Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

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Showing posts for "Iran"

Iran Versus Saudi Arabia: Cold War in the Middle East

by Ed Husain
Saudi security forces march during a parade in preparation for the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi security forces march during a parade in preparation for the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Three countries were on top of the agenda for the many Saudis I met with in Riyadh last week. Again and again, and in passionate terms, Saudi political leaders were keen to stress the importance of arming Syrian opposition players, bombing Iran’s alleged nuclear facilities, and unflinchingly supporting the al-Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain. In their minds, these are not political options, but rather realities on the ground that they worry Washington does not understand. Read more »

Questions We Dare Not Ask About Iran

by Ed Husain
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei departs after casting his ballot in the parliamentary election in Tehran (Caren Firouz/Courtesy Reuters). Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei departs after casting his ballot in the parliamentary election in Tehran (Caren Firouz/Courtesy Reuters).

This is conventional thinking among American foreign policy elites on Iran’s regime:

– It is an anti-Semitic regime.

– It wishes to destroy Israel.

– “Regime change” in Iran will result in the halting of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Read more »

Advice to Michele Bachmann

by Ed Husain

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann speaks during the Republican debate in Sioux City, Iowa on December 15, 2011 (Eric Gay/Courtesy Reuters).

I am not a Republican—much less a Bachmann enthusiast. Still, I happen to share Bachmann’s concerns about the dangers of a nuclear Iran. For arguing against the whims of the clerics, I am banned from entering Iran. They monitor criticism of their regime. They build a case against their critics.

Just as Iranians know their enemies, as it were, it’s doubly important for us in the West to know Iran. It is us, not them, who seek to prevent conflict and make claims to seeking objective truth. When a U.S. presidential candidate speaks about Iran, it is reported in their domestic press and the political class, clerics, and bazaar merchants analyze and comment. More importantly, the standing of the United States in Iran is in the balance—despite Iran’s public pronouncements of anti-Americanism, the United States will be judged by the quality of its insights about Iranian society and politics in U.S. public discourse. As such, Michele Bachmann’s repeated attacks on Iran must not only have veracity, but objectivity.
Read more »

Tread Carefully in Syria: Part II

by Ed Husain

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to the media as he waits for his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad before an official welcoming ceremony in Tehran on October 2, 2010 (Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters).

The first rule for those observing political developments in the modern Middle East is that nothing is as it seems at first sight. Political calculations that make sense in Washington, DC, London, or Paris do not always translate so well on the ground. From the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to the Suez crisis of 1956 to the Hamas victory in 2006 in Gaza, Westerners often fail to grasp the complicated, counterintuitive reality of life in the Arab world.

And so it is today with predictions that the fall of Assad in Damascus would weaken Iran—after all, Iran is a Shia country and Syria’s ruling elite come from the Shia Alawite sect. A Sunni-led government in Damascus, goes the argument, would not be amenable to ongoing friendship with Iran. Read more »

Tread Carefully in Syria

by Ed Husain

Members of the Syrian opposition fronts argue among themselves during a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2011 (Stringer Turkey/Courtesy Reuters).

It is fashionable in Western capitals to call for regime change in Syria, but with what consequences? The two overarching arguments to remove Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are that his regime is a bastion of anti-Americanism and that he is an Iranian proxy. Recent reports of civil war in Syria and opposition demands of a no-fly zone will only lead to more violence from the Assad regime.

I have nothing but profound admiration for the courageous protestors who risk their lives daily in some of Syria’s major cities, organizing protests through networks of local coordination committees. This weekend’s opposition meeting in Istanbul, though fractious and acrimonious, is a sign of attempts at unity among Syrian democracy activists. However, the lesson from Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya is that this generation does not possess the political networks or clout to mobilize the masses after the overthrow of a regime—the revolutionary booty almost always goes to Islamist and salafist movements, at least for now. Read more »