The Middle East has to choose between the Iranian and Arab visions for the future

Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan, Iran. (by Adobe)

Why does Tehran not cooperate with Middle East countries to ensure the greatest possible benefit from the region's resources? Ahmad Abdel Rahman, from Egypt, explains why this might be the case.

The term "New Middle East" is used a great deal, but there can be a big difference between the Middle East as Iran wants it, and the one that exists in the Arab mind.

The events and turmoil that the Arab region has witnessed since 2011, and whose effects have almost reached all countries in the region, are an important turning point that illustrates the difference between the Arab and Iranian visions. The Gulf Arab countries have worked to follow development policies aimed at developing and building their societies, politically, socially and economically. The idea is that the economies will become diversified between energy, tourism, and culture.

For example, Saudi Arabia is a country that aims to develop resources and improve living standards and economic well-being, especially through its "Saudi Vision 2030". Its vision was confirmed by the de facto ruler, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's speech, in which he talked about the "new Middle East" that can offer the world more than oil.

After getting rid of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt also adopted a vision based on rebuilding its country internally and implementing a comprehensive economic reform programme consistent with the policy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, in contrast to these Arab visions that are based on the construction and development of the region's resources for the sake of national and regional interests is the Iranian vision of a Middle East that does not benefit from its resources for development. This is because the Iranian vision is based on dismantling the central states in the region in favour of militias and armed groups whose capabilities are increasing. They are confronting the armed forces and the government in Middle Eastern countries and this vision negatively affects regional stability and security.

Iran's lack of cooperation

Why does Iran not cooperate with other countries in the Middle East to achieve the greatest possible benefit from the region's resources, whether sea-lanes or energy or access to markets?

Before the turbulent events of 2011, Iran fought Israel through Lebanese Hezbollah. However, after 2011, when conflicts in the region erupted into sectarian wars, in addition to Iran taking a position on internal demonstrations according to sect or its interests, the influence of Iran and Hezbollah diminished.

However, since 2011, Arab and Gulf countries have adopted a reformist and constructive approach internally and regionally whereas Iran's vision is based influencing global energy and trade paths to influence international peace and security.

Iran seeks a Middle East based on armed militias, rather than on strong central states, at a time when Tehran itself is trying to protect its lands from disintegration and is combating attempts by minorities to become independent. This is similar to its policy towards the Kurds.

Iran is trying to stifle Arab interests, standing in the way of security and stability in the Red Sea, for example. In fact, Iran seeks to find a foothold in the Red Sea and influence it through the Houthis on the one hand and military cooperation with Sudan on the other hand. Indeed, Iran may seek to turn the Red Sea into an area for maritime activity for Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Therefore, does Iran want to be accepted regionally and benefit from the development of its resources. Will it remain captive to the mentality of dismantling and creating chaos in the region instead of construction and development?

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Friday, 19 April 2024