Yesterday’s enemies are today’s friends. International relations keep changing in view of developments in ground realities. France and England prolonged war for 100 years, but they fought cheek by jowl against Hitler in the Second World War from 1939 to 1945. Such instances are innumerable elsewhere in World history.

The focus of this query is on the relations of Iran and the Arab World.    How disturbing has been the recent confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Yemeni Zaydis, during which attempts have been made to involve the neighbouring Muslim Countries?! Hasn’t any soul learnt any lesson from the fall of Ottoman Empire? Can’t one see the windows of opportunity opening all around? Just imagine how significant it is that Iran has once again joined the comity of nations. Study the terms of June 16, 2015 Agreement and envisage the dawn of peace and end of violence from the Gulf and neighbouring states; or try to enumerate the benefits which the whole region, starting from China through the series of major Muslim countries of the region up to Africa and Europe, because of Pak-China Economic Corridor with its deep-sea port at Gawadar. We must try to broaden the narrow myopic vision and to identify the real enemy, which is not Iran.

There is a long history of diverse opinions, traditions and beliefs in the region. The Iran-Iraq war left grim and dire consequences for both countries. With the fall of Raza Shah Pehlavi, a different Iran came into being. Muhammad Hasnain Haikal comprehensively reports that “Khameni happens to have seen within his life-time the Islamic content of his revolution lose its glitter to nationalism.” Then, in 1970, some tribes in Yemen, which were attracted by Marxist- Leninist approach, organized a liberation front, but they were, however, defeated in 1975. The remnants are still there and they pose a deep contradiction among the masses. Parallel to this, a portion of tribal societies of the rest of the Gulf were influenced by modernization, urbanization, availability of higher education and communication facilities. Yet, contrary to the above, this class is interested in democratic values. As for Saudia Arabia, the country is also a bundle of contradictions. As desert and oasis co-exist and present contrasting scenes, so are there simultaneously puritanical, patriarchal, frugal, austere, modern and traditional tendencies.   

However, it is not difficult to identify the enemies. They are two: one is within and the other is without. Both of them have inflicted irreparable loss to human life. Perhaps the monster of irrationality within is more dangerous than the physical monster outside as it can be gauged, wrestled with and defeated by firm faith, unshakable unity, strict discipline, all encompassing vision, strong determination, unconquerable will, dependable confidence, flawless strategy and intelligent decisions.

The enemy which is without is one who wants to snatch freedom; or doesn’t want to see one surviving and progressing. Terrorism is the enemy of mankind. It has appeared in various forms. It keeps on changing its face without changing its motives and actions. At present, the terrorist group Al-Qaeda operates in Arabian Peninsula, Yemen and Iraq under the name of IS (Islamic State); Al-Shabab in Somalia; Caucasus Emirates in Chechnya; Jabahat Nusra in Syria; Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, Ansara al Sharia in Libya; Ansar Bait Al Maqdis in Egypt; Boko-Haram in Nigeria, Islamic Movement in Uzbekistan; Jemaah Islamiya in Indonesia; Jundallah in Iran; Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa in Mali, Niger, Algeria; Pakistan Taliban in Pakistan. In the presence of such huge terrorist activities, the obsession of the world is a natural reaction. Also, it is a matter of great concern and worry that out of 19 hijackers who attacked World Trade Center and Pentagon on 19/11, the 12 belonged to Asir Province. The most recent blast in a mosque on August 6, 2015 which killed 19 persons happened in the province of Asir, near the Saudi Arabian border with Yemen.

There is open sectarian rivalry of Wahabi Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, on one hand, while, on the other hand, are civil wars in Syria and Iraq. The balance of power has been disturbed so much that Sunnis are in minority against Shiite majority on account of the presence of US forces in Iraq. A general perception which has developed is that Iran intends to dominate Sunni states of Jordan, Syria and Iraq as the Shiite Hezbollah has been sponsored by Iran. This perception was further strengthened in March 2011, when Saudi Arabia had to send 1200 troops across the Causeway into Bahrain to join the Sunni minority led by King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa to crush the Shiite protesters.

It is absolutely pertinent to understand that the terrorist who intends to profess and identify nationalism with the brand of Islam which he imagines as  the sole righteous religion commits an ideological and intellectual error. Making one’s own model of Islam as the basis of nationalism is a narrow and chauvinistic stance which is neither good for world security nor the interpretation of real Islam -because Islam discourages violence.

Borrowing openly from Karl Marx’s discussion about ‘rental states’, it is evident that these states are based on rented capital which is derived from property and in case of the Middle East, oil. The ruling family of the king or Sultan in connivance with the respective bureaucratic class generates wealth through export and thus amasses huge amounts out of which a portion is distributed among the people. On one hand, the people are not involved in economic activity to generate capital nor, on the other hand, it liberates itself from depending upon government subsidies. Obviously, such traditional societies could survive as long as oil is available for export on foreign exchange. Rest is silence galore!

It is, therefore, suggested, firstly, that to achieve healthy peaceful relationship, Iran and the countries of the Arab World, which have enormous geographical significance and proximity to marine resources, must develop their manpower as Norwegian, or Swedes, or Dutch have done in modern times.

Secondly, that without finding out the sources of funding and weapons acquisition of the terrorists, no peace can be achieved. Without identifying sources of funding for terrorism, it is not to muzzle terrorist groups financially. Besides, the sources of weaponry for the terrorists also need to be made public knowledge.

Thirdly, study of diplomatic relations between the countries of the world provides enormous guidance which confronts mankind today. If one is unable to think of brilliant strokes of diplomacy, at least one can learn from others. What an excellent diplomatic move is the recent alliance of July 27, 2015 between the US and Turkey to declare Syrian zone free of IS! Iran and countries of the Arab world must join hands and resources to eliminate terrorism from the region. Iranian and Arab alliance against ISIS is the beginning of a brave new world!

The writer is an educationist based in Lahore.