopes...

Read more

04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

Read more

14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more
More from this category

04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

Read more

14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more

23 June 2019  

Strategic implications of the 'deal of the century' and the…

on Palestine-Israel

Aisling Byrne interviews Abdel Bari Atwan Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ (DoC) - whether in its actual or conceptual form - is ushering in a new strategic era, providing cov...

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14 June 2019  

Postponed: Unveiling of Trump's 'deal of the century' frozen as…

on Palestine-Israel

Touted by its architects as the ‘deal of the century’, US president Donald Trump’s plan for Palestine and Israel has had to again be kept hidden as Israel heads back to elections a...

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23 October 2018  

Jamal Khashoggi, small spark for a large fire

on Saudi Arabia

By Hassan Aourid Until last Saturday, I was hopeful that the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul was not more than a case of c...

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19 October 2018  

Khashoggi murder: Killing dissent even from within

on Saudi Arabia

The gruesome murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was designed to be a clear and firm message for Saudi dissidents, and reflected th...

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08 July 2018  

As Hudaida falls to Saudi-Emirati coalition, peace for Yemen seems…

on Yemen

The recent and ongoing Saudi-Emirati offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hudaida will render UN special envoy Martin Griffiths’s ‘new’ solution to the five-year-long Yemeni crisis...

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18 May 2018  

Beyond Tradition and Modernity: Dilemmas of Transformation in Saudi Arabia

on Saudi Arabia

By Madawi Al-Rasheed Introduction The dominant narrative through which many observers understand Saudi Arabia depicts a progressive and modernist leadership struggling to gra...

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27 April 2018  

Chaotic Yemen: The deconstruction of a failed state and regional…

on Yemen

by Helen Lackner Yemen remains in the grip of its most severe crisis ever: the civil war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abd Rabbuh ...

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12 December 2017  

How the Saudis Escalated Yemen Struggle Beyond All Control

on Yemen

By Justin Podur Yemen is a small, poor country in a region empires have plundered for centuries. This civil war is a local struggle that has been escalated out of control by the a...

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28 October 2019  

Tunisia's sustainable democratisation: Between new and anti-politics in the 2019…

on Tunisia

By Larbi Sadiki On 13 October, the election of retired constitutional law professor, Kais Saied, as Tunisia’s new president triggered a wide array of reactions and energised hopes...

Read more

14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

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30 July 2019  

The December 2018 revolution and Sudanese professionals in the diaspora

on Sudan

WE LEFT SUDAN In drovesIn the late 80’s and 90’sIndeed, my generation of educated Sudanese professionals are scattered around the globe(Out of 200 medical graduates from Khartoum ...

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29 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

By Zeenat Adam 17 July 2019 Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts per...

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17 April 2019  

Bashir falls but the security apparatus maintains control

on Sudan

Since the military ouster of Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, early on Thursday, 11 April, after three months of protests, different military factions have been jos...

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12 October 2018  

Ethiopia, Eritrea: An unlikely peace deal in a fractious region

on Ethiopia

The recent peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, signed 16 September 2018, is set to have lasting consequences for both countries and for the Horn of Africa ...

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06 April 2017  

Ensuring Somalia remains in conflict: Trump’s expanded ‘war on terror’

on Somalia

By Afro-Middle East Centre The 29 March decision by the administration of US president Donald Trump declaring Somalia an ‘area of active hostility’ will likely ensure an escalatio...

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10 October 2016  

South Sudan: Beyond the logjam of UNSC Resolution 2304

on South Sudan

By Majak D’Agoôt and Remember Miamingi No country is entirely self-contained or lacking in interdependencies. These interlocking interests form the critical part of any country’s ...

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28 April 2015  

Nigeria’s elections and future challenges

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The election of General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s president will see a renewed focus by the government on domestic challenges posed by endemic...

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26 September 2013  

Kenyan hostage crisis: The desperation of al-Shabab

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The hostage drama at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi over the past week has raised a number of questions about the Somali organisation al-Shabab. After the...

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23 January 2013  

French military intervention will add to Mali’s problems

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle east Centre   The north of Africa was plunged into yet another international conflict with France’s invasion of Mali on Friday, 11 January. Without im...

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23 April 2019  

India in Kashmir: Risking peace as an antidote to war

on South Asia

By Ranjan Solomon On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber ...

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28 August 2015  

Does Pakistan’s refusal to join Saudi Arabia in Yemen indicate…

on Pakistan

By Afro-Middle East Centre Allegedly, the current Saudi-led onslaught on Yemen has already caused destruction that resembles the destruction wrought in Syria over the la...

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31 March 2012  

The feasibility of a continued United States presence in Afghanistan

on South Asia

By Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn Recent events in Afghanistan have fuelled speculation over the ability of international forces to continue their presence in the coun...

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28 February 2012  

Dangerous uncertainty in Pakistan

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmed With relations between Pakistan's civilian government and military incredibly tense, speculation is rife in the Pakistani and international media of a looming m...

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30 May 2011  

Pakistan-USA relations in the post-Usama era

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmad The assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by US Special Forces was supposed to have been a landmark triumph that would bring peace and stability to the r...

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13 December 2010  

Kashmir and Obama's Indian appeasement

on South Asia

By Mohammad Abdullah Gul Obama's recent jive with school children in Delhi symbolises the nature of the new relationship that is emerging between India and the United States of Am...

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26 April 2017  

IS reorganising to face new challenges

on Political Islam

Reports in January 2017 that the leader of the Islamic State group (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed, reports that he had been captured by Russian troops in Syria, and th...

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07 March 2017  

IS in Africa: Containment and fragmentation

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre With the Islamic State group (IS) losing territory in Syria and Iraq, many believe that the group will use the territory it controls in Africa as a fall...

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14 May 2016  

The Paradox of Survival and Expansion: How the Islamic State…

on Political Islam

Omar Ashour This paper examines the reasons for the military steadfastness of the Islamic State group (IS) in the face of local and international forces that are larger in numbers...

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19 December 2015  

ISIS in Africa: Reality far different from IS propaganda

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre The revelation that the alleged mastermind of the 13 November Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) was of Moroccan descent, the tur...

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20 July 2015  

Remaining and expanding: Measuring the Islamic State group’s success in…

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre Since its declaration of a ‘caliphate’ on 29 June 2014, the Islamic State group (IS), the brutal successor to al-Qa'ida, has gone from stren...

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31 January 2012  

The rise of 'Ikhwanophobia': Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood

on Political Islam

By Dr. Mohsen Saleh Introduction Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanal-Muslimoon), the leading Islamist movement, has gained unprecedented international prominence since the b...

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18 February 2018  

Africa and the problem of foreign military bases

on 'War on terror'

At the establishment of the African Union (AU) in May 2001, discourses about human security and counter terrorism were ubiquitous both globally and on the continent. In Africa, the...

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21 November 2015  

The Paris attacks: Aftermath and the Islamic State group’s future

on 'War on terror'

By Afro-Middle East Centre The terror unleashed on Paris streets on 13 November reverberated throughout the world. From the G20 summit in Antalya to social media debates about how...

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28 May 2010  

Al-Qaeda in the New National Security Strategy

on 'War on terror'

By Mark Lynch The Obama administration's new National Security Strategy has been released today. It goes a long way towards providing a coherent framework for American foreign pol...

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16 February 2010  

Pakistan’s attitude towards Obama’s plan to negotiate with the Taliban

on 'War on terror'

By Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan has generally been welcomed in Pakistan. It is being seen as a vindication...

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07 February 2010  

Mission Absolute: American hegemony in space

on 'War on terror'

By Sourav Roy Come April 2010, officials from the sleepy Polish municipality of Morag will be gearing up for perhaps their most critical assignment in the new decade. Their job wi...

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Iran, the US, and the balance of power in the Middle East

By Sayyed Mohamed Marandi

The Islamic Republic of Iran's interest in a stable Middle East is arguably greater than that of the United States - after all, this is Iran's neighborhood. For Iran to grow and prosper, it needs secure borders and stable neighbours. A poor and unstable Afghanistan, for example, inhibits trade, and, potentially, increases the flow of refugees and narcotics into the northeastern part of Iran.

Arguably, stability in Iraq may be even more critical to Iran than stability in Afghanistan. The Iran-Iraq war caused enormous suffering to the people of Iran; Iranians will not forget it in the decades ahead. They will also not forget that their suffering was largely because of American and European support for Saddam Hussain - including western support for his acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, which he regularly used against Iranian and Iraqi civilians. There was no condemnation from western governments or even the western media for these cruel and barbaric acts. Iranians believe that western leaders are just as guilty for these crimes against humanity as Saddam Hussain himself.

 

 

 

It is critical to note that Iran never used or produced chemical weapons either during the war or afterwards, despite the technological capability to do so. This alone, Iranians regularly point out, is evidence that the Islamic Republic of Iran is honest when it states that it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. Because of this history, it is understandable that Iranians say they will never again allow Iraq to be used as a platform to attack or destabilise Iran. Iranians will not allow their enemies, adversaries, or antagonists in the future to view Iraq as an asset in any form of conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

The United States and Saudi Arabia persist in their attempts to intensify sectarianism and racism between Iran and its neighbours. I was in the AlJazeera studio in Doha when the American ambassador to Qatar used the race card on live television and said that for centuries the Persians have been little but trouble to the rest of the region as well as a constant threat. Nevertheless, a solid majority of Iraqis have strong religious, historical, and cultural ties with Iran. Many Iraqi leaders and intellectuals have lived in Iran for years and are fluent in Persian, and many have married Iranians during the dark years when only the Islamic Republic and Syria backed and recognised the opposition to Saddam Hussain.

In addition, while western-funded and western-based Persian TV channels regularly make reprehensible and derogatory statements about Arabs, Iranians inside the Islamic Republic have remained remarkably sympathetic towards Iraqis who suffered under Saddam Hussain, and, subsequently, the US occupation of their country. Iranians also remain strongly sympathetic towards the mostly Sunni Palestinian Arabs suffering under the occupation of what Iranians see as the world's only official apartheid regime.

Iran believes that fundamental change in Iranian-Iraqi relations is more than a future possibility; it has already been achieved.

This does not mean that Iran wants a weak government in Iraq. In fact, the dramatic increase of trade, tourism, and investment between the two countries since the fall of Saddam Hussein has been a major boost to the Iranian economy. The Iran-Iraq border, which was, for the most part, a dead-end until 2003, is now witnessing long lines of trucks and buses waiting to cross. Officials from both countries are busy building a border infrastructure which will allow this trade and investment to develop further, but they are constantly falling behind the increasing demands of businessmen and pilgrims. Hence, the Islamic Republic of Iran wants a strong and stable Iraq, but an Iraq that is on good terms with Iran and works to further the interests of the region's population as a whole. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's recent statement that American troops must leave the country by the end of 2011 is a strong sign that this is actually happening.

The same logic applies to Afghanistan. The majority of Afghans share strong religious and cultural links with Iran; most speak the Persian language. Despite what Iranians believe to be the utter failure of US policy in Afghanistan, Iran has invested heavily in the relatively more stable north of the country, building roads and infrastructure. Trade has risen sharply and moderate Sunnis and Shias who were supported by Iran when the United States effectively allowed the then-Saudi- and UAE-funded Taliban to overrun the country, look increasingly to Iran for support, as people in the country feel that the United States has lost the war and that they will inevitably be forced to leave the country sooner or later.

I wrote the 'then-Saudi-' funded Taliban, whereas I should have written simply 'the Saudi-funded Taliban'. According to documents leaked by Wikileaks, Saudi Arabia is still the largest financial supporter of the Taliban. In fact, almost all of the undemocratic Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf region are still funding the Taliban. This has always been an open secret in this part of the world. Indeed, not only are these states funding the Taliban, they are effectively funding the Taliban ideology, which has strong similarities to that of Al-Qaeda, throughout the world. Many wonder how Americans presume that their alliance with the Saudi regime is in the long term interests of the United States. Is the spread of the Salafi ideology in the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Europe, and elsewhere unrelated to the yearly multibillion dollar ideological investment by these regimes, led by the Saudis?

Iranians believe US foreign policymakers, by closing their eyes to Saudi support for hardliner Salafi groups worldwide, are making things more difficult for themselves. This is in addition to the tragic situation brought about as a result of what Iranians see as the foolish invasion of Iraq and the failed American strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is also in addition to what Tehran views as America's blind support for the world's final apartheid state, which jails and abuses women and children from the indigenous Palestinian population and kills rock-throwing young men trapped in concentration camp-like conditions. All of this is making current US policy in the Middle East unsustainable in the long run. This is especially true as America's emerging strategic and economic competitors, such as the 'BRIC' countries (China, India, Brazil and Russia) make gains at all levels while the United States continues to bleed.

Furthermore, this is playing out as mainstream Sunni and Shia organisations are under pressure throughout the region, as despotic regimes allied to the United States try to ensure their own survival. Under such conditions, hostility towards the United States increases and, ironically, Saudi-funded extremist ideologies thrive. For the time being, this 'investment' buys stability for the Saudi royal family, but not for most of the rest of the world, including the United States. Of course, whether these American-backed regimes can actually survive or not is another question. If these regimes do not survive, how will the people in these countries react to America's past policies of oppression?

Hence, choosing Arab despots as allies - whether in Saudi Arabia, where women can't drive or, for the most part, can't even have an independent bank account, or in Egypt and Jordan - can have serious consequences for the United States in the future. The irony of this is not lost upon Iranians who live in a country where sixty-three percent of the undergraduate student population is female. Most of my own PhD students are women and the head of my faculty at the University of Tehran is a woman too.

Iranians also watched how the United States responded to Egypt's farcical elections, yet simultaneously accused Iran of being undemocratic, even though all Iranian leaders are chosen directly by the public or by publicly-elected bodies. In the case of last year's Iranian presidential election, there is no doubt that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by a landslide; conclusive evidence of that has even been provided in the English language by scholars, academics, and pollsters. Given this reality, in the eyes of the vast majority of Iranians, the United States effectively supported and advocated mob rule on the streets of Tehran.

The United States accused the Iranian government of stealing the elections without providing any credible evidence whatsoever to back up this claim. The US position is uncritically based on claims made by well-funded, so-called Iran 'experts' in the United States who know little about the country, and, for the most part, have a deep and unreasonable hostility towards the Islamic Republic. These people have been making claims and predictions about Iran for many years; a review of their past work reveals that they have a very poor track record. However, since they say what the American political establishment wishes them to say, there is no accountability for their misjudgments and flawed analysis, and they continue receiving generous funding. Interestingly, those among them who can speak Persian use a very different language and tone when speaking on western-funded or government-owned Persian language TV stations than when speaking to American think tanks or on American television. Basically, this is because they don't wish to sound absurd to an Iranian audience.

Those commentators who venture to say something different and more reasonable to western audiences are severely attacked by the US media and the so-called Iran experts, who continue to live in their fantasy world. Nevertheless, despite the threats, accusations, and slander, these commentators continue to tell the truth to Americans and Europeans, in order to prevent a foolish or even tragic miscalculation by western governments. But they have done so at a very high personal price.

Of course, after the massive and unprecedented protests against Mir-Hossein Mousavi that were held throughout the country following the Ashura riots in December 2009, some people in the west finally began to open their eyes to the reality on the ground. Then came 11 February 2010, the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, when the western media pinned their collective hopes on claims made by the 'Green Movement'. Green partisans claimed they would bring millions to the streets of Tehran and take over Azadi Square on live TV. However, when millions of people took to the streets in Tehran (simultaneous rallies were held throughout the country), there was no sign of Mousavi supporters anywhere. Western analysts grudgingly began to admit that they may have misread events in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ironically, in the long run, last year's events have made Iranians more unified than at any time since the early days of the Revolution. Most critics or opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were outraged at Mir-Hossein Mousavi's actions after the election, especially after he failed to show any meaningful evidence of fraud and effectively aligned himself to western-based and western-funded organisations, including ruthless terrorist organisations like the MKO or MEK (which served Saddam Hussain as mercenaries for over two decades), US-based supporters of the former Shah, and violent rioters who killed, maimed, and humiliated police officers and disciplinary forces on the streets of Tehran. That is why, on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, the size of the pro-Islamic Republic demonstrations held throughout the country were unprecedented and highly emotional.

Indeed, contrary to what is widely believed in the west, most mainstream reformists have condemned Hir-Hossein Mousavi's actions; from early on, they recognised the legitimacy and validity of the election results. Reformist members of parliament that I know and respect have repeatedly said this publicly and privately. The head of the reformist faction in parliament, Mohammadreza Tabesh, has stated this on numerous occasions. Reformist MPs such as Mostafa Kavakebian, Mohammad Reza Khabbaz, and Masoud Pazeshkian, as well as many other reformists, have also taken this position, despite their strong opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nevertheless, western politicians and the western media for the most part only hear what they want, or need, to hear.

This does not mean that police brutality did not exist or that some government officials did not mismanage the situation. However, a very solid majority of Iranians put the bulk of the blame squarely on the shoulders of Hir-Hossein Mousavi for his actions and baseless accusations.

Indeed, the US response to the election, which, as pointed out, was largely conditioned by dependence on ill-informed and agenda-driven 'Iran experts', has significantly decreased chances for any form of meaningful rapprochement between the two countries in the foreseeable future. Not that there was much chance in the first place; as the Wikileaks documents reveal, Iranian suspicions were correct and Obama's claims to be interested in redefining US-Iranian relations were, from the start, not really honest. The Wikileaks cables also reveal how ill-informed the United States is about Iranian affairs. US embassies in Iran's neighbouring countries, like most western embassies in Tehran, receive information from like-minded Iranians or those who tell their hosts what they wish to hear for practical purposes. This is also reflected in Obama's written support for the Brazilian-Turkish efforts and then his incredible about-face immediately after the signing of the Tehran Declaration.

Miscalculations regarding Iran are not anything new and they are not limited to elections. US policy regarding Iran's nuclear program has been based on what is widely judged among Iranians to be a major miscalculation. Not only is the nuclear programme seen by the general population as linked to Iranian national sovereignty, it is also a multi-billion dollar investment that involves tens of thousands of Iranians and goes back decades. Consequently, it is something that almost all Iranians support. Indeed, one of the reasons why Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won both presidential elections was because, in the eyes of most Iranians, he was unwilling to appease western powers on the nuclear issue. This was a key issue that hurt the legacy of President Mohammad Khatami, who was often seen as weak in the face of western pressure.

Wishful thinking in some western countries about the state of Iran's economy and its supposedly imminent collapse are exactly that - wishful thinking. In recent weeks, it has been repeatedly claimed by these so-called Iran experts and the western media that the Iranian subsidy reform program is a sign that sanctions are 'biting'. This again shows a deep misunderstanding of reality in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iranians recognise that, contrary to claims made by Americans and European officials, the 'crippling' sanctions have been put into place in order to make the Iranian people suffer. The imposed sanctions have, in fact, increased anger and hostility toward the United States.

Moreover, the subsidy reform programme, which is by far the most significant economic reform programme in contemporary Iranian history, is, in reality, a clear sign that the current Iranian government is strong and self-confident. While the subsidy reform programme has been discussed for years, successive governments have been afraid to implement it. The current administration, after much planning, has now begun its implementation. There is no sign of unrest and most Iranians believe that the reforms will lead to a much stronger economy in the future. Critics of the government, whether principlist or reformist, support the programme, for the most part. Significantly, the Iranian currency and Iranian gold reserves are at an all-time high as well.

This does not mean that Iran is not looking for a resolution to the nuclear standoff; but there is no doubt that, for something positive to happen, western countries must make the first move and recognise Iran's rights to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Contrary to western claims, this is the position of the international community, as Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states along with member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference officially support Iran's position.

For roughly two years, Iran did more than halt the enrichment of uranium; it effectively halted almost the entire nuclear programme and implemented the Additional Protocol. It allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out intrusive inspections, many of which had nothing to do with the nuclear programme and looked more like intelligence-gathering operations on behalf of the US government. The fact that the IAEA, an undemocratic body largely under western influence, has not found any evidence whatsoever to show that Iran's nuclear programme has ever been anything but peaceful, yet continues to oppose it, is another reason why Iranians have little trust in western governments. US relations with the Israeli regime, India, and Pakistan, which all have nuclear weapons, are strong - even though, in the case of Pakistan, for example, a weak central government has called into question the army's ability to prevent these weapons from falling into the hands of the Taliban or Taliban-like groups.

American leaders are deceiving themselves if they believe that the Wikileaks cables describing the hostility of a number of Arab leaders towards Iran and its nuclear programme strengthen the US position regarding Iran. In fact, these documents do the exact opposite, as they diminish these already unpopular despots in the eyes of their own people. This becomes clear when one looks at the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll, which reveals that a very strong majority of Arabs support Iran's nuclear programme. In addition, the poll shows that, while eighty-eight percent of Arabs view the Israeli regime as a threat, and seventy-seven percent view the United States as a threat, only ten percent view the Islamic Republic of Iran as a threat. (By way of comparison, ten percent viewed Algeria as a threat.)

Regarding Palestine and Lebanon, it is a major mistake for western experts to believe that the Islamic Republic of Iran's support for the people of these countries, especially the people of Palestine, is in any way cynical. If one looks at the pre-Revolution statements of current Iranian leaders, one will see that the issue of Palestine was a central grievance of those opposing the Shah. Indeed, one of the many mistakes of the Green Movement was to miscalculate deeply the depth of public sympathy in Iran for the Palestinian people during last year's riots in Tehran on the last Friday of Ramadan. The kidnapping and murder of Iranian scientists and former government officials by Israeli agents has added further anger.

Iranian support for Palestine, Lebanon, and the resistance movements is unwavering, and any expectation in the west that, under certain circumstances, Iran will end this policy is unfounded. However, official Iranian policy has also always held that, while Iran will not recognise Israel because it is an apartheid state (the same as its South Africa policy during apartheid), it will respect any decision made by the Palestinian people in this regard. From the Iranian perspective, any decision will have to include all Palestinians living both inside the country and outside it, including the millions who continue to live in refugee camps. With regard to Lebanon, the Islamic Republic of Iran supports the country's independence and sovereignty and it believes that Lebanon and Lebanese civilians can only be protected from Israeli aggression through the resistance in southern Lebanon. Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran will support Hizbullah at all costs.

In Tehran, there is a strong belief that the region is changing dramatically in favour of Hizbullah, the Palestinians, and the resistance. The rise of an independent Turkey, whose government has a worldview very different from that of the US, Germany, Britain, and France, along with the relative decline of Saudi and Egyptian regional influence, signals a major shift in the regional balance of power. Saudi military incompetence during the fighting with Yemeni tribes along the border between the two countries, the general decline of the Egyptian regime, and the almost universal contempt among Arabs as a whole for the leaders of these two countries and other pro-western Arab regimes and their corrupt elites, are seen as signs that the centre cannot hold. The fact that the Iranian president and the Turkish prime minister are so popular in Arab countries, while most Arab leaders are deeply unpopular, is a sign that the region is changing.

Some speculate that as the so-called axis of moderation declines alongside the declining fortunes of the United States, Washington may be tempted to move towards limited military confrontation with the Islamic Republic before the US presidential election in 2012. Iranians believe this to be highly unlikely. But Iranians also believe that stability or instability from the Mediterranean to the borders of India is inextricably linked to peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region. A look at a map makes clear that Iran has the ability to respond to threats throughout region and even beyond. If there is no security for Iranians, then, in the eyes of Iranians, there will be no security for Iran's antagonists in the region. Under such conditions, the United States should not expect oil or gas to flow out of the Persian Gulf, northern Iraq, or Central Asia. Iran is increasingly confident in the face of regular US military threats. It is also increasingly convinced that western governments recognise that it has the ability to protect its citizens. Western governments must recognise that Iran is looking for peace, but it is not intimidated by the threat of war; in fact, such threats make western governments look crude and uncivilised. The stunning defeat of the Israeli regime by the much smaller and less equipped resistance in southern Lebanon is something that is remembered with pride in Tehran.

Iran is prepared to continue living without relations with the United States in the years to come, and more and more young Iranians and businessmen are looking to Asia and countries like China, India, Brazil, and South Africa for higher education, business, and trade. Nevertheless, there are those who still wonder if there is a potential partner in the United States, who can rethink US foreign policy and bring about real change in US-Iranian relations.

* Sayyed Mohamed Marandi is Associate Professor of English Literature, University of Tehran, Iran. He is also a regular commentator on various international news and current affairs programmes.

** This is a version of an article originally published by Conflicts Forum.

 

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