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By Barry Rubin
The two Arab journalists I most respect have written of the fear in Arabic-speaking countries about Iran’s having nuclear weapons. They explain persuasively why a U.S. containment policy of reassuring Arab states and Israel against direct nuclear attack is totally inadequate.
Listen to what they’re saying as it is much more accurate in warning about the coming strategic shift in the region than what’s being written in the West.
Both Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid and Ahmad al-Jarallah are close to elements in the Saudi regime yet also maintain personal independence and support liberal reform. Rashid (often transliterated, Rashed) is a Saudi who is former editor of al-Sharq al-Awsat, probably the best Arabic newspaper, and is now director-general of the al-Arabiya network, possibly the best satellite television network. Writing in al-Sharq al-Awsat on February 21 (translated by MEMRI) he explained:
"An Iranian bomb…will not be put to military use; it will be used as a way to change the rules of the game. What we are afraid of is Iran's policy, that uses all means to force its existence [as a regional power], and nuclear weapons is only [one of these] means.” For example, if pro-Iranian militias “take over southern Iraq, no superpower will dare to use military means to stop it.”
"We fear the logic of the current regime in Tehran, which spent the country's funds on Hizbullah, Hamas, the extremist movements in Bahrain, Iraq and Yemen, and the Muslim Brotherhood, and supported every extremist in the region. The Ahmadinejad regime aspires to expansion, hegemony, and a clear takeover on the ground, and to do this he needs a nuclear umbrella to protect him from deterrence by [any] superpower.
"The Gulf states, that built giant cities and factories all along the coast, will, when Iran possesses nuclear weapons, become hostage to the caprices of Ahmadinejad and his extremist government.…”
Precisely right. Iran’s bomb will change the strategic balance, inspire revolutionary Islamist movements, lead Arab and Western states toward appeasement, and thus shift power in the region decisively toward Tehran.
Jarallah, editor of the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, has survived several assassination attempts which he attributes to Syria. He wrote on February 7:
“The entire region has become hostage to fears of [possible] rash actions by Iran that could cause nuclear catastrophes that neither Iran nor the world will be able to bear. After all, examples of such catastrophes, some of which were the result of unexpected events, are still etched in memory, and the world continues to pay for them."
He adds, "The current Iranian position is reminiscent of the stands taken by Saddam [Hussein], the Iraqi dictator who was the last regional leader who sought hegemony in the area. Clearly, the political path taken by the Tehran regime is controlled by imperialist aspirations; this inspires much fear...not only due to [Iran's] support for several extremist groups of various kinds, but also due to the nuclear issue and the real intentions that the Iranian leadership is concealing….
"Now more than ever, the entire international community must stop Iran's rashness and bring it back to the right path – particularly in light of the obvious signs of the beginning of a nuclear arms race in the region. Beyond the economic cost, this race will affect all areas of life, and will drown the region in a quagmire of chaos and [evoke] reactions that none can predict."
As an extra bonus, take a look at Fouad Ajami's piece on Afghanistan in the Wall Street Journal. It is a brilliant analysis--ok, it sounds like what I've been saying but it's still brilliant--about how as Obama shows his weakness and unreliability U.S. allies are running for cover. Isn't it funny how people who really know or live in the region understand this perfectly.
Yes, bland assurances that all will be ok because the United States will stop Iran from firing off nuclear missiles at its neighbors are very much beside the point.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.