Tony Karon has a nice analysis up at Abu Dhabi’s the National. Many pundits in the U.S. have delivered the verdict that Iran won in the Arab uprisings. But Karon spots a false choice, and once again Turkey is the critical example.
Viewed through the prism of a zero-sum conflict between a US-led alliance of Arab autocrats and Israel against an Iran-led “resistance” camp, the Arab rebellion has been nothing short of catastrophic for the anti-Iran forces. Not only has the Egyptian uprising swept away one of the key antagonists of Iran in the person of Hosni Mubarak; the fact that two Iranian warships were allowed to sail through the Suez Canal en route to Syria last week was a clear signal that the new military rulers in Cairo hope to normalise ties with the Islamic Republic, and are unlikely to support a regional strategy of confronting Tehran, much less take the lead in promoting one. Even before Egypt and Tunisia, the anti-Iran camp had suffered major setbacks in Lebanon and Iraq. Events in Bahrain, Jordan and elsewhere suggest that Arab leaders pressing hardest to confront Iran are in deep trouble.
But whatever its current state of progress, Iran’s nuclear development is simply not a priority for the newly empowered Arab public, and more accountable Arab governments are likely to distance themselves from Washington’s regional strategy, pretty much as Turkey has done. That’s precisely why so many US and Israeli observers paint the Arab rebellion as a win for Iran. But that conclusion is based on the flawed premise that a setback for the United States is automatically a gain for Iran. The Arab declaration of independence from Washington is anything but a declaration of loyalty to Tehran. Turkey may have built new trade and diplomatic ties with Tehran and opposed the US policy on Iran, but it has not broken ties with Washington. Its policies are genuinely independent, geared towards resolving problems rather than power bloc politics.