Future Iranian-Arab relations

Jawad Anani
(Photo: Jordan News)
After Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, relations between the Arab world and Iran soured. The new revolution had an overt agenda to dominate the Islamic world under its banner, and a covert agenda to reign supreme over the Sunni world — a very futile and distant dream.اضافة اعلان

In 1997, when Sayyed Mohammad Khatami was president of Iran, two of his traits endeared him to the late King Hussein of Jordan.

Firstly, he was a descendant of the Hashemite. Secondly, he was a moderate president that did not agree with the concept of “wilayat Al-faqih,” which is a system of governance where all political and religious authority is held by the clergy.

Khatami was a co-winner of the prestigious Global Dialogue Prize in 2009, but he was shunned by conservative Iranian clergy and by a hesitant Clinton administration.

The Late King Hussein asked me to pay a visit to Iran, and with me I carried a written letter addressed to “My Cousin President Sayyed Mohammad Khatami”.

I met with president Khatami in the presence of Kamal Kharazi, the former foreign minister of Iran. During the meeting, Kharazi asked me why Jordan had signed a peace treaty with Israel. However, the president interrupted him and asked me about his cousin King Hussein.

I believe he truly wanted peace and cooperation with the rest of the world.

King Hussein, on his next trip to the United States, tried to convince former president Bill Clinton to initiate contact with Khatami, but his call went unheeded. As a result, Khatami decided not to run for president, and in his place came the ultra conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I had a chance to visit Iran twice in 2017 and 2018, to attend an annual Islamic conference in Tehran. At both conferences, there were discussions on the Islamic Revolution in Iran’s achievements. Some of the imams’ language revealed a deep sense of victory, particularly those from Iraq. “Now we are in four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Sanaa, and Beirut,” they said.

I reminded them of Henry Kissinger’s theory of “dual containment”. Let Iraq and Iran fight, let one of them end in defeat, and then attack the weakened winner. It sounded like a vintage Machiavellian recipe. Yet, it is still a part of the United States’ strategic foreign policy approach.

Iran is now very much economically weakened by years of boycotts, blockades, costly wars, and dwindling oil reserves. The Iranian people have put up with a great deal of pain and suffering. Both internal and external opposition have been emboldened by such state of affairs 

Jordan has shown itself to be the boldest country when it comes to mending fences with Iran. His Majesty King Abdullah’s statement two weeks ago involving the restoration of the Maqamat (citadel), of Prophet Muhammad’s cousin invited a huge response. Most Jordanians understood the King’s statement as a message to Iran that Jordan is willing to allow religious tourists to visit the grave of the prophet’s cousin and Ali bin Abi Talab’s brother, Jaafer; a place highly coveted by Shiite Muslims and Sunnis.    

The second message sent by the King was a cable of congratulations to the new Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi. Both moves go beyond diplomatic tact and decorum.

Additionally, the tripartite of Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan is crucial for all three sides. Iran needs to show some flexibility in its objections to major projects leading into and out of Iraq, such as the oil pipeline from Basra to Aqaba and the Sinai. A gesture of goodwill from Iran would deserve a reciprocal gesture.

Iran should follow a similar route in redrawing its relations with Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Yemen. Whatever Iran gains from its current way of doing things; their methods are not sustainable and continued foreign ventures will only be maintained at the expense of the Iranian people’s well-being.

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