Rouhani and the Arab Disinterest

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Sun 21 May / May 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

The last Iranian presidential election, just a few days ago, received little to no Arab media attention, let alone political.

There is an encompassing disregard of the political situation in Iran.

The ballot box seems to have re-elected Hassan Rouhani as president, for the second time, as opposed to his rival, Ibrahim Raisi, who has the support of the conservative current and the obvious, outspoken support of the Irani Shiite Clergy, the Grand Ayatullah.

Indifference is the main Arab sentiment in regards to who makes President of Iran.

Either way, there is very little any Iranian president can do to change enacted policy.

Notably, Iranian policies are made by more important, influential institutions, such as the clergy, or the Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, and the body of the Revolutionary Guard.

More so, this is perhaps reinforced by the fact that President Rouhani himself has not changed anything in regards to Iran's foreign policies, over the past four years.

Be it in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen, Iran’s approach has not changed a bit.

While that may be sufficiently truly, there are more important factors in play.

Besides apathy, Arabs have no other option but to engage in an open, extended confrontation with Iran.

Arab politicians, however, seem to be uninterested in an escalation with Iran, so long as the outcome is known.

Since the other option remains closed, the official Arab system and media seem to be indifferent to the outcomes of the Iranian elections.

Partnership with the hard-line, conservative Iranian current, given their obsession with the sectarian aspects of the struggle, is extremely difficult.

Especially since this particular pole in Iran ties every aspect of their nation state interests to the Shiite component of the geo-political struggle, addressing it all as a strategic struggle with the Sunnis.

Betting on the reformist movement, on the other hand, on the possibility that Iran may somehow, suddenly, open up to dialogue under a more “moderate” leadership seems equally farfetched.

There is no indication, whatsoever, that openness with the Arab, Sunni part of the region, is on the new leadership’s agendas.

Meanwhile, dialogue with the political elite, the civil society, the intellectual community, or media in Iran doesn’t seem to be on our agendas either.

This is despite the fact, also, that reformist, Iranian literature has, for years, carried an extensive reproach to the established, official Iranian foreign policy.

Not to mention calls for freedom, democracy, openness, and other progressive demands made clear in the reformist rhetoric and tone, still, the Arab institution seems unmoved and unengaged by these indicative premises for a more open and moderate Iran!

That said, no one believes the reformists in Iran are by any means driven by an aspiration for peace or any serious intention to shore up ties with the Arab, Sunni component of the region.

In the very least, no one actually thinks Rouhani, or any Iranian president for that matter, has within their authorities the capacity and ability to reshape Iranian policies.

To begin with, there are countless restraints which, needless to say, constrain the movements of any president, in any country, generally speaking, both domestically and externally.

Second, there are national, Iranian interests, governing the president, deeply coupled with the Shiite, regional factor, which has become indispensable to foreign Iranian policy-making.

On another level, there are other parties in the region with the power and capacity to offer the Iranians a more convincing option.

There is a combination of different factors, conditions, and interdependent dynamics which are integral to the success of any open dialogue with the Arab side.

Not even the top leaders of the Iranian reformist current, Mohammad Khatimi, or even Hussein Mir Mousawi, who is still under house arrest since the 2009 presidential elections, have the strength to change the Irani regional approach.

Without doubt, these recent elections are proof that the reformist movement is still strong, solid, and that it remains the first choice for the Iranian people, contrary to US propaganda.

It is possible though, that US President Donald Trump’s tone may empower the conservative current, whose failure to propagate their candidate is reflective of the Iranian people’s conscious choice to open up to the world.

Evidently, the Iranian populace has had with the conservatives and their firm grip on policy-making.

More so, another thing reinforces this conclusion, which is the fact that the municipal elections in Iran have also brought countless victories for the Reformists, especially in Tehran, delivering a staggering slap to the conservatives.

In any way, we need to be realistic.

What we need to do is formulate a civilised, open Arab position on our relationship with Iranian and the Arab Shiite components within our societies.

For the latter, we need to pave a horizon for them as the citizens they are; a real partnership, as opposed to the otherwise inevitability of confrontation and conflict.

As for Iran, after all, they are our neighbours. Escalating the struggle will get us nowhere.

On the contrary, it will only tear us apart.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.