The contradictory behaviour of Iran’s President Rouhani at the UN in New York reflects the paradoxes of Iranian policy in the Middle East region and the confusion of Western nations in trying to re-balance their relations with Iran in the light of new regional realities.
On one hand, we have Rouhani and British Prime Minister David Cameron, all smiles in front of the cameras in the first such high level meeting between British and Iranian leaders in living memory. Then once David Cameron’s back is turned Rouhani is interviewed, attacking the British and their allies for conducting bombing campaigns in Syria against the terrorist group ISIS – an organization that Iranian generals are supposedly leading the fight against in Iraq.
Rouhani’s public statements make it very clear that Iran would love to be the West’s number one port of call in fighting ISIS. However, because their advances have been rebuffed, Iran’s leaders are resolved to declare the entire enterprise to be illegal and illegitimate.
President Rouhani says “there is no legal basis in international law” for allied air strikes in Syria. Okay Mr. Rouhani; let’s consider some other maneuvers that may have no legal basis:
On which principles of international humanitarian law does Iran base its backing of President Assad’s genocidal campaign against the Syrian people? Billions of dollars of Iranian money has been spent on Russian weapons for the Syrian regime.
Acting on Iran’s instructions, its proxy militia Hezbollah was sent into Syria to wage war against the people of a neighbouring country. Please remind us when Iran and Hezbollah reverted to the UN to seek a sound legal basis for this carnage.
Iran-funded militias in Iraq like Asa’ib Ahl-Al-Haqq, Kata’ib Hezbollah and the Badr Corps have put far more effort into killing innocent Sunnis and depopulating their villages than they have fighting ISIS. This can only be expected, as these militias were formed to perpetrate ethnic cleansing and kill US forces in Iraq. What are your thoughts about the legal facts of Iran’s support for these illegal and groups that rival ISIS in their brutality, Mr. Rouhani?
Iran’s activity to destabilize Arabian Gulf states and incite sectarian hatred is well documented. One only needs to look at the daily output of Arabic language Iranian TV “news” channels on Bahrain to get a sense of Iran’s hostile policies. Is this in line with your empty words about improving relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states Mr. Rouhani?
If Iran is such a strict advocate of international law, what are Iranian Republican Guards doing in Yemen backing the Houthi rebels? Or for that matter, why does Iran find itself indicted for terrorist attacks in places like Bulgaria and Argentina? What is the legality of widespread weapons smuggling across Africa? And does Iran feel optimistic that the UN Security Council would have supported the legality of its failed plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States in 2011?
Iran’s confused and contradictory foreign policy makes it an impossible ally. On one hand Iran wants to be seen as the most important player in the region, who everyone has to go to order to get things done. However, this “importance” is based on a foreign policy of international terrorism and exporting violence. Is Iran “important” in Lebanon? Yes – but only because it has invested billions of dollars in undermining the Lebanese state and making the country ungovernable. The same applies in Iraq, Yemen and numerous other locations, where Iran’s importance is based on its ability to bully its neighbours.
On the other hand Iran bases its legitimacy as being the enemy of the “satanic” West. It’s leaders chant “Death to America” at the same time as they send secret messages to the Americans demanding to be respected and included in regional initiatives: “Let us attend the Syrian opposition conference or we’ll tell everyone it’s a waste of time” “Let us join your alliance or we’ll do everything in our power to undermine it”.
Despite appearances, Iranian interests in Syria and Iraq are completely opposed to the interests of the rest of the international community. Seeking to include Iran as a meaningful ally will only end in disaster as Iran seeks to use this boosted credibility to pursue its own hostile interests.