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Opinion: A New Pax Iranica - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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What Hassan Nasrallah said in his last speech, in which he boasted of his ‘victory’ in Syria and sent his directives to Lebanon’s president and prime minister designate, was expected, particularly in the aftermath of the US–Russian–Iranian deal.

Actually, I remember well what former president Nicolas Sarkozy of France said—before he was elected president in 2007—in response to a question about Iran’s support for terrorism. Sakozy answered: “Terrorism is what [Algeria’s] Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) does.”

Some—myself among them—were surprised at the discrimination between one terrorism and another on the basis of religious identity. This is especially true since 58 French soldiers had been killed in the bombing at the headquarters of the French troops in Beirut on October 23, 1983, the same day that the US Marines base in the city was targeted, killing 241 US soldiers. At the time, both Paris and Washington held Tehran and its Lebanese associates responsible for the two operations.

Moreover, during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) several foreigners, including the envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, were kidnapped and taken hostage. The envoy, Terry Waite—held from 1987 to 1991—along with the other hostages was held by groups affiliated with Tehran, and released in a deal in which Iran was not uninvolved. In addition to that, the US State Department consistently declared Iran a ‘rogue state’ and a supporter of terrorism.

Back then, terrorism was terrorism regardless of who was behind it.

Today the Mashreq is at critical crossroads, more so following the so-called Arab Spring—the expression used to describe the popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes which, though nominally republican, were nothing but mafia families and police states.

In the light of the fall of Arab nationalism and left-wing politics and the emergence of political Islamism as the only power enjoying a minimum degree of organization, it was natural for Islamist parties and organizations of to be the most powerful alternative to these regimes. Indeed, this is what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and then Syria.

Iran openly welcomed the transformations that took place in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. It was comfortable with the transformation in Yemen, where it strongly supported the Houthi insurgency in the north. Only when the winds of change reached Syria did Tehran change its political calculations, and thus the lies that long fooled Arabs were exposed.

To begin with, we must remember that the “Likudnik lobby” in Washington was at the forefront of the voices that called for the invasion of Iraq following the 9/11 attacks, and its members helped plan and carry it out. Supported by London, Washington insisted on invading Iraq in spite of reservations from Arab countries, which feared Iran would fill the vacuum that the toppling of Saddam Hussein would leave. However, the Likudnik lobby did not care at all about the Arabs’ reservations, and rather went ahead with the invasion that ended exactly as the pessimists had expected. Iraq has become a sectarian battlefield, and the Kurdish north became a semi-independent country. In fact, the Iraqi government has become a lackey to Tehran, strategically linking Iran to Syria and Lebanon, reaching the Mediterranean as well as the borders of Israel.

Surprisingly, at the time Israel did not seem worried by Iran’s influence reaching its northern borders. Equally remarkably, once Baghdad fell at the hands of the US invading forces, Iraqi Shi’ite leaders who were exiled in Iran returned to US-occupied Iraq, although the power that invaded and occupied it was deemed by Tehran as the “Great Satan.”

At that time in Lebanon, the “Death to America” slogan was reverberating in Hezbollah’s celebrations and rallies. Any Lebanese who dared question the reasons behind Hezbollah keeping its weapons, after all of Lebanon’s other armed organizations abandoned theirs, would be accused of treason and of being anti-resistance.

In Syria, however, the Assad regime, which since 1973 has ensured the truce-line in the Occupied Golan Heights was kept the calmest of all, was heading the front of steadfastness and hosting leaders of radical Sunni Palestinian groups in Damascus. It was outbidding most Arab leaders, whom it dubbed “cowards,” and “liberating” Palestine every day in TV dramas.

That was in the past. Today we are in a different era, an era of the “Pax Iranica” with an Israeli–US–Russian blessing.

Iran has abandoned the “Great Satan” slogan and removed the anti-American banners, and in doing so it has been openly flirting with the Obama Administration. The nuclear program with which Iran deceived the world for 18 years has become something that Washington can live with.

The previously “steadfast” Damascus seems now reassured of its safety in light of Obama’s stance following Tehran’s and Moscow’s deals with Washington. This is, of course, after Syria’s representative to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, claimed his country was “fighting terrorism on behalf of the whole world.” The Syrian regime also declared to the Christian West that it was the “defender of minorities in the region from radicals, Jihadists and Takfirists.”

As for Hassan Nasrallah—who shifted his resistance away from Palestine to fight Takfirists in Syria, as he put it—it is quite natural that he feels happy. He is proud of Hassan Rouhani’s achievement, and that Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, have become convinced that there are indeed two kinds of terrorism, one accepted by the US and Israel and one not. Thus Hassan Nasrallah seemed optimistic in his speech on Tuesday, boasting of “victory” against will of the Syrian people.

The slogans of “resistance,” “hostility to Israel” and “Death to America” may be a thing of the past for now. The will of a people will not die, however, no matter how many disgraceful deals are struck.

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with the newspaper since 1978.

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