The mullahs might try to placate the West, but their objective remains consistent.

June 5, 2019 17:46

IRANIAN PILGRIMS arrive for the annual haj pilgrimage, in Arafat outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Okaz, Saudi Arabia, June 2

Since the launch of the coup d’état against the shah in 1979, the mullahs have not stopped their political campaign for a single day. Their first war was directed against the Iranian people themselves, who were killed and displaced en masse by the Islamist revolutionaries. Anyone suspected of belonging to the former regime was arrested, tortured or killed.
After the mullahs finished the internal occupation of Iran, they turned to occupying Iraq and meddling in Baghdad’s internal affairs. The Tehran-Baghdad axis was particularly important to the mullahs for several reasons.
First, Iraq was – and still is – viewed as the cradle of Shi’ism. It therefore carries monumental importance in the eyes of the mullahs. Second, the mullahs still carry the dream of reviving ancient Persia by reoccupying Mesopotamia and avenging their defeat at the humiliating Battle of Qadisiyah, which broke that empire. Third, access to Iraq provided the mullahs with huge financial benefits, mostly thanks to oil resources. These three reasons provided great impetus to extend farther and farther into the region.
However, from the very beginning stages of the revolution, one country had stood steadfastly against Iran’s expansionist ambitions: Saudi Arabia. This positioned Tehran and Riyadh at opposite ends of the political spectrum.
In response to Saudi Arabia’s defense of Iraq, Tehran increased its efforts to destabilize the Arab Gulf. The first attempts began in 1984, when Iran violated Saudi airspace and territorial waters. Of course, these actions resulted in a Saudi downing of an Iranian airplane that had entered Saudi airspace, and a Saudi threat to bomb the Iranian port of Bushehr if Tehran did not remove its vessels from Saudi waters.
In 1986, the Saudi Interior Ministry announced the seizure of a huge amount of highly explosive C-4 powder in Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bags that were sent by a group of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca. The Iranian plan, which luckily was foiled, was to carry out a massive attack in Mecca and kill thousands of innocent pilgrims. In 1987, an Iranian cell launched an attack in Mecca and assaulted hundreds of civilians making their way to the Holy Mosque.... The Iranian terrorists used swords, knives and machetes to cause death and harm. The Saudi security authorities were able to stop them, after long clashes.
Iran also used Hezbollah against Riyadh. The Lebanese terrorist group carried out several attacks in Saudi Arabia, such as the bombing of al-Ju’aima 1987 and the bombing of al-Jubail in 1988. In 1989, Hezbollah blew up the tunnels in Mecca during the hajj pilgrimage.
From 2009 until today, Iran has carried out additional schemes through its multiple subcontractors, chief among them the Houthi militias, which have attacked the Saudi border and fired 200 rockets against Saudi cities. Some of these rockets hit Mecca and its holy sites.
This long track record of violence and aggression leaves little doubt about Iran’s intentions. The mullahs might try to placate the West, but their objective remains consistent: to weaken and destroy anyone and anything standing in their way of achieving regional domination.
Mohammed al-Saeed

Al-Ittihad, UAE, June 2

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to power with a landslide victory that has paved his way toward a five-year term in the Prime Minister’s Office. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party won an unprecedented 303 of the 542 seats in the lower chamber, surpassing the 282 seats it won in the 2014 election. It became the first party to win [an unassisted] majority in more than three decades. After a fierce election campaign, Modi pledged to build a “strong India with all political factions” and to work harder for his public when he returns to power. His right-wing party has strengthened its influence beyond its traditional base of power in new states such as West Bengal and Udisha, in central India.
Modi’s overwhelming victory makes him the third prime minister in India’s history to retain power after a full term, and the first BJP leader to take power for a second term. The 68-year-old politician dominated the elections despite serious problems, including rising unemployment and a farming crisis. The ruling party managed to divert attention from these major problems and focused its campaign on Modi’s popularity both at home and abroad.
Hindu nationalism also played an important role in favor of the ruling party, with its leaders running divisive campaigns against minorities in India. The party nominated a few very controversial figures, including Ms. Prajia Thakur, who was accused of involvement in terrorist acts, and from whom Modi had to distance himself after she praised Banathuram Godsi, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
But there are still deep challenges for Modi, including his promise to spur growth for all of India’s citizens. His challenge is to reassure minorities that the government will really protect them. In addition, his party’s landslide victory brought about increased expectations for his next term in office. In order to prove himself to the people of India, Modi will have to solve the farming crisis, stimulate the Indian economy, reduce unemployment, speed up the modernization of the armed forces and launch programs aimed at poverty reduction. India is one of the world’s most developed economies, but it is also severely burdened by corruption and illiteracy.
All of these issues will make it harder for Modi to deliver on the promises he made on the campaign trail. However, he seems determined to stand by his word and prove his opponents wrong. Whether you agree with his policies or not, this is an admirable aspiration of a leader committed to his nation and its people.
– Zikru al-Rahman

Al-Arab, London, June 2

The convening of the Gulf Summit in Mecca was a “last chance” call to protect peace and security in the Gulf and the Middle East. In the midst of the ongoing tensions between Washington and Tehran, the leaders of the Gulf states convened in Mecca and unequivocally rejected Iran’s interference in the region.
Sadly, the entire region is currently caught in the midst of the fighting between the two powers. This has become more and more pronounced ever since US President Donald Trump began exerting pressure on the Iranian regime in an attempt to force it to make political concessions. The upcoming summer months will be extremely important in determining the fate of these tensions. Although it is unlikely that the two powers will go to actual war, the lack of direct communication between Washington and Tehran suggests that the situation is not going to dramatically improve either.
It is also highly unlikely that President Trump will change his attitude to Iran, since this hostility has been a fundamental pillar of his foreign policy. On the Iranian side, the mullah regime has long given up the goal of behaving like a normal nation state. Hence, this conflict is not a traditional struggle between two normal states. The intensification of the American pressure campaign against Iran is pushing Tehran toward a critical edge that may yet lead to an open conflict between the two countries, with major repercussions to the Middle East.
Trump seems to believe that harsh sanctions combined with a noisy media campaign will convince Iran to return to the negotiating table. To this end, he has already ordered to mobilization of additional US forces in the region (as if there were not already enough American troops situated in 11 countries surrounding Iran). This was followed up by a series of statements about Iran’s “weakness” and “stubbornness” by both Trump and his national security adviser, John Bolton.
Meanwhile, Iran has been trying to circumvent the American sanctions by turning to Germany, France and the UK to find alternative financial mechanisms that could keep its economy afloat. The European private sector, however, seems very much committed to maintaining the American sanctions.
In the international context, [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of a tripartite security meeting among the United States, Russia and Israel in June also bodes poorly for Iran. It suggests that Moscow, too, is beginning to distance itself from Tehran.
As each side continues to hunker down and defend its positions, the fate of this impasse will be determined by whoever blinks first. The mullahs may prefer to wait for the US presidential elections in 2020, but the fate of their battle might be sealed long before then. – Khattar Abu Diab

Asharq al-Awsat, London, May 30

Finally, Sudan’s hostility toward Egypt, which lasted for over two decades, has come to an end. The visit of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, president of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, to Cairo, is an important political development that signals a change in the relations between the two countries.
For years, Sudan and Egypt faced difficult relations. Sudan under its former leader, Omar al-Bashir, was closely aligned with Qatar and Iran. Bashir and his cronies turned Sudan into a hotbed for Islamist groups throughout the region, many of which launched attacks across the border in Egyptian territory. Bashir handed over the Sudanese island of Suakin to Turkey and invited the latter to establish a military base on its territory. This move was designed to provoke Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and undermine the latter’s control over the Red Sea. Thankfully, the recent removal of Bashir from power finally allows Sudan and Egypt to reset their relations.
Burhan’s decision to visit Cairo and launch direct talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the ultimate expression of this renewed hope for peaceful relations between the two countries. It is ultimately in Sudan’s best interest to invest its resources in economic development and the reconstruction of civil society rather than in expensive feats meant to undermine Egypt’s sovereignty. Sudan also has a lot to gain from trade with Egypt, which could refuel and stimulate its economy.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Sudan are the mainstay of the Red Sea security system. The main obstacle to the implementation of this system was the lack of confidence in the Bashir regime. Therefore, the recent change in leadership in Sudan has great potential for the future of the Nile region, in general, and relations between Sudan and Egypt, in particular. This provides renewed hope for a Nile region that will finally rid itself of war and hostility, and become a prosperous region of Africa and the world.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed


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