Has Iran's strategy succeeded in the Middle East?

Cars passing through Tohid Tunnel in Tehran with Milad Tower and Alborz Mountains in background. (Photo by Shutterstock)

An opinion poll revealed that Iran is not popular by most countries over which it exercises hegemony and is not accepted, writes Ahmad Abdel-Rahman.

Gallup poll published the results of a poll it conducted in 13 Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia or Iran. The results indicated that Iran is not very popular in the countries surveyed, with the exception of Pakistan.

The poll included Muslim-majority countries stretching from Morocco to Pakistan, and the average approval of Saudi Arabia's leadership and popularity in 2022 was much higher than that of Iran's, at 39 per cent versus 14 percent, respectively.

The results of the poll were analysed based on the Iranian quest for hegemony and influence in the Middle East.

The negative image resulting from Iranian practices did not create any opportunities for stability in these countries. While Iran has proven largely successful in strengthening its allies in neighbouring countries, Gallup data shows that Saudi Arabia maintains a relative source of support and popularity that Iran does not share.

The biggest paradox was shown in the countries in which Iran had the greatest influence and spread. The countries in which Tehran has worked hard over the past decades to expand its influence, or to create allied and friendly governments granted the Iranians low support. Iraq opposed the Iranian government by 86 per cent, Yemen by 80 per cent, and Lebanon by 73 per cent.

Despite the Iranian strategy based on exercising influence and hegemony in those countries through military, economic, political and ideological tools, the results indicate that Tehran has not gained popularity and acceptance among its people.

Indeed, this has been expressed in the political discourse of many Iranian leaders, especially of General Haider Moselhi. He boasted of Iran's presence in four Arab capitals- Damascus (in Syria), Beirut (in Lebanon), Sanaa (in Yemen) and Baghdad (in Iraq). 

However, for a country to achieve regional influence that is accepted by other countries, whether affiliated to it or to its neighbours in the region, several conditions must be met. It must establish a system from which the dependent states and the countries of the region benefit and comply. This will depend on the extent that this system provides benefits to the region such as security, facilitating exchange and economic cooperation, and the building of a system that provides public benefits.

Indeed, when the statement about Iran's presence in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq came out, the reference was to the expansion of Iran's influence. 

Based on the principles of international relations that analyse the behavior of regional powers, the dependence of a country on ideological policy means that it seeks regional hegemony by using soft power that aims to achieve its interests, and by creating a network of relations within societies in a way that suggests ideological coherence. This creates a state of acceptance among the countries that the dominant power seeks to influence. Hence, the interests of those so-called dependent countries run in conjunction with those of the powers seeking hegemony.

The forces seeking hegemony and influence could face suspicion, and sometimes hostility and rhetorical resistance from others. This is due either to historical reasons or to fear, which affects interactions within the region. For example, the member states of the regional system may accuse the state seeking hegemony of illegitimate behaviour, and a policy of besieging and isolating it will be followed. In this case, the state seeking regional hegemony is called a regional pariah, but it may also be an international pariah.

There are two factors affecting the extent to which others accept the behaviour of regional hegemony. The first is the provision by forces seeking hegemony of all forms of public goods. The second is how the dominant state exercises power and interacts with other states, including providing the resources, processes, policies, and institutions necessary to achieve specific goals, such as knowledge transfer and the hegemonic state's efforts to provide the infrastructure for regional security through the enhancement of military capabilities.

What are the reasons for the slowdown in Egypt's e...
The World Bank predicts the GCC will see slowing e...


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Saturday, 30 September 2023