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Opinion: On the Meanings of Influence - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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During his recent Arab tour Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani proudly stated that his country’s political influence extends from Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Yemen. However Larijani did not need to emphasize this fact, which is something that is equally well-known to those who back Tehran as well as those who complain about its political influence.

However there is one very simple problem regarding the countries that Larijani mentioned: they all suffer from severe cases of instability. In fact, some of these countries are completely divided and disintegrated. This influence that Larijani spoke about did not prevent, reduce or slow down the quasi-civil wars that are raging in these countries—some of which have lost all sovereignty and governance becoming proxy-states that operate under the shadow of other states and regimes.

Almost four decades after the emergence of Iran as we know it, the country is still adhering to the standards of the Islamic Revolution. Iran should have moved from the concept of the revolution to that of the state at least 20 years ago. Running a state requires standards and policies that are completely at odds with those of mounting a revolution, while this also does not necessarily require the state to abandon the primary objectives and concepts that were put forward by the revolution. China, for example, became the world’s largest economy, enjoying unprecedented self-sufficiency, without giving up its founding communist ideology. You do not find China’s 1.3 billion population today raising slogans bearing quotes from Mao Zedong’s famous Red Book. On the contrary, hundreds of millions of Chinese now live above the poverty line thanks to their country’s growth and production rates. Another sign of China’s success is that its currency is stronger than the US dollar, maintaining a steady performance and enjoying high acceptance in the market.

What makes for standards of success at the present time is no longer a matter of debate. Nations are either productive and self-sufficient or lacking in all human needs and services. The Soviet Union carried both influence and tanks to the countries that fell under its sphere of influence. But all of this changed in a single moment when the people of these countries took to the streets to celebrate the Soviet collapse, dismantling statues of Lenin and learning English.

So the Soviet-run security apparatus in East Germany became part of history following the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, with the people even turning their headquarters into a museum. The same applies to the Soviet-made Trabant vehicle, when can now only be found in said museum. As for self-sufficient West Germany, the people there drove Mercedes and subsequently paid an estimated 500 billion US dollars to rehabilitate their eastern brethren during the post-Soviet era.

The recent developments in the oil market have shown that the economy is the primary basis of progress. What a producing country calls a crisis or conspiracy, consumers call a market course correction. The decline in oil prices has proven catastrophic in Iran and Russia while it has been just another economic factor in US and Canada, and even Indonesia which is progressing quickly and steadily into a self-sufficient state after decades of dictatorship, corruption and civil wars.

The world is no longer mere circles of influence but rather industrial, economic and scientific conglomerates. China is leading the march of progress today, carrying factories, qualified workers and engineers to Africa and turning forests into huge workshops, without raising one picture of Mao Zedong or distributing one copy of his Red Book.

Samir Atallah

Samir Atallah

Samir Atallah is a prominent Lebanese journalist, author and political analyst.

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