All the brouhaha about the Iranian President’s guffaws was not about what he said but rather about his daring to say it. For, the leaders of the Islamic Republic, unlike the rest of the Middle Eastern tinpot-dictator-buffoons, mere muted eunuchs, can still bark outside the tent. Thus, Ahmadinejad could still rehash some mush without feeling the need to clear it first with the gatekeepers of this world. The important question, why, then, such a freewheeling baloney was taken literally, if not seriously, and met with such an exaggerated rapacity that borders on paranoia? Does it matter whether Ahmadinejad recognizes the Holocaust or not? And What Iran has to do with an event that took place more than seven decades ago and thousands of miles away from its borders. Does the rest of the world have the obligation to take literally whatever Europe screeds without any questioning? Was, then, the overreaction merely an emotional burst, by a powerful, upon facing some doubts to his claims? Or, rather was it more a prelude to a well-orchestrated campaign? If the answer is the latter to what and according where is the strategy? Perhaps what has been shown was only a balloon-trial to what’s coming. A tentative strategy must still be in the making and a virtual trap is in the process of being woven together these days. At the expense of speculation, it’s fair to assume that any strategy will have some of these aims to achieve: 1- Induce Iran to accept the West’s undisputed hegemony on the area. 2- Coopt more Arabs of the fact they’ve no other alternatives but to accept what the others decide for them: a life under the shadows - and the dictates- of Israel on side and Iran on the other.
In exchange for Iran’s acceptance of the West’s de facto complete control of the Middle East, some carrots will be thrown toward her. The West is ready to offer Iran some role, a conditional seat (as a junior) at the table for issues of Middle Eastern concern. Moreover some offers are of immediate benefits, as for example, the scaling back of the embargoes and the easing of Iran to integrate into the world system. Of course there’re no carrots without sticks. The stick side is to squeeze further Iran and to hem her inside its own box until it can no longer take it. History has shown embargoes, boycottage, harassment, etc. worked in the long-run. The defunct Soviet Union, China, Libya, South Africa, etc. had all buckled under the pressures brought about by the West’s crusades.
All the assumptions, so far, seem to be based on the premise Iran will be no different from many others before her. The Iranian regime will, though wishy-washy, mollify its stands when they’ll realize the package of benefits they may reap. They’ve shown some willingness to change their behavior. The mixed signals, according to some, may indicate some rationality started to seep into the regime’s inner sanctuaries and interstices. The upshot and the hoped for scenario would be Iran will seize the opportunity of the offering and reverts back to what it was during the Shah. Though this vision is not without some plausibility, it remains to be seen if current trends wouldn’t make it more difficult for Iran to become once again a puppet and a lackey of the West. Though Iran’s history, spotty in some sense, had a strong sense of identity. Independence and nationalism, rather than Faith, seem to drive its pursuits. Add to these the fact that Iran’s today is caught between a rock and hard surfaces. It perceives enemies from all sides. Thus, at this juncture, all indications point to an Iran that wants to be left to play its own game, not merely joining others’ game or assuming a subordinate role as that of a local watchdog.
Iran’s political system has more clarity and stability than any in the Middle East. While the internal policy tends toward consolidating the regime’s grip on power, its foreign policy tends thus toward achieving what are perceived to be Iranian national interests in the long-run. The regime is fully aware to what had happened to its neighbors’ regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan; to tone down its challenge the West before having realized a backup deterrent to resort to if and when was called to rise to the occasion. Thus belt-tighting and nuclearization go hand in hand in setting Iran’s policies. Hence a set of questions that need to be addressed before coming to grips of what Iran will do. In the first place, will Iran be coopted into the new/old role? Will the West’s hosannas -as singing praises of the ‘Great Persian Civilization’- be enough to induce Iran to resume a subservient role? Is Iran ready to change its course and forgo whatever objectives it’s in mind in exchange for some temporary reliefs? Is the Islamic Republic ready to slough its ‘erratic behavior,’ shed the mantle of ‘Revolution,’ and resume the behavior of a client-state, albeit of contained status which will make her closer to a banana republic than a modern state?