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Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran: The Middle Distance

Hussein Dakroub in Beirut and Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad:

"Instability inside Iran will minimize the state's capacity to project power in the region and beyond, a practice in which Iran has been very successful recently," said Amr Hamzawy, a Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank. . . .

Besides Iraq, Hezbollah would be the group most affected by who wins Iran's confrontation — the militant wing led by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad or the camp of reformist-minded politicians and clerics to which Mousavi belongs.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah shares with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad a deeply rooted hatred for the United States and a firm belief that years of peace talks with Israel have come to nothing and only armed struggle would restore Palestinian rights.

"Your re-election represents a great hope to all the oppressed people, holy warriors and resistance fighters," Nasrallah wrote to Ahmadinejad two days after the June 12 vote.

If the regime rides out the crisis over the election, experts say a much more ideologically entrenched Iran could emerge and pursue regional goals more forcefully, including seeking to broaden its footprint in neighboring Iraq and resisting compromises over the scope of its nuclear program.

But if it bows to demands by Mousavi for a new election — which now appears unlikely — the regime would be seen as weakened by Arab states but perhaps less of a regional rival.

Iran has in the past few years taken advantage of the waning powers of such regional heavyweights as Saudi Arabia and Egypt to gain leverage in the Middle East. Its effort was helped by a surge of anti-American sentiments among Arabs after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the war on terror waged by former U.S. President George W. Bush.

However, continuing unrest would distract Iran from regional affairs, leaving Iranian proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas unable to count on Tehran's largesse and vulnerable in the face of domestic rivals.

link: The Associated Press: Unrest could hinder Tehran's regional goals


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