Iran's Hollow Victory

(Foreign Affairs) Karim Sadjadpour - Since 1979, Iran has sought to expel the U.S. from the Middle East, replace Israel with Palestine, and remake the region in its image. Tehran has not achieved any of its ambitions, but it is feeling emboldened by its recent successes. Iran has established primacy in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, four failed or failing states. Iran's success is as attributable to opportunism as it is to resolve. The Lebanese civil war, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the Arab uprisings all created power vacuums that Iran filled with its network of foreign militias. The story is more about Arab weakness than Iranian strength. However, Iran has neglected the well-being of its people and made itself poorer and less secure. Moreover, Iran will continue to bleed national resources to subsidize regional militias and external conflicts, deepening the public's frustration and necessitating ever-greater repression. The U.S. retains 45,000-65,000 troops in the Persian Gulf. Israel is a global technological hub more integrated into the Arab world than ever before. And the model most Arabs aspire to is the socially liberal, globally integrated, and economically prosperous UAE, not Khomeinist Iran. Opinion polls show that nearly 2/3 of young Arabs view Iran as an adversary, a sizable majority of Arabs of all ages want Iran to withdraw from regional conflicts, and more than half of Arab Shiites hold an "unfavorable" view of Iran. Arabs who chafed under centuries of Turkish and Western hegemony will not countenance Iranian influence easily. The writer is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

2022-04-21 00:00:00

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