Advertisement

Iran’s Unscrupulous Role in the Arab Spring: A March Back to Authoritarianism?

  • Shams uz Zaman
Chapter

Abstract

Iran being amongst the most distinct states can neither be considered as a true model of democracy nor autocracy. Iranians, once citizens of the Great Persian Empire ruled by monarchs, nevertheless prefer to live under democracy. The 1979 revolution brought Iranians the hope to espouse democracy which although was partially fulfilled. The popular uprisings in Middle East, termed as Arab Spring, were no different from the Iranian revolution. Massive crowds of hopeless people protesting peacefully against the dark rule of monarchs and autocrats from Tunisia to Libya were hoping to bring a change to reclaim their rights, freedom and destiny for a better future. Iranian support for the Arab Spring, especially in Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen was reflective of its own experience with the dictatorship. However, subsequently Iranian position changed dramatically once the Arab Spring reached Syria. Iranian regional ambitions of dominating the Middle East remained the primal factor in its dichotomous policy of initially supporting the cause of Arab Spring while later extending support to the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad. Iran considered Assad a key factor in exercising control over Shiite militia Hezbollah and in manipulating the political landscape of Lebanon. Iranian foreign policy regarding the Arab Spring thus doesn’t seek an inspiration from the classical Islamic principle of ‘Adal’ or justice but rather depicts of the classical realism approach. Iranian foreign policy and intervention remains decisive which successfully stalled the process of peaceful transformation through Arab Spring and paved the way for the bloody civil war in Syria. This Iranian policy remained the prominent reason in formation of the ISIS and subsequent irreversible sectarian divide in the Middle East. Therefore, Middle East is likely to become the battle ground for sectarian wars in future besides making existing state boundaries irrelevant.

References

  1. Al-Arabiya News. (2011, January 19). Tunisia On the Way to Islamic Rule. Retrieved from https://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/01/19/134172.html
  2. Ansari, A., & Tabrizi, A. B. (2016, August). The View from Tehran. In A. B. Tabrizi & R. Pantucci (Eds.), Understanding Iran’s Role in the Syrian Conflict (pp. 4–5). London: RUSI.Google Scholar
  3. Barfi, B. (2016, January 24). The Real Reason Why Iran Backs Syria. The National Interest. Retrieved from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-real-reason-why-iran-backs-syria-14999?page=show
  4. Bassam, L., & Perry, T. (2015, October 6). How Iranian General Plotted Out Syrian Assault in Moscow. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-soleimani-insigh-idUSKCN0S02BV20151006
  5. BBC News. (2011, February 27). Tunisia: Key Players. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-12214649
  6. BBC News. (2012, October 20). The Gaddafi Clan: Where Are They Now? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-19966059
  7. BBC News. (2017, March 28). Yemen Crisis: Who Is Fighting Whom? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/worldmiddleeast29319423
  8. Bedi, R. (2012, February 1). India to Buy Oil from Iran Despite Sanctions. The Irish Times. Retrieved from http://www.irishtimes.com/news/india-to-buy-oil-from-iran-despite-sanctions-1.455156
  9. Beehner, L. (2011, January 31). In Egypt, ‘Islamist’ Fears Overblown. USA Today. Retrieved from https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-02-01-column01_ST2_N.htm
  10. Chubin, S. (2012, September). Iran and the Arab Spring: Ascendency Frustrated. Gulf Research Center [GRC Gulf Papers]. 7–11Google Scholar
  11. CNN. (2009, June 16). Rival Demonstrations Fill Tehran Streets. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/06/16/iran.elections.protests/index.html
  12. Dehghan, S. K. (2012, May 28). Syrian Army Being Aided by Iranian Forces. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/may/28/syria-army-iran-forces
  13. Dorell, O. (2015, April 20). Iran Support to Yemen’s Houthis Goes Back Years. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/04/20/iran-support-for-yemen-houthis-goes-back-years/26095101/
  14. El-Baghdadi, I. (2011, February 1). Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the Vlog that Helped Spark the Revolution [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgjIgMdsEuk
  15. Fisk, R. (2012, October 24). Rached Ghannouchi Says He Doesn’t Want an Islamic State in Tunisia. Can He Prove His Critics Wrong?. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/rached-ghannouchi-says-he-doesn-t-want-an-islamic-state-in-tunisia-can-he-prove-his-critics-wrong-8225092.html
  16. Fürtig, H. (2013, November). Iran and the Arab Spring: Between Expectations and Delusions. German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIAGA) [Working Papers, No. 241], 6–7.Google Scholar
  17. Giudice, M. D. (2008, August). Persia: Ancient Soul of Iran – A Glorious Past Inspires a Conflicted Nation. National Geographic Magazine. Retrieved from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2008/08/iran-archaeology/del-giudice-text
  18. Glass, C. (2011, October 24). Hizbullah’s Part in Gaddafi’s Downfall. [London Review of Books (LRB) Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2011/10/24/charles-glass/hizbullahs-part-in-gaddafis-downfall/
  19. Heikal, M. (1981). The Return of the Ayatollah. London: Andre Deutsch Limited.Google Scholar
  20. Hilal, F. A. (2011, September). Iran and Arab Revolutions: Positions and Repercussions. Arab Centre for Research & Policy Studies – Doha Institute [Case Analysis], 4, 8.Google Scholar
  21. Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). (2011, February 1). Iran Says It Backs Egyptian Movement. Retrieved from http://en.isna.ir/news/8911-07407/Iran-says-it-backs-Egyptian-movement
  22. Jerusalem Post. (2016, April 13). Report: Gaddafi Sought Israeli Support Amid Libyan Uprising. Retrieved from http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Report-Gaddafi-sought-Israeli-support-amid-Libyan-uprising-451079
  23. John, J. (2017, June 9). Why Have the Other Gulf States Severed Ties with Qatar? The New Statesman. Retrieved from http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/observations/2017/06/why-have-other-gulf-states-severed-ties-qatar
  24. Joshi, S. (2016, August). The Views of Non-State Actors. In A. B. Tabrizi & R. Pantucci (Eds.), Understanding Iran’s Role in the Syrian Conflict (pp. 26–27). London: RUSI.Google Scholar
  25. Kashani, H. Z. (2014, March 7). Iran and the Arab Spring: Then and Now. Muftah.org. Retrieved from https://muftah.org/iran-arab-spring-now/#.WS-gw5KGPIU
  26. Katzman, K. (2017, April 6). Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies. Congressional Research Service (CRS) [R-44017], 7–9.Google Scholar
  27. Khalaji, M. (2013, September 5). U.S. Strike on Syria: Good for Iran’s President, Bad for the Hardliners. New Republic. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/114612/syria-war-irans-rouhani-would-benefit-us-intervention
  28. Kumaraswamy, P. R. (2004, April). The Indo-Iranian Ties: The Israeli Dimension. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars [Asia Program Special Report No. 120], 27–30.Google Scholar
  29. Leader Condemns Strike on Libya. (2011, March 21). Retrieved from http://english.khamenei.ir/news/1433/Leader-Condemns-Strike-on-Libya
  30. Leader Meets Government Officials. (2011, June 30). Retrieved from http://english.khamenei.ir/news/1479/Leader-Meets-Government-Officials
  31. Leader: Iran Will Not Back Down, Will Confront Threats at Right Time. (2012, February 3). Retrieved from http://english.khamenei.ir/news/1581/Leader-Iran-Will-Not-Back-Down-Will-Confront-Threats-at-Right
  32. Leader: Protest Leaders Are Responsible for Bloodshed. (2009, June 19). Retrieved from http://english.khamenei.ir/news/1155/Leader-Protest-Leaders-Are-Responsible-for-Bloodshed
  33. Lebanon Now (Arabic). (2011, February 4). The Popular Protests in Tunisia and Egypt Are Signs of an Islamic Awakening: Khamenei [Translated by Google]. Retrieved from http://www.nowlebanon.com/arabic/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=237383
  34. LeVine, M. (2012, January 25). Egypt: The Revolution that Shame Built. Aljazeera. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/2012123141738765544.html
  35. Madsen, W. (2011, April 4). Gaddaffi’s African “Mercenary” Story Is a Disinformation Ploy by the CIA. Global Security. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/gaddaffi-s-african-mercenary-story-is-a-disinformation-ploy-by-the-cia/24129
  36. Matar, H. (2014, April). How Did Hezbollah Respond to the Arab Transformations? Journal of Eurasian Affairs, 2(1), 76.Google Scholar
  37. McKernan, B. (2017, June 7). Tehran Attacks: ISIS Claims Responsibility for ‘First Major Attack on Iran’. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/News/world/middle-east/tehran-attacks-isis-suicide-bomb-iran-first-ever-terrorism-claim-responsibility-parliament-shrine-a7776631.html
  38. Moghaddam, A. A. (2016). Islamic Secularism and Question of Freedom in Iran. Middle East Critique, 25(1), 76–77.Google Scholar
  39. Mohseni, D. P. (2013, April). The Islamic Awakening: Iran’s Grand Narrative of the Arab Uprisings. Crown Center for Middle East Studies – Brandeis University, [Middle East Brief No. 71].Google Scholar
  40. Mutahhari, A. M. (1989). Islam and Iran: A Historical Study of Mutual Service [Trans. Dr. Sayyid Wahid Akhtar]. Al-Islam.org, 6(2). Retrieved from https://www.al-islam.org/printpdf/book/export/html/23072
  41. Naharnet News Desk. (2012, April 7). Iran Non-Oil Exports Surge 29% Despite Sanctions. Retrieved from http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/36034
  42. Nikou, S. N. (2011, April 5). Iran Backs Libyan Rebels, Chastise West Over Oil, Bahrain. The Iran Premier – United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved from http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2011/apr/05/iran-backs-libyan-rebels-chastises-west-over-oil-bahrain
  43. Roth, K. (2017). World Report – Syria: Events of 2016. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/syria
  44. Sadiki, L. (2011, January 19). Could Tunisian Opposition Groups Re-Ignite the Revolt? BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-12225856
  45. Sadjadpour, K., & Talebl, B. B. (2015, May). Iran in the Middle East: Leveraging Chaos. A European Think Tank for Global Action (FRIDDE and HIVOS) [Policy Brief No. 202]. 3.Google Scholar
  46. Salih, K. E. O. (2013, Spring). The Roots and Causes of the 2011 Arab Uprisings. Arab Studies Quarterly, 35(2), 193–194.Google Scholar
  47. Saul, J., Hafezi, P., & Georgy, M. (2017, March 22). Exclusive: Iran Steps Up Support for Houthis in Yemen’s War – Sources. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-iran-houthis-idUSKBN16S22R
  48. Schenker, D. (2010, February 22). Who’s Behind the Houthis?. Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Retrieved from http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/whos-behind-the-houthis
  49. Seattle Times. (2011, March 17). Iran Recalls Ambassador from Bahrain. Retrieved from http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/iran-recalls-ambassador-from-bahrain/
  50. Shakra, E. A. (2013, September 1). The Sectarian Map of Syria. Asharq Al-Awsat. Retrieved from https://english.aawsat.com/eyad-abushakra/features/the-sectarian-map-of-syria
  51. Shanahan, R. (2015, February). Iranian Foreign Policy Under Rouhani. Lowy Institute for International Policy [Analysis]. 2–4.Google Scholar
  52. Stancati, M. (2015, June 11). Iran Backs Taliban with Cash and Arms. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-backs-taliban-with-cash-and-arms-1434065528
  53. The Guardian. (2011, February 15). US Embassy Cables: Bahrain’s Relations with Iran. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/164906
  54. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). (2011, January 19). Arab and Iranian Reactions to the Tunisia Uprising [Special Dispatch No. 3521]. Retrieved from https://www.memri.org/reports/arab-and-iranian-reactions-tunisia-uprising
  55. The Toronto Star. (2011, February 4). Egypt Uprising Is an Islamic ‘Awakening’: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2011/02/04/egypt_uprising_is_an_islamic_awakening_ayatollah_ali_khamenei.html
  56. United Nations General Assembly, President of 64th Session. (2008, September 23). Iran (Islamic Republic of) H.E. Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President. Retrieved from www.un.org/ga/63/generaldebate/iran.shtml
  57. United Nations Security Council. (2011, March 17). Security Council Approves ‘No-Fly Zone’ Over Libya, Authorizing ‘All Necessary Measures’ to Protect Civilians, by Vote of 10 in Favour with 5 Abstentions [SC/10200]. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/press/en/2011/sc10200.doc.htm
  58. United States History. (n.d.). Iran-Contra Affair. Retrieved from http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1889.html
  59. Woodward, P. (2009, June 22). A Turning Point in the History of Iran. The National. Retrieved from http://www.thenational.ae/news/a-turning-point-in-the-history-of-iran
  60. World Meet US. (2011, February 13). Ahmadinejad: Egypt Revolution Reveals Hand of Mahdi. Retrieved from http://worldmeets.us/kayhan000045.shtml#axzz4iwFOdnis
  61. Zahed, S. A. (2011, October 9). Hatred of Arabs Deeply Rooted in Persians, Says Iranian Intellectual. Al-Arabiya News. Retrieved from http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/10/09/170927.html
  62. Zaman, S. U. (2012, Winter). Prospects of a Nuclear Armed Iran and Policy Options for Pakistan. IPRI Journal, XII(1), 78.Google Scholar
  63. Zaman, S. U. (2015, Winter). Rise of the Non-State Actors in Middle East: Regional Dimensions. IPRI Journal, XV(1), 60.Google Scholar
  64. Zelin, A. Y. (2014, June 1). The War Between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement. Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) [Research Notes, No. 20], 1.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shams uz Zaman
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ResearcherIslamabadPakistan

Personalised recommendations