Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Curbing Iranian influence without conflict | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Seven days after the assassination of the late [Lebanese Prime Minister] Rafik Hariri in 2005, George W. Bush met with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac, who had a close personal relationship with Rafik Hariri. The two former leaders met for dinner in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

Bush told Chirac: “I want to immediately punish Syria for the assassination of Rafik Hariri and for Damascus allowing terrorists to cross into Iraq via the Syrian border”. Chirac, who was a friend of the late Lebanese prime minister, responded to Bush saying “Let’s help Lebanon, and by doing so we will have punished Syria!” He explained that Syria exercises its power in Beirut, and if Syrian influence was removed from the country this would strengthen Lebanon and weaken the Syrian regime. Indeed, the two leaders agreed and helped Lebanon. Subsequently, Bashar al-Assad came out and publicly announced in a speech before the Syrian People’s Assembly that “mistakes were made in Lebanon” and that Syrian troops were withdrawing from the country. And today, several years later, the Syrian people are revolting against the al-Assad regime!

This shows that war is indeed a tool of politics, but not the only tool. Here Chirac’s wisdom surpassed Bush’s zeal, and a far better result was achieved through politics than that which would have been achieved through force of arms. It is enough to consider the deteriorating situation in Iraq today in this regard. The US [military] intervention to overthrow Saddam Hussein was not sufficiently calculated, especially the so-called “day after” [the invasion], or the phase after the collapse of the regime. Therefore, we now find that Iraq’s problems are chronic, most notably Iranian interference.

Returning the al-Assad regime to its own borders forced it to confront Syria’s real problems, which led to a confrontation with the Syrian people. Therefore, the best chance of eliminating the Iranian threat today would be to send Iran back to within its normal borders, as I said during an interview on the al-Arabiya satellite channel, five days ago. I said that the collapse of the al-Assad’s regime would mean the collapse of Iran’s foreign policy. Since the time of the Khomeini revolution, and even before it succeeded in taking over Iran, it has sought to establish an alliance that fundamentally aims to create a Tehran – Damascus – Beirut axis, and today Baghdad can also be added to this.

Thus we could assume today, with the political earthquake which has struck the region, and specifically Syria, that the international community will seek to send Iran back to within its normal borders, and this is in order to reform the dysfunctional political situation and destruction in Iraq, so that Iraq is for the Iraqis, from all walks of life, and not for Iran. Tehran’s influence would then be curbed from there, just as it was from Bahrain by the Peninsula Shield Force, and today we see that the Syrian revolutionaries are vowing to curb Iran’s influence from their country as well.

When Iran is curbed back to within its borders, it will have to face its own people who are suffering from high unemployment, not to mention that the broadest section the Iranian population is the youth, who are convinced that the Khomeinist revolutionary regime has ultimately failed, especially in light of deteriorating economic conditions and the clear political conflicts taking place between the ruling elite in Tehran.

By reforming the situation in Iraq and supporting the Syrian people, we can return Iran to its border and clip the wings of the Tehran regime that is seeking to export its revolution abroad. This would eliminate the Iranian threat without firing a single shot, and it would protect Iraq whilst now necessitating US forces remaining deployed there. Will Obama, and the major regional powers, exploit this opportunity?

That is the question!