On Febrauary 27, 2008, the Christian Science Monitor published an opinion column by Iason Athanasiadis’s entitled “Waiting for a US-Iran handshake. (http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0227/p09s02-coop.html)
The column, based on interviews with the Iranian foreign ministry officials, has Iranian officials boasting that their policy of pragmatism have made them succeed in exerting their influence in the Arab world and the US should be ready to acknowledge that.
The news of Iran’s success in regional dominance is greatly exaggerated. The column relies on the words of the Iranian foreign policy elite to draw an overly rosy and inaccurate picture of the status of Iran in the Muslim Middle East. This triumphalism is easily checked by the reality in the Arab world. In attempting to project its influence, Iranian policy has created tensions and conflicts almost every wherein the Arab world in Bahrain, Palestine, Kuwait and Lebanon, among other countries in the Middle East.
The Iranians claim they are popular in Cairo and in Riyadh. Far from it. To sense what the people in Cairo and Riyadh think it is more useful to visit the Arabic internet sites than to hear Iranian diplomats crow. A visit to the popular news sites, such as Elaph and Al Arabiyya, shows that Iran’s policies have unleashed a lot of anger and hate. In addition to the overwhelmingly negative coverage of Iran’s policies by the columnists, going through the readers’ comments, one encounters a small group of Arabs on the defensive regarding Iran facing an overwhelming majority of commentors attacking Iran, and, in many times, unfortunately, Shiism as well.
Far from gaining popularity in Riyadh and Cairo, Iran has awakened the sectarian genie and by its reckless destabilizing policies incited ancient sectarian animosities that had been largely dormant for many years.
It has not escaped the Sunni majority in the Arab world that some of Iran’s allies in Iraq have committed sectarian atrocities against their co-religioinsts in Iraq and that the new Shiite- dominated Baghdad government giddily marginalized the Sunnis. Also, Iran’s friends and allies who held leadership positions in the Interior Ministry were involved in the kidnapping and torture of Sunni s merely on the basis of their sectarian identity. Moreover, the Shiite- dominated government in Baghdad is perceived to having intentionally marginalized the Sunnis in Iraq, resisting world pressure to form a truly representative government of Iraq’s people.
Arabs and Muslim know that it is the US, not Iran, that pressured this Shiite-run Baghdad government for the meaningful inclusion of the Sunni Iraqis in the process, Also, it is the US, not Iran, that addressed Sunni fears for their safety by setting up the Awakening groups to protect Sunnis from Shiite sectarian death squads as well as from al- Qaeda.
The news of Iran’s triumph are greatly exaggerated.
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