The Iranian presence in the region is so extensive that elaborating on the details of its intervention in Middle Eastern internal affairs is like drowning in it.
But it seems that what we are witnessing today is not a by-product of the issue of Iran’s nuclear activities, but rather something more important which is Iran’s resumption of exporting the “Islamic revolution”; a venture that has been disrupted several times in the past.
The first time the exporting of “the revolution” was disrupted was during the Iraq- Iran war which lasted almost eight years. It was also obstructed due Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait and the war that the coalition forces waged to expel him from there, which was an important period during which Iran regained its breath. Then the US presence in the region became an obsession for Iran, which made it cautious in taking any step. Then came the era of Khatami – the era of “the Iranian Gorbachev”. This era did not succeed and sometimes showed the soft side of Iranian cunning. Also during this period, the prices of oil dropped and the Iranian moves focused on backing Hezbollah in south Lebanon during the Israeli occupation.
All this during a time when Washington was like a shark out for Iranian blood, but was unable to catch its prey. This helped Iran unite its domestic ranks after some sons of the Iranian revolution tried to take the revolution in a different direction. Things went on until the events of 11 September and the peak of the Sunni fundamentalist violence led by Bin Laden. With these events came the US desire for revenge. Iran managed to rearrange its internal ranks and the conservatives took control of the domestic decision-making process. Contrary to what everyone expected, Tehran shared in facilitating the US invasion of Afghanistan and of Iraq. By moving one pawn on the chess table, Iran managed to remove two regimes or two enemies. Iran opened the channels (of communication) with Washington and was always trying to fill the vacuum. Oil prices were rising in a way that enabled it to buy humans and pawns, Saudi Arabia was in a difficult external situation due to the September events, and Egypt had turned inwards internally.
Then came the assassination of Al-Hariri, the major Sunni leader or rather the main obstacle for Iran’s dominance of Lebanon. This was followed by Syria’s departure from Lebanon. Syria turned from an ally of Tehran to a card in the hand due to Bashar’s policies that are characterized with making mistakes. Bashar’s Syria is like a student who is not prepared for a test. This led to a vacuum in Beirut and Tehran was there to fill this vacuum. All this amounted to an opportunity to reactivate the exportation of the Iranian revolution that was impeded for many years. Iran is in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon. It holds the keys to the Palestinian issue after it used the Islamic groups such as Hamas and before that the Islamic Jihad to infiltrate the region. In fact Tehran is now infiltrating Egypt – which was difficult at first – through the Muslim Brothers. In Syria – which behind closed doors the Iranians considered a burden on them – the acts of political “Shiism” became active.
What Iran is trying to do these days is to try and hunt two files with one stone. It either succeeds in the nuclear file – and thus consolidates its presence as a nuclear power with the Arabs and the whole region under it – or it returns from the battle controlling influential and important Arab countries on the political and economic levels through the realities on the ground and its financial alliance with some Islamic groups. This is fundamentalist pragmatism. The important question that begs an answer is the following. Will the resumption of the exportation of the Iranian revolution be repulsed by exporting the Muslim Sunni call? Or will history repeat itself with all its mistakes and the state becomes the weakest link? Or will the state be strengthened and the importance of nationalism entrenched? This is the real challenge.