A non-sectarian project is needed to counter Iran

A non-sectarian project is needed to counter Iran
Comment: We need a united non-sectarian Arab project to counter Iran's expansionist project and any other hegemonic project in our region, writes Hasan Shahin.
4 min read
05 Aug, 2015
The nuclear agreement was celebrated by people across Iran [AFP]
Negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme have ended with Iran's reintegration into the international community after 35 years of sanctions.

This result was expected when talks started between Iran and the P5+1 nations - China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, plus Germany - eight years ago.

The talks would not have taken place if world powers had not agreed to deal with Iran in its current form. They could have insisted on regime change as a prerequisite for the lifting of sanctions, however they did try to make structural changes to the Iranian regime.

The talks would also not have been possible if Iran had not agreed to play by the rules of the international game in a manner that achieves its interests but does not cross the regional interests of major powers.

From the beginning, the Iranian nuclear programme was not the issue.

Iran could have survived and thrived without a nuclear programme just like any other country in its income bracket.

It could have imported ready made nuclear reactors if it was really concerned about alternative energy sources.
     Elbaradei reportedly told Mubarak that an agreement was on its way, regardless of how long it takes.

The West could have relied on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection procedures, which are very sufficient, if there was a real fear of Iran possessing a nuclear weapon.

The Iranian nuclear programme was merely the battlefield chosen by the relevant parties to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran, which is what took place.

Reaching an agreement was only a matter of time, a belief expressed by former head of the IAEA, Mohamed Elbaradei, to then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak the night before talks began in Vienna.

Elbaradei reportedly told Mubarak that an agreement was on its way, regardless of how long it takes.

He said it would be in the best interest of Arabs to be present on the table so that an agreement does not take place in their absence or against their interests.

Many Arab states, however, seemed baffled and consumed at the agreement as if it had taken them by surprise.

Their media outlets reacted with the same level of confusion and attacked the nuclear deal, accusing the West of sacrificing Arab interests on the negotiating table, as if conceding that their states are under direct or indirect Western patronage.

However, these media outlets also belittled Iran's achievement in the negotiations and accused the country of selling out to make miniscule gains, a contradiction that reflects the level of confusion in some Arab states.

Despite the US administration's attempts to reassure its Arab allies, it did so with arrogance and a degree of condescension.

President Barak Obama, for example, warned Gulf countries their biggest threat was internal and not Iran.

Secretary of State John Kerry recently compared Arab Gulf countries spending of a combined total of $130 billion a year on arms, to Iran that only spends $15 billion each year on the military. He slyly wondered why that has not reflected in the balance of power on the ground.

Many current and former officials in some Arab countries have now raised their voices to call for an Arab alliance against the Iranian regional project.

     The call to counter the Iranian project is understandable and justifiable.

Arab press connected to some Arab regimes has also dedicated a considerable amount of media space to discuss the threat represented by Iran's expansionist policies.

The call to counter the Iranian project is understandable and justifiable, as the Iranian project has contributed to the disintegration of Arab societies by increasing sectarianism among Arab Shias.

Some Arab countries, however, have been implementing and insisting on a sectarian project over the past years, which continues to fragment our societies to the same extent.

What is clearly needed is a united non-sectarian Arab project to counter Iran’s expansionist project and any other hegemonic project in our region, chiefly western hegemony.

We need an Arab project that includes Sunnis and Shias, Muslims and Christians in addition to other religious and ethnic minorities.

We need a project that revives Arab national pride while at the same time assures minorities that their religious and cultural rights are protected.

We need an Arab project for every Arab, regardless of their religious affiliations.

However, what we have at present is a sectarian project that does not represent any Arab aspiring to national independence and the building of modern Arab scocieties.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.