By Tariq Alhomayed
This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 05/03/2011
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that Iran is seeking to influence the Arab revolutions, including the Egyptian revolution, by utilizing Hezbollah which has good relations with the [Egyptian] Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Hamas organization. She also said that Tehran is in constant contact with opposition forces in Bahrain.
Just one day after Clinton made these remarks, the Iranian Supreme Guide told a group of his country's security cadres that the revolutions taking place in the Arab world represented an Islamic awakening inspired by the Iranian revolution. So what is more likely, that Iran is influencing the revolutions that are taking place in our region, or that Tehran is trying to exploit the situation in the Arab world?
The reality, as we have said before, is that it is difficult to measure everything that is happening in our region with one yardstick. This is because it is not easy to compare the problems arising in our region with each other, even if Arab states share certain features such as having a young population or the presence of an urgent need for reform; this is not to say that the situation in one country is the same as the situation in another. For example, the situation in the Gulf States cannot be compared to the situation in the rest of the Arab region, whilst the internal makeup of Gulf States also differs, and each country in our region has its own special circumstances.
Here somebody might ask, does this mean that Iran is influencing the revolutions in our region? Of course, the answer to this is no, and it would not be fair to the revolutionaries to say this, however Iran is not hesitating to interfere in our region and exploit the prevailing feelings today. On the other hand, what is allowing Iran to exploit the situation is that the protestors' demands are not being taken seriously, whilst protestors in some states are attempting to copy the revolutions that have taken place in others, and these are two features that are dominating the scene today. There is a huge fire raging in our region, and some people are under the impression that in order to fix all their problems all they have to do is topple their regimes; however those who believe this are not taking the situation seriously. How will the Yemenis, for example, deal with a decaying economy and a confusing tribal system should the Yemeni president suddenly decide to step down from power? Early elections, or indeed waiting for the president's term in office to end, represent the ideal solution for the situation in Yemen, rather than what happened in Egypt, because Yemen is different. The other example is Bahrain, and is it reasonable that the demonstrators there failed to announce their demands until yesterday?
These are the problems, and these are the gaps that the Iranians are exploiting in order to infiltrate our region, and they are doing so for a number of reasons. Most importantly, Tehran wants to escape from its internal crisis, and anybody who believes that the Iranian crisis with our region is solely due to [Iranian president] Ahmadinejad is wrong and would be displaying their ignorance, for this crisis is represented by the entire Iranian regime. One of the objectives of the Khomeini revolution was to export this Islamic revolution to our region, and particularly the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the attempt to copy the Egyptian revolution in the Gulf States would certainly be futile, for all problems are not the same, nor are all regimes, and for example, is there a figure such as Gaddafi in the Gulf States?
We all want freedom, prosperity, and an end to corruption, but we cannot support pulling the roof down on the house due to glamorous slogans. The difference between us and Iran is that we want reform, whilst Iran wants to incite the region and fan the flames. Are some people, aware, for example, that there are no Friday prayer services for Sunnis in Iran?
I think this is something that we need to think more deeply about.