Iran’s poison pills holding the Middle East back

Iran’s poison pills holding the Middle East back

Iran’s poison pills holding the Middle East back
Members of the Iran-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militia at the outskirts of Najaf, Iraq, Sept. 24, 2016. (AFP)
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When the episode of Elon Musk potentially taking over Twitter started, the public learned of a business expression: The poison pill. The poison pill is what the Twitter management and shareholders were looking to use to avoid a takeover. In brief, it allows the shareholders and management of a company to avoid being ousted by another firm, even if they perform poorly. It basically lets existing shareholders buy more shares at a discount compared to the new investor and, hence, makes him pay a hefty price to achieve his goals. The poison pill keeps the company in the same hands, but makes it lose value.
This concept also exists in politics. Indeed, the Iranian regime has put poison pills all over the Middle East. The simple difference is that, for Iran, the poison pill is a militia. All over the Middle East and in each and every country it is involved in, the regime in Tehran has placed these poison pills. These pills have one message: We will set the country on fire if our interests are compromised. And so, it essentially made all these countries lose value, just to allow Tehran to control and extract exactly what it wants for its own interests.
I use an analogy relating to business because, with the Iranian regime, this is all it is: A trade. Forget the religious slogans and anti-Western indignation, in reality it is about pushing forward its expansionist policy with total disregard and disrespect for other countries’ populations. The militias are the poison pills that keep destroying and burning the values and core fabric of wonderful countries. In each and every place they have been able to place them, decay has followed.
This is why the nations negotiating a new nuclear deal with Iran should force the removal of these poison pills. There cannot be a successful nuclear deal while Iranian-sponsored militias destabilize an entire region. Or while the Iranian regime continues to develop missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This has to be part of the deal. It is not just about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps being kept on or removed from a list, it is about the Iranian regime changing its course and its behavior.
The justification for these poison pills is simply a lie. The regime has declared itself to be the defender of the oppressed in the Middle East. Yet, in reality, it has become the oppressor. The militias in Iraq have harmed the entire country and are responsible for the deaths of too many to recount. In Lebanon, it is the same; Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will accuse any critical voice of being a traitor and a spy. In Yemen, it is even worse. These poison pills, which claim to protect the oppressed, are in fact racist and fascist recipes.
Despite these disasters, not once have the leaders in Tehran questioned or reevaluated their role. Not for a single second have they looked backed and analyzed what their poison pill policies have achieved. In fact, they have looked on the rest of the Middle East with disdain; as if the children of Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria were mere pawns to be sacrificed; justifiable deaths for the greater good.
But what greater good? In all the countries where they have taken control, all they have done is spread hatred, doubt and hunger. And so maybe this is what the regime considers to be the greater good — bringing chaos and ruination to the region.
Nevertheless, just like in business, this is a tremendous lost opportunity, especially as the world transforms and shifts toward multipolarity. The Middle East can benefit greatly from the growing divide between East and West. This demands, as a prerequisite, peaceful and respectful relations between neighbors and an end to the interference in other countries’ domestic affairs. This demands greater maturity and transparency from the regime in Tehran. And this can only start with the removal of all poison pills in the region. This can only happen with a new strategy in Tehran — a new way to ensure better lives for the entire region.
I have little hope of this happening. But I do not think it is a mistake for regional countries to try and communicate with Tehran and discuss a transformation of relations. No one holds an absolute right and consensus is needed. Still, it would be a grave mistake for a new nuclear deal to be agreed that only encompasses technical points, such as centrifuges and the level of uranium enrichment. In the end, it is about politics and behavior, not about the nuclear deal.

In all the countries where Tehran’s militias have taken control, all they have done is spread hatred, doubt and hunger.

Khaled Abou Zahr

The nuclear problem exists because the regime in Tehran pursued the weaponization of its nuclear program while meddling and interfering in other countries’ affairs. And so any new nuclear deal will not reach any of its declared objectives unless Tehran stops its expansionist policies.
Our region cannot and will not be defined by a single confession or ethnicity looking to rule over others, whether Arab, Persian or Ottoman. We are much more than that. We are the original melting pot that made the US the great nation it is today. This diversity is our wealth. From Central Asia to the Atlantic, generosity defines us, not poison pills. The time for the Middle East to rise and experience its renaissance is now.

  • Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view