It is truly worrying when some Middle East observers begin aligning themselves with Iran’s newfound leverage in the Arab region.
Especially when this alignment is solely based on the premises that the nuclear deal has managed to anger Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that it has resulted in a supposedly impending visit to Tehran by Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader, Mahmoud Abbas.
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While it is true that there is a history of Iranian support of the “Palestinian resistance”, the reality is that any prior support of Palestinian factions has been cancelled out by Iran’s explicit and unapologetic assistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in torturing and killing its own people, including a crippling siege on Palestinians in Yarmouk Camp for over a year and the dozens of Palestinians who have been tortured to death in Syrian regime prisons.
On August 17, Daoud Kuttab wrote, “A look at the Syrian, Yemeni and Palestinian conflicts all point to the fact that the agreement has been playing a positive, rather than a negative, role”.
He goes on to argue that Iran brokered a two-day ceasefire in Syria between the city of Zabadani and 2 villages on August 12, and that the Iran-Houthi alliance in Yemen is a figment of the international community’s imagination. Furthermore, he argues that Abbas’ future visit to Tehran is a shining beacon of Iran as a force of moderation and peace in the Arab world.
Before even beginning to address the larger argument, it is important to note the factual misuse of the so-called evidence provided by Kuttab.
The Syria ceasefire did not make any difference in the outcome of the people’s revolution – both the citizens of Zabadani and Ahrar al-Sham, the opposition faction with which Iran negotiated the ceasefire, quickly decried the conditions set by Iran for the ceasefire to continue.
Furthermore, the regime’s barrel bomb attacks have significantly increased in the month of July, as documented by rights groups. The deal between Iran and the United Nations P5+1 was signed July 14, and since then, violence by the Syrian regime against its own people has not abated.
In fact, during the last week alone, the regime has pounded both Zabadani and Douma even further, killing over 100 civilians, including women and children, in a single attack on a Douma marketplace August 16.
It is also very important to mention that after the deal was signed, Assad congratulated Iran and said in a letter to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, “We are confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran will support, with greater drive, just causes of nations and work for peace and stability in the region and the world”.
These words are a clear indicator of the kind of support Assad expects to continue to receive from Iran now that even more of its assets have been freed.
Yemen and Palestine
In Yemen, while there have been gains for forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.
About 80 percent of Yemen’s population is now in need of humanitarian assistance, and the UN has classified it as the highest level of humanitarian emergency possible.
Iran has yet to visibly change its documented support to the Houthis, and there have been no formal announcements by the pro-Hadi side that they have seen a difference in Iran’s tactics in the country.
If recent events linked to Syria, Yemen and Palestine are any indicator, Iran plans to continue using non-peaceful means in maintaining and expanding its influence in the Arab world.
Perhaps most painfully, Ali Khamenei recently tweeted on the Yemeni humanitarian disaster without addressing Iran’s negative role in the crisis.
Last but not least, Kuttab’s argument that this nuclear deal is somehow beneficial to the Palestinian issue is shaky at best.
Iranian officials have gone so far as to even deny that Abbas has been issued an invitation to Tehran. However, even if this visit materialises, Kuttab conveniently fails to mention that other Palestinian factions will gain nothing from this deal – in fact, quite the opposite is true.
With Israel already a major oppressive force in the Arab world, Iran’s growing influence has made it another major player, with a potential to turn this growth in influence into some tacit agreement between the two countries, one which will be paid for at the expense of the Palestinian resistance as a whole.
Hamas cut off ties with the Assad regime in the early days of the Syrian revolution, shaking their ties with Tehran by doing so, and that relationship still has not returned to prior levels.
And while Hamas has not issued a formal statement regarding the deal, Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, has said in recent months, both during television interviews and on his Twitter account, that this deal with Iran will likely affect Iran’s support for the Palestinian cause.
In a series of Arabic tweets on the issue, Marzouk indicated that Iran would distance itself from appearing to support terrorism, particularly given that Iran had sold itself to the United States as a partner in fighting terrorism in the region.
Not necessarily peace
As Kuttab writes, the Iran deal “may have avoided a war with the US”, but the reality is that it is far from creating a more “peaceful Iran” – whether domestically, regionally or internationally.
Iran has a track record in the Arab world, and thus far, it has been a bloody one.
It is hard to imagine that this will change now that Iran has been handed even more leverage in the region, and if recent events linked to Syria, Yemen and Palestine are any indicator, Iran plans to continue using non-peaceful means in maintaining and expanding its influence in the Arab world.
Most importantly, the nuclear deal has a much a greater implication than the financial boost it will give Iran: rather than encouraging it to opt for peaceful resolutions in the Arab world, the deal has legitimised Iran’s regional activities under the guise of avoiding war with the US.
Malak Chabkoun is a researcher at the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies in Doha, specialising in the Syrian issue, with a concentration on civil society, public administration and institutional development.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.