What Does Iran really want?
Regardless where you live, your religion or whether you’re leaning towards a Western point of view or the Iranian one, the answer to that question holds the key to understanding a conflict that has been brewing for the past 3 decades and seems on the brink of breaking out.
Demonizing the West
The problem is that it is hard to pinpoint who speaks for what in Iran. Legally and traditionally, it is the wish and word of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Electorally, President Hassan Rouhani and his ministers, namely his foreign minister Javad Zarif speak for the current government. Practically, you have the silent rule of the IRGC. And then, there are the endless members of parliament and law makers, generals and commanders, mullahs and activists who hold different visions.
Khamenei has given his support to Rouhani but his animosity towards the West is always evident: In a speech this month, he accused the West is spreading fear of Islam and fostering sectarian conflict as part of a conspiracy to suppress the Muslim world. Khamenei, who more than anyone understands how to foster conflicts, summed it up by calling for the “Jihad to continue until America is no more”
Rallying the South
Another peek into the Iranian mindset was given by Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was recently quoted as saying that “In today’s world, there is a growing need for cooperation among the South countries“.
Zarif’s “South countries” probably refer to the 120 strong members of the “Non-Aligned Movement” (NAM) that include all of the African states as well as most of the Asian and South American states. And since Rouhani is the secretary general of NAM until August 2015, the stage for pitting “South” against “West” is optimally set.
It’s no surprise then that NAM is supportive of Iran in its efforts to ink a nuclear deal: “The choices and decisions of all countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, concerning the peaceful application of nuclear energy and fuel cycle policies must be respected”
Divide and Conquer
Iran portrays itself as the country that will free the world of the West’s power. The easiest way to do so is to sow the seeds of discontent against the West (specifically the US) in the hope of rallying enough support for Khamenei’s vision of a benevolent “century of Islam” as opposed to the “evil hegemony of the West”.
The fact that this cry to battle emanates from a regime which is constantly embroiled in conflicts in the area (Syria, Kuwait, Pakistan, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia etc…) should make the “Southern” countries suspiciousof Tehran’s motives.