Tehran’s treach­er­ous rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of­fer

The Is­lamic regime’s be­hav­ior demon­strates it can­not be trusted

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Mo­hammed Al­su­lami

Iran has re­cently been reach­ing out to its Arab neigh­bors to pro­pose a fra­ter­nal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Some Arab na­tions have been crit­i­cized for their less-than-en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse to these over­tures. But that crit­i­cism is naive. Iran’s his­tory and po­lit­i­cal struc­ture make clear that these ef­forts are noth­ing more than a poor at­tempt at pub­lic re­la­tions spin and can­not be trusted. The re­cently Arab Sum­mit in Jor­dan passed 15 res­o­lu­tions in­dict­ing Iran’s be­hav­ior in the re­gion — its back­ing of ter­ror groups, its med­dling in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of neigh­bor­ing na­tions, its incitement of Sunni-Shi­ite con­flict, its in­ter­ven­tion in the Syr­ian civil war and sev­eral other of its hos­tile poli­cies.

If Iran were ac­tu­ally try­ing to turn a page with its Arab neigh­bors — which have en­dured decades of Iran-spon­sored in­ter­fer­ence and ter­ror­ism within their bor­ders — Iran should show some ev­i­dence it has truly changed.

In fact, noth­ing has changed.

What sig­nals have the Ira­nian regime given to in­di­cate a se­ri­ous wish to rec­on­cile with the Arab na­tions of the re­gion? What changes has it made to its poli­cies and ac­tions?

The an­swer: none. Tehran is con­tin­u­ing its busi­ness-as-usual spon­sor­ship and ex­port of ter­ror in the re­gion, back­ing Hezbol­lah in Syria, the Houthis in Ye­men and other mil­i­tant groups. More to the point, if this rec­on­cil­i­a­tion at­tempt is to be­lieved, who in Tehran should Arab na­tions re­spond to? Should they deal with the of­fi­cial Ira­nian gov­ern­ment or the real power base — Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IGRC)?

Has Iran made any struc­tural changes to its rul­ing class that would per­suade Arab neigh­bors that things are re­ally dif­fer­ent in Tehran? Ab­so­lutely not. The cler­ics re­main in charge in Iran and have the fi­nal say.

All of the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment’s diplo­matic ef­forts and po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions are con­trolled by the theo­cratic lead­er­ship, the IRGC and its ex­trem­ist sec­tar­ian af­fil­i­ates. If that re­mains the case, any rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of­fer is bo­gus.

This was demon­strated dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions for the Iran nu­clear deal. Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Javad Zarif in­sisted on mov­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tion team dur­ing the talks to Tehran to en­able Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei and the IRGC to mon­i­tor the dis­cus­sions and to ap­prove or re­ject every de­tail of the agree­ment un­til it met with the real lead­ers’ ap­proval. This is proof that the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment can­not act in­de­pen­dently or make any bind­ing com­mit­ments with­out the ap­proval of the cler­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship.

But might Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei him­self seek rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with Iran’s Arab neigh­bors? Isn’t peace good for every­body?

This as­sump­tion might be valid if it ig­nored the fact that Iran’s jurist lead­er­ship has pri­or­i­tized “ex­port­ing the rev­o­lu­tion” as a core tenet of the Is­lamic repub­lic’s constitution. The IRGC mas­ter­minds and im­ple­ments the regime’s ag­gres­sive in­ter­ven­tion­ist poli­cies and is in­ex­tri­ca­bly in­ter­twined with the theo­cratic lead­er­ship. The IRGC is syn­ony­mous with the coun­try’s na­tional se­cu­rity, which is the sole pre­rog­a­tive of Supreme Leader Khamenei.

If the Ira­nian regime were se­ri­ous about wish­ing to hold ne­go­ti­a­tions with Arab na­tions, these would be led by the coun­try’s supreme leader, not by the ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der his con­trol. The gov­ern­ment and the diplo­matic corps have no in­de­pen­dent power and are his tools.

Tehran’s lat­est ef­forts to ini­ti­ate uni­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions with its neigh­bors via its pow­er­less ad­min­is­tra­tion are a fruit­less ex­er­cise. The empty of­fer by Ira­nian lead­er­ship is to buy more time to ad­vance its re­gional agenda of desta­bi­liza­tion and ter­ror and to eval­u­ate other na­tions’ stances to­ward Iran, par­tic­u­larly that of the new U.S. pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion.

With­out rad­i­cally chang­ing its poli­cies, par­tic­u­larly its funding and de­ploy­ment of ex­trem­ist sec­tar­ian mili­tias in Syria, Iraq and Ye­men, and its in­ter­fer­ence in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of Le­banon, Bahrain and Saudi Ara­bia, the Ira­nian regime’s rec­on­cil­i­a­tion rhetoric and talk of ne­go­ti­a­tions should be dis­re­garded.

Any real ne­go­ti­a­tion re­quires mu­tual con­fi­dence and re­spect, which Tehran is un­will­ing to grant.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should un­der­stand that Arab na­tions’ sour his­tory with the Ira­nian regime’s du­plic­i­tous­ness and its bru­tal re­gional mil­i­tary ex­pan­sion­ism gives them every right to be skep­ti­cal about this re­cent of­fer of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. The pri­mary ob­jec­tive be­hind Tehran’s new diplo­matic strat­egy is to con­vince the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and Western pow­ers that Tehran is a nor­mal, rea­son­able and prag­matic gov­ern­ment.

No one should fall for this ploy. Arabs in the United States and around the world will not. Mo­hammed Al­su­lami is a re­searcher at Umm AlQura Univer­sity in Saudi Ara­bia, spe­cial­iz­ing in Ira­nian stud­ies.


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