How they see us: Uniting the Middle East against Iran
Iranians have chosen peace, said The Statesman (India) in an editorial. The landslide re-election of the country’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani over a hard-line rival last week was “a sweeping endorsement for efforts to end Iran’s international isolation and bring about greater freedoms at home.” Turnout was high, with more than 70 percent of Iran’s 56 million voters heading to the polls, and Rouhani’s allies won up and down the ballot. Reformers swept the Tehran city council elections and took control of other major municipalities, amplifying Rouhani’s victory. The president, whose main firstterm achievement was the signing of an international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of Western sanctions, declared that the result vindicated his attempts to open Iran up to the world. “You said no to those who wanted us to return to the past,” Rouhani told cheering followers in his victory speech. Yet his reformist project already looks likely to crash into a major roadblock: While Shiite Iranians were choosing outreach and reform, U.S. President Donald Trump was in Saudi Arabia urging the Sunni world to unite against Tehran.
In fact, the U.S. is openly arming our main regional foe, Saudi Arabia, said Iran Daily (Iran). In Riyadh this week, President Trump claimed, preposterously, that Iran was a leading exporter of terrorism. “‘Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace,” he said, “all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it.” To that end, he signed a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis and supported the creation of what amounts to a Sunni Arab military alliance aimed at Iran. In reality, as we all know, Saudi Arabia’s “radical ideology of Wahhabism” is the underpinning of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups, including al Qaida and ISIS. In schools run by ISIS, they even use official Saudi textbooks. Yet Iran is supposed to be the terrorist threat?
If Trump really wanted to stop terrorism, he should have asked his Saudi hosts about 9/11, said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Al Araby Al-Jadeed (U.K.). As a candidate, Trump pointed out that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, and he hinted that they might have had support from the kingdom’s royal family. Why didn’t he talk to the Saudis about “ways to prevent terrorists and takfiris [extremists] from continuing to fuel the fire in the region and repeating the likes of the September 11 incident”? Surely because demonizing Iran is good business for U.S. arms manufacturers, said the Daily Times (Pakistan). And the more other countries in the region feel threatened by Iran, the more American arms they will buy. Those weapons will surely be used by the Saudi-led coalition that is now bombarding and battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and indiscriminately killing civilians. The real loser in this deal isn’t Iran, it’s the millions of Yemeni children “who have spent the past two years living in famine and conflict” and who will soon be pounded with new American bombs. ■