Aug 12, 2006

For the benefit of Iran

Arabs worked hard to make Iran an outsider in the middle but that has been changing since the collapse of the USSR. In Asia minor, the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the independence of Central Asia countries. A number of these countries have close cultural ties to Iran, they speak the same or similar language and have a Muslim population (Azerbaijan is the only other country - along with Iran - to have a Shia majority). Iran has also developed strong relationships with Russia and Iran.

Before 9/11, Iran almost went to war with the Taliban in Afghanistan so Iran supported the US overthrow of the Taliban from the beginning. The new Afghani government is friendly to Iran. But the biggest prize, was the invasion Iraq. Saddam was the archenemy of Iran. He started the Iran-Iraq war, which lasted for ten years. Arab countries – of course - supported Iraq both financially and politically. Saddam continued to mobilize the Arabs against Iran until his last days in power. As a result, Iran effectively became an outsider in the Middle East. Iran could not be part of trade zones and agreements or have a say in the Arab-Israel conflict – after all Iran is not in the Arab league. For the delight of Iran, the US removed Saddam but that was just the beginning.

The Iraqi opposition – before 9/11 - were mostly based in Iran and were Shia. Some of the most important Shia clerics either lived in Iran or are of Iranian origins (Ayatollah Sistani was born in Iran). After the elections and the coming of Shia to power, Iran penetrated the government, political parties and security forces, a claim supported by many observers.

Arab countries are now have not stake in Iraq and that’s worries Arab leaders greatly. Lately, the king of Jordan coined the phrase “Shia Crescent” to describe Iranian influence in the region. Arabs are worried because a stable Iraq will have tremendous influence in the region.

Iran have used these opportunities well so far. They have developed good relationships with Afghanistan and Iraq. They have also used Syria and Hezbollah as an entry point to Arab-Israel conflict. There is little disagreement that Hezbollah is supported - and was created - by Iran and that Hezbollah has ignited the conflict this time with – at least – the blessing of Iran.

It seems that both US and the Arabs are watching this trend helplessly. Some say US might attack Iran, I don’t think they can. Iran sits just opposite of the oil/gas fields of the gulf. It has enough military capability to cause the US some serious pain even if it doesn’t prevail. That’s why US and Israel are talking about a new Middle East, one without Iran. Is that possible, that certainly something worth to watch for.

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