Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I.R. Iran's Internal Problems Curb Regional Ambitions

Tweet It!


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flexes Iran's muscles at the UN General Assembly this week, putting on a brave international face after domestic unrest has put the brake on its ambitions to become a Shiite powerhouse in a predominantly Sunni region, Gulf analysts say. His disputed victory in the presidential election of June 12 triggered a wave of popular and deadly protest unprecedented since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. It came as Iran faced continuing economic problems and three sets of international sanctions imposed for refusing to suspend its controversial programme of uranium enrichment, which the West fears could be a cover to develop nuclear weapons. "Iran is now going through a serious internal crisis, which demonstrates that its youth are tired" of their country's intervention in the region, said Sami al-Faraj, head of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies.

"This country faces so many problems that it would not be able in the short term to foment civil war or clashes between Shiites and Sunnis in neighbouring states," he said of Iran's Shiite-majority neighbour Iraq. Plagued by economic difficulties, with unemployment running at 12.5 percent in 2008, according to Western statistics, the central bank in Tehran reported inflation of 20.2 percent in August after peaking last September at 29 percent. "Iran cannot offer the image of itself as a model state" for public opinion among Arabs disillusioned by their own political systems, according to Faraj. The sole exception may be Lebanon's Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement, three years after Arab public opinion lent the militant group full support in its short but bloody war against Israel in the summer of 2006, he added. Hezbollah's rise, the emergence of a Shiite government in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime, the Damascus-Tehran alliance and Iranian support for Palestinian Islamist group Hamas have all fuelled Iranian regional ambitions, sparking concern among Gulf Arab monarchies. (Read more...)