From Iran with Love

Posted in Iran | 10-Jan-09 | Author: Manuela Paraipan

Manuela Paraipan is WSN Correspondent "Broader Middle East".

Hamas has not started the war to liberate either Jerusalem or the Palestinian lands. This round of the conflict, as others before it, is bigger than Hamas and the goal it so passionately pursues, that of eliminating Israel.

The battle is part of the intra-regional broader conflict linked with what appears to be a perpetual, often tense competition between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, their respective relationship with Syria and the struggle to contain Iran's rising regional role.

Although highly criticized, Egypt did not back away from its decisions regarding Hamas and the fact that there should be one political leadership recognized by the whole international community, for all Palestinians.

Since Turkey entered the scene to mediate the long-term dispute between the Western world and Syria on the one hand and Israel and Syria on the other, and with Iran's interference in Levant, Egypt saw its role as a stable, powerful Sunni state and a trusted negotiator being under attack. This is not the time for Egypt to look unsure and vulnerable.

In light of this perspective, there are at least two important questions that must be addressed:

1) Why has Hizballah not opened a second front?

For years, the leadership of Hizballah has been telling their fellow Lebanese and the whole world that their ultimate goal is to liberate the Palestinian lands. With Hamas ending the truce and Israel imposing the siege with the objective of taking away the hegemony from Hamas, this would have been a golden opportunity for Hizballah to engage Israel and make it fight on two fronts simultaneously. However, Hizballah burned some bridges with the May 7 events, when in a matter of hours it took over large parts of Beirut in a well-executed show of force. Furthermore, this is an election year, and Hizballah is less inclined to bring yet another divine victory that translates into Lebanon's destruction and their loss of votes. Nonetheless, Hizballah may allow another group to use its territory and attack Israel. The consequences could be dire for Lebanon.

When Sheikh Nasrallah incited the Egyptians to open the Rafah crossing with their bodies, if necessary, his message was intended less to encourage Hamas and more to warn Mubarak's regime. Mind you, isn't Sheikh Nasrallah himself threatening Egypt? The Sheikh spoke the words but the message came from Tehran.

2) Why did the Muslim Brotherhood not grab the chance to go after Mubarak's regime?

Six months ago when I asked Dr. Essam Erian, head of the Muslim Brotherhood political bureau that should the Brotherhood one day come to power would it cooperate with Israel as a Jewish state, he said: "This decision is a national one, it´s not for a party to decide. We believe that our people know the real aim of Israel as a state, and our army knows that the danger comes from the East. After the war and the treaty, the existence of the Palestinian problem is a threat to Egypt. We hope that if the Palestinian issue comes to a peaceful end this may give the people the opportunity to discover a new future. Israel is a harmful neighbor with nuclear weapons. I think that in the Arab countries, the people continue to reject Israel as a state. They welcome Jews as individuals, and we welcomed them through our history, but to steal our land and property that belongs to others and to expel millions, this is not welcome. The Arab peoples cannot accept this. And even countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon that welcome the Palestinians in their midst insist on sending them back to their country. If the Israelis welcome it, then it would be good. But I think that if this were to happen, it would be the end of the state of Israel."

The Brotherhood is not blind to what is happening in the region. Its anti-Israel discourse took a back seat although this means to some extent it dissociates itself from Hamas´s actions. The Brotherhood organizes sit-ins and asks the government to open the Rafah crossing, but I have not heard of any appeal from the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide to the people of Egypt to open it by force. The Brotherhood knows that while there is strength in numbers, numbers are not everything. They also know, and some of them said it behind closed doors, that Hamas's maneuverings since it took over Gaza, not peacefully but by going against their own kind, have little choice other than failure.

In Egypt, there is not only the hard hand of President Mubarak's regime that the Brotherhood tries to keep a safe distance from. The military establishment, while it is not governing, is also controlling the society.

The Arab feuds are well known and not new. This is one of the main reasons why Iran managed to spread its tentacles. Whenever the Arabs are absent or not strong enough on their position, Iran is present to take over.

In a matter of days or weeks this clash will come to an end. There have already been countless diplomatic efforts to bring a solution to the Palestinian - Israeli conflict and all have failed. However, the international community together with the Palestinian and Israeli political leadership has the moral obligation to continue to seek a way out of this circle of violence.