This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 01/06/2011
We know that pragmatism is a part of politics, and that politicians deal with the public along the lines of "do as I say, not as I do". Yet this is all we know today with regards to the politics of our region, where Israeli ships, commercial or otherwise, have been anchored in Iranian ports for years, and this is another matter altogether!
Merely contemplating whether Israeli government authorities were aware of this or not is a waste of time. The story was not revealed in the Israeli newspaper "Yediot Aharonot", a title which the leader of Hezbollah uses to describe the professional Arab press when it is not to his liking. Likewise, this journalistic scoop was not revealed on the pro-Hezbollah "al-Manar" station, or the Iranian channel "al-Alam", both of which are preoccupied with supporting the Syrian regime. Rather, the story of the Israeli merchant ships – which have been visiting Tehran for years for commercial incentives - was exposed through the list of sanctions compiled by the U.S., against foreign companies doing business with Iran. Of course, now we understand why there are synagogues in Tehran, but not one Sunni mosque in the Iranian capital. It seems that religious tolerance depends on who visits the capital, how many, and their interests!
Of course, we should not be preoccupied with Israeli-Iranian relations, whether in terms of arms, oil or otherwise, but let's look at the impact of this on Iran's agents in the region. These agents include countries such as Syria, where demonstrators are chanting "no to Iran, no to Hezbollah, we want a Muslim [leader] who fears God", militias such as Hezbollah, and even media outlets and groups speaking in the name of democracy, such as what is happening in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait and so on. This term could even extend to the Egyptian delegation, which is visiting Iran for reasons we do not know, and under unknown political sponsorship…Certainly the impact will be negative, but is this important?
The answer is no. What is important here are the Arab citizens who are untainted by political currents, rather than those who entertain Iranian fancies, especially as the Iranians and their affiliates in our region, whether agents or allies, often accuse the Arabs, or the respected Arab media, of having relations with Israel. This is what we see today in the Syrian media, which does not hesitate to formulate lies to undermine the Syrian uprising, and the Arab sympathy towards it. Therefore, the most important thing is to alert the Arab citizen untainted by ideology, so he can see how Iran behaves in the region under the pretext of challenging Israel, whilst opening its ports to Israeli ships, and what we don't know is unquestionably greater.
It is also important for the Arab citizen to note the difference between those who hold clear and declared links with Israel, in accordance with agreements, and those who attack Israel throughout the day, and then open their shores to it in the shadows. Iran claims to support the rights of the Palestinians, and supports the "resistance" in Lebanon and Syria, in order to stand against Israel, whilst describing the Arab regimes committed to their Arab identity and interests as agents of Israel. Yet the reality today suggests that Iran is at the very least a business partner to Israel in the region!
Therefore we say: do the Israeli ships constitute a scandal for Iran? The answer is no. Tehran is now far beyond scandals, but we must alert the Arabs who have been duped by Iran. Will they now wake up?