Iran in New Regional Alignment
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 11 Sep , 2020

CIA overplayed capitalist hegemonic role in Iran during the Iranian oil nationalization movement under Dr Mussadegh in the 1950s. Thereafter Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, inexperienced in national politics and regional diplomacy, failed to interact with the Iranian Left, the Jibbeh-e-Milli and also the Iranian clergy, both opposed to the monarchical rule. Some self-seeking intransigent political leaders who emerged from time to time hardly enjoyed popularity with any solid constituency in Iran. Though the Left was suppressed but not eliminated. The clergy expanded their influence fairly well in rural Iran.

As Iranian revolution of 1979 gained momentum, of course thanks to the cooperation offered by the left, it so happened that at the end of the day, the Ayatollahs stole the march and Iran fell into their hands. Revolutionary Iran treated the United State with unbounded hatred.

The clerics have been always influential in Iran and Reza Shah Pahlavi would not antagonize them. Many of them had clout in the administrative machinery. But they never aspired to take the reins of the government in their hands. The success of the Islamic revolution changed that concept and they grabbed power sidelining the Left which thought they would be in the driver’s seat after the removal of monarchy. That did not happen.

The Ayatollahs focused on a couple of fundamentals of the policy of revolutionary regime. One was total contempt and hatred for the United States. The second was to wash away the Pan-Iranian vestiges assiduously maintained and reinforced during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi. The third important policy parameter was to dye the Iranian society in Islamic colour to be able to claim that Iran was more Islamic than the Semitic Islamic people. The real problems for Iran have emanated from (a) Iran’s fake claim of being more Islamic than any Arab country especially Saudi Arabia, the religious centre of the Muslims of the world, and (b) willful destruction of the vestiges of Iran’s pre-Islamic civilizational manifestations. The Arabs would not recognize her claim to super Islamic status and the proselytized non-Arab Sunni countries (of Aryan descent) would not give her any credit as she followed the Shia faith. Both of these aspects went against her.

The real problem of Iran with the US is because of Israel. No political commentator either in or outside Iran has been able to convince the world why the regime of the Ayatollahs have adopted an inimical stance toward Israel, a country with which she has no geographical borders, no trade and commerce competition, no territorial dispute and not even a real political dispute.

The reason, as hinted at in foregone lines is that Iran has been nursing the obsession for centuries on the end that she must prove to the Arabs and particularly the Saudis that she is more Islamic than they are. The real woe of Iran is that she is unable to reconcile to the fact that Saudi Arabia enjoys the centrality of the ummah which Iran can never achieve do what she may. This is the reason why Ayatollah Khomeini had said that monarchy is disallowed in Islam and that the custodianship of the twin shrines of Mecca and Medina cannot be the sole prerogative of the Saudi monarchs. During his time Iranian pilgrims to the Mecca had made violent demonstrations against the Saudi monarchy within the precincts of the sanctum sanctorum and nearly five hundred of them were done to death by the Saudi guards.

Because the US Congress has a large majority of Jewish members who dictate terms to the White House to support the State of Israel, Iran has turned its guns on Israel which enjoys outright support of the US. Under the US influence, the Saudi monarchy has established normal relations with Israel and it never gives expression to animus against the Israeli State. Same is true of about half a dozen littoral states that are under the direct influence of Riyadh. Thus Iran considers not only the Saudis but also the littoral states as anti-Iran.  

Ayatollahs are an obstinate lot by training.  They are mostly not transparent and not open to reason. They are very tough to negotiate with. Anyway, the ground situation is that most of the Arab Islamic countries with Saudi in the lead are having cordial relations with Israel. They have trade relations and in some cases agreements for the supply of arms. Three small Islamic countries have already recognized Israel. UAE is the latest and five more littoral countries are about to give her recognition. Surprisingly, during the Iran-Iraq war, Israel supplied war material to Iran via Pakistan. This means that Pakistan is also in the loop of Israel. The question is why does not Iran read the writing on the wall? How long will she go nurturing the thorny bush of hatred, rancour and animosity against Israel? She is getting isolated nay marginalized.

Iran is swayed by the burning desire of destroying the social centrality of Saudi Arabia. She cannot fight Israel which has access to nuclear option covertly or overtly. But she wants to settle her score with Saudi Arabia and it is this urge that makes Iran go for a nuclear facility. All the three countries, Saudi, Israel and the US understand that if Iran gets nuclear capability it will be a threat to their existence or interests. Therefore, the US, under self-created importance will not allow Iran any chance of achieving nuclear capability. The US never stonewalled Pakistan’s project of obtaining nuclear weapon because the US wanted to counterbalance India. Pakistan will not be allowed by the US to make nuclear technology available to Iran, something for which Turkey is also struggling.

In this scenario of desperation, Iran is changing the goalpost of her regional diplomacy. She seems to be enchanted by the 400 billion dollars 25-year bilateral agreements with China against giving Beijing not only the Chahbahar where India invested billions of dollars but also the road-rail connectivity to Zahedan and Zanjan to Afghanistan. This is rank blackmailing. India aimed access to Central Asia circumventing inimical Pakistan. Iran, too, had an element of interest in Chahbahar – Afghanistan link undertaken by India as it would provide her road link to the Shia dominated northern region of Afghanistan.

Iran, as a member of the OIC, never took a strong stand against Pakistan bringing in repeated resolutions on Kashmir against India. Not only that, in recent times Iranian Supreme religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei issued a stark anti-India statement on Kashmir in which he instigated the Kashmiri Muslims to fight for their rights. The relations dipped down and Indian foreign office summoned Iranian ambassador in New Delhi to lodge a strong protest. The real reason for Iran to jump onto the bandwagon of Beijing are (a) to convey to the US that she has more lucrative options, and (b) retaliate to India for refusing to accommodate an Iranian organization in the Chahbahar projects that have proven links to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (Pasdaran) designated by the US State Department.

The request of Iran to RM Rajnath Singh for a detour to Teheran on his way back from  Shanghai Cooperation (SC) meet of Defence Ministers in Moscow and his talks with his Iranian counterpart Brig. Gen Hatami carries meaning. Interestingly, a couple of days later, our Foreign Secretary Jaishankar, on his flight to Moscow to join SC foreign ministers meet made a halt at Teheran and met with his counterpart Zarif. What is transpiring between the two countries is still not clear except that they both said in their statements that they exchanged views on the security aspect of the Afghan crisis. 

India recognizes Iran’s strategic importance in the Gulf region. India is not happy with the Trump administration imposing sanctions on Iran. India is very unhappy on Iran jumping blindly onto the bandwagon of China in respect of handing over Chahbahar to Beijing oblivious of its consequences, regionally and globally. India never made Iran-Pakistan good relations an issue at any time and as such Iran has to recognize the dynamics of bilateral relations between countries. She must understand the grand reality in Kashmir which she can do best by taking into account the clandestine infiltration of Pakistani terrorists of Jundullah across the Baluchistan-Sistan border and their attacks on Iranian guards and Iran’s retaliatory measures. It means that Iran must take a holistic view of regional issues and then frame her foreign policy. We are suggesting that Iran is getting isolated by adopting an inimical and belligerent attitude towards Israel. The day she understands the futility of her animus against Israel will be the day when she will step into world mainstream order.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

KN Pandita

Former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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One thought on “Iran in New Regional Alignment

  1. Mr. k. N. Pandita has had displayed his vague knowledge on Iran & the previous regime of Shah of Iran!
    During the Shah reign, Tehran was called the East of Paris!
    He revolutionised Iran to modern industrialised country, brought the green revolution & made his subjects happy & prosperous!
    Iran was the most powerful in Middle East! There was no trace of terrorists activity found anywhere in the Middle East!
    Iran was also progressing in Science & technology & also in Nuclear technology!
    Since, Mullahs were the threat to Modern Iran as losing their influence on Iranians!
    Shah thrown them out of Iran & they got Asylum in Paris with the help of the then President Jimmy Carter & his Cohorts. The main reason was Shah had a dream to lead Iran par with U. S. in next 10 years!
    When Shah left Iran, he said “As I leave Iran, the world will face the Islamic terrorism….”!
    Yes! Since then, this world has gone into the chaotic situation & terrorism born in the world scenario! Jai Hind!

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