For the Islamic Republic of Iran, the question of fighting off foreign intervention and “conspiracies” has been a watchword ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Iranian officials are quick to talk about an unholy trinity of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel working together to plot in one way or another against Tehran or its allies in the region.
But when sovereign states in the Middle East express their views, or announce certain policies, Iran’s various responses often take the form of naked intervention in the affairs of other countries.
The latest flare-up has emerged in the Gulf, where countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council recently announced that closer ties between member-states were on the table.
No concrete steps toward political unity were taken during Monday’s meeting of the GCC; instead, the question of closer political ties, or even unity, would be tackled at a later date.
But Tehran has responded in full force to the notion by advising Bahrain to stay away from a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia, and urging the Iranian people to turn out Friday for protests against what it says is an “American-Zionist-British” plot.
The Iranians are quick to forget that their double-edged rhetoric has found them few friends in the region. Iranian officials regularly state that they seek peace and cooperation with their neighbors, but when their neighbors express their own views, or take actions, Tehran’s response comes in the form of threats and intimidation.
The authorities in Iran also forget that they have had a role to play in growing tensions in the Gulf region.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a high-profile trip earlier this year to one of three disputed islands in the Gulf, conveniently forgetting that a member of the GCC – the United Arab Emirates – holds a very different view on who the islands belong to.
The UAE has made repeated calls to resolve the issue of the three islands, but Iran has ignored them.
Meanwhile, Iran is active in Yemen, where it supports Houthi rebels against the central authorities. Iranian officials and politicians are keen to rail against Israel and Western powers on the issue of interference in domestic affairs, but when it comes to the Gulf region alone, Tehran’s record is far from spotless.
Iran’s rhetoric and actions have real-world consequences. Instead of contributing to a decline in tensions, the current situation only means that more resources and efforts are wasted on militarization.
Instead of spending time and money on solving real problems, boosting economic performance and development, as well as other worthy causes, new problems are created, and tensions rise.
If Iran is sincere about its rhetoric of peace and cooperation, it is not going about it the right way.