Home Opinions Iran’s doublespeak on peace and security/Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

Iran’s doublespeak on peace and security/Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is a columnist for Arab News.
According to the Arms Control Association, a disarmament group, the Syrian regime and its allies have carried out dozens of chemical attacks since December 2012, including several in 2018, killing and injuring thousands of innocent civilians. In the most recent attack on Saturday night in Douma, the main city in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, at least 70 people died, most of them women and children.
Adopting a no-holds barred approach to its fight against the opposition, the regime and its supporters have used almost every conceivable weapon to defeat the opposition, including chemical weapons.
The Assad regime could not have survived, let alone used such brutal methods, without Iran’s massive military and financial support. Iranian supplied and trained militias, including Hezbollah and other sectarian militias brought to Syria by Iran, serve as the shock troops of the Syrian regime in its fight to dislodge rebels from areas they control.
For Iran’s policy makers, it appears, this is business as usual. International norms and rules of war are merely ruses invented by the West.  For that reason, they have no respect for international prohibitions on the use of chemical weapons or indiscriminate ballistic missiles. Nor do they have a principled position on terrorism when it is committed by their allies and proxies throughout the region. In their view, protection of civilians should be sacrificed for military or political advantage.
Whether it is chemical weapons in Syria, ballistic missiles in Yemen, or indiscriminate attacks in urban areas, Iran’s leaders have no qualms about dropping them on the heads of innocent civilians if that leads to a military victory or scores propaganda points.
The persistent use of chemical weapons and ballistic missiles by Iran’s allies — there have been hundreds of them since 2012 — speaks volumes about Iran’s real intentions in the region. So do the activities of terrorist groups trained, funded and supplied by Iran. These actions speak louder than the carefully scripted speeches and Op-Ed essays of Iran’s diplomats, directed at Western audiences. Other Iranian politicians and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leaders are usually all brass knuckles. Chest-thumping and bellicose, those leaders do not hide their delusional ambitions to control the region, by whatever means necessary.

In a recent piece by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, he waxed poetic about peace and security, but failed to say what Iran was ready to offer to achieve that, or to acknowledge Iran’s role in the region’s mayhem.

One would be justified in thinking that Iran cynically engages in doublespeak, when you see the breathtaking contrast between Iran’s Western-orientated rhetoric and its actions in the region. More charitable observers would suggest that Zarif has no role whatsoever in Iran’s regional policy, and therefore should not be faulted for its mistakes. If that is the case, why should we listen to what he says?
Zarif has made no direct reference to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s proposals, sent via Kuwait in late 2016, in response to a letter by President Hassan Rouhani suggesting that Iran was interested in opening a new page with its neighbors.
Because of the sharp contrast between what Iran says and what it does, and because previous reconciliation attempts had failed, the GCC proposed that the two sides commit to three basic principles of international law and practice as a basis for mutual understanding.
First, they should commit publicly and clearly to the UN Charter’s provisions on state sovereignty: Inviolability of national borders, and respect for political independence and the territorial integrity of states.
Second, they should commit to refrain from inciting or exploiting sectarian differences.
Third, they should respect each other’s political systems and refrain from interfering or trying to export their own to their neighbors.
These three principles are self-evident, and in fact axiomatic in international relations, and should not be difficult to accept and embrace publicly. Despite that, Iran has yet to accept them or respond positively to the GCC letter.
If Iran is serious about its desire for dialogue, it has to commit, in words and deeds, to international rules of state behavior. That commitment should start with the unequivocal condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, such as in the Douma attack on Saturday, and ballistic missiles attacks on Saudi Arabia by Iran’s allies. Iran should also work to narrow the gap between its reconciliatory PR in Western media and its real leaders’ belligerent pronouncements addressed to the region. That huge gap in Iran’s doublespeak only heightens the already grave doubts about how real and sincere is its desire to live in peace and harmony with its neighbors.
  • Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is a columnist for Arab News. Email: aluwaisheg@gmail.com. Twitter: @abuhamad1