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June 01, 2006



will be interesting to follow,especially with reports of iranian oppression of minority arabs as well as other minorities. That could become a wedge issue, though it will not fall on sunni-shia divide but rather arab-persian divide. In short, Iran has an uphill battle. I think it will be seen as a "foreign" regional hegemon by many, and in the long run many would prefer the far devil (USA) from the near devil (Iran). That is why Hizbullah is so integral to Iran as it is their Arab card, take that away, and I doubt Iran will resonate with the "Street"


Interesting questions. The Iranian revolution became a source of inspiration for some Sunni Islamists too, and I have a dossier from CEDEJ somewhere titled La Revolution Iranienne dans la presse Egyptienne...an Iranian friend who visited Egypt was startled when cabbies declared her a "good Muslim!" when she announced she was Iranian (amusing given that she's a non-believer) and of course it's the political definition of what it means to be a good Muslim at play here. The Saudis were also worried about the influence of the Iranian revolution on their own Shia population, as Madawi al-Rasheed discusses in her History of Saudi Arabia.

What's really fascinating in what you have mentioned is Ahmedinejad's populist-nasserist turn and the sympathy he has evoked among (Sunni)Arabs. Though I bet there were many non-Islamists and Nasserists in the Arab world who cheered the Iranian revolution for sticking it to the Americans.


So is Iran "turning Arab" in the sense of becoming an integral part of Arab public arguments and political identity issues?

No. And you haven't evn made an argument that it is. The argument you framed is that Arabs may be turning Persian. Which I salo disagree with. I'm just observing an apparrent contradiction between your opening premise, and the points you laid out.


By the way, it's nice to see somebody else getting played by the IRI for a change, instead of just the west :D

the aardvark

Craig - you're right that there isn't an argument yet, only a question. That's the point of the preface and the conclusion of the post. I wouldn't advance an argument until I had actually collected evidence.. right now I'm just framing a set of research questions. But the question isn't about Arabs turning Persian, it's about Iran becoming an "Arab" issue for Arabs. That would be an important change in the way Iran has been treated in Arab political discourse - if indeed it's happening.

John Burgess

You might want to take a look at (CSIS's) Anthony Cordesman's book National Security in Saudi Arabia to see how the Saudis view Iran as a threat. They see it as a very big threat on numerous levels. I've reviewed the book here.


Kinda off-topic, but an Egyptian friend who went to Iran several years ago says they have several decent Arabic-language dailies. I've never tried looking, but they may be online. Mind you, a lot of papers have been closed there in recent years.


But the question isn't about Arabs turning Persian, it's about Iran becoming an "Arab" issue for Arabs

I was told just yesterday by an Arab frind of mine that she supports Iran getting nukes. Why? Because she thinks a chance to destroy Israel is worth any cost. I pointed out to her that 100 million Arabs would die in such a nuclear exchange, along with 60 million Iranians. I was taken aback by her fatalism, and said so. She said "So what? We're all going to die anyway" to which I had no reply. What do you say to somebody who isn't looking for a win/win, or even a win/lose... but rather a lose/lose. Mind boggling. And she's not even an extremist. And she's got quite a sharp mind.

Whatever happnes, it cannot be explained by countries pursuing their national interests, or even their percieved national interests. The middle east would not be in the state it's in today, if Arabs had ever been following their own self-interests.


I have noticed that Iran gets a lot of coverage in the Arab media ... I have also observed that the Al-Ahram opinion writers are almost uniformly in support of the Iranian position (in contradiction to their government, it's worth noting).

Mark R. Miner

Way off topic but, do you have an opinion about the translation of the Quran by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem published by Oxford University Press? Specifically in terms of accuracy and clarity when compared to the original Arabic text?

Philip Grant

Regarding evidence from on the ground: it is very weak, but for what it is worth one of my Arabic teachers here in Yemen, with whom I spend ten hours a week on a one on one basis, is a great admirer of Ahmadinezhad. We talk about Iran a lot, as I am a Persian speaker and was in Iran before I came to Yemen. My teacher admires him because he stands up to the US, unlike Arab leaders who are all considered to be spineless and more or less in the pay of the American government. He admires him because of his stand on Palestine. But none of this has anything to do with a sense of pan-Islamic solidarity. My teacher once declared to me that he hated Shi'ites, but made exceptions for Iran and Lebanese Hizbullah. He often mentions Iran's president in the same breath as Hugo Chavez, whom he also admires greatly for similar reasons. He has even expressed admiration for Kim Jong-Il, who is also seen as standing up to the US.

As far as Ahmadinezhad is concerned, I don't think he is making a bid simply for Arab support, but for the leadership of global Islam, in the same way that Khomeini used to do. This is also how his letter to Bush, with its numerous religious references and its wilful ignorance of the conventions of inter-state diplomacy should be understood. Let's not forget that Khomeini sent a letter to Gorbachev urging him to convert to Islam, and that this in turn was in imitation of the Prophet's letters to the Roman and Persian emperors. Ahmadinezhad, with his own letter, and with his various "outrageous" statements about Israel, is staking a claim for the Islamic Republic's leadership of the umma, knowing full well that he is the only head of state of an Islamic majority country that is prepared to make comments of this ilk, and that there are millions of Arabs, Pakistanis and so on who are also only too aware that their own leaders will never voice the kind of opinions that are probably held by the majority of their people.

My guess is that this attempt, just like Khomeini's, is doomed to failure. Belligerent rhetoric about Palestine will be appreciated, but the fact is that the field for leadership of the umma is already too crowded, the umma too fragmented, and Ahmadinezhad and Iran simply too Shi'ite and Iranian for him to succeed.


hey i thought of this post when i saw this page of the mahjoob cartoon archive.

check out the 2006-06-02 cartoon and look at what category the jordanian cartoonist puts the comic in.

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