Iran should look to UAE as model

The United Arab Emirates has plenty of goodwill and soft power at its disposal to calm tensions between the United States and Iran, thanks to its historical, strategic and cultural ties with both countries. A little nudge toward talks between the two arch-foes could go a long way in restoring what is broken in the Arabian Gulf region and the wider Middle East. But how to open channels for talks is the question.

Pulling back from the brink of war is one thing, staying back for discussions and negotiations is another issue. Trouble is, Iran continues to wage (a losing battle) despite economic woes for the sake of what it calls a resistance economy built on conflict and confrontation. The two have fought several proxy wars in the region for four decades.

Sectarianism stoked by Iran has spread and militias backed by Tehran have inflicted much damage in countries like Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. What was once a limited, stand-offish conflict now threatens to turn deadly following the U.S. assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Wednesday’s Iranian missile attack on Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops. In this scenario, it is important for both sides to take a step back and carefully consider the dangers that a full-blown conflict could cause in the region.

Is such a war worth it for the people who inhabit the region? The challenges to dialogue are many, the path is strewn with thorns, but engagement comes from persistence. Forty years after the Iranian Revolution during which a theocracy took charge in Tehran, a new ruling elite was created. Sectarianism was written all over it as the Iranian military and the clergy got into a cozy arrangement to share power at the expense of peace with its neighbors. In their bid to export the revolution, the regime in Tehran managed to destabilize and polarize the region. Iran always had an eye on Iraq even before the ouster and death of Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces.

It played on divisions and created a resistance militia to the U.S. occupation using sectarian tools at its command. Soleimani was the man behind Iran’s sectarian plots in the region and Iran has been shown its limitations. The regime should make a new start and break free from the revolutionary mindset that has done it great disservice and made it a pariah nation. Perhaps it should simply look to the UAE, a model nation, one that looks to the future. Iran, on the other hand, is bogged down by the past, and a revolution that didn’t travel far.

* Guest editorial from the Khaleej Times in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


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