The Question of Iran

UFA, RUSSIA - JULY 9:  In this handout image supplied by Host Photo Agency / RIA Novosti,  President of the Islamic Republic
UFA, RUSSIA - JULY 9: In this handout image supplied by Host Photo Agency / RIA Novosti, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani during a meeting with Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi during BRICS/SCO Summits - Russia 2015 on July 09, 2015 in Ufa, Russia. (Photo by Sergey Guneev/Host Photo Agency/Ria Novosti via Getty Images)

I am not among those who bow to the power of Iran. I do not believe that it has exhibited enough strength as of yet, and that despite its strong presence in both the regional and international scenes, there are large and complex contradictions in its structure, composition, and identity as a state. How could a nation genuinely develop while being at the mercy of the revered Supreme Leader, and those institutions that, without any logical explanation, recline atop the hierarchy. Their entire claim to legitimacy rests in their representation of the divine on earth, and in representing an unknown force that no living person (including those who claim to represent it), can verify. With all my respect for these beliefs and those who subscribe to them, what these rulers are doing is exploiting religion in the worst conceivable way. Their reign will not endure indefinitely; the world over, people are coming to reject the idea of religious rule. Only a few people inside and outside of Iran subscribe to the idea, and time will only dilute this support.

Religious states have often appeared in history. But what is taking place in Iran is not simply religious rule but religious coercion; they are presenting a very specific rendition of religion, in which religion is crudely shoved into the realms of internal and international politics and daily life, heedless of the diversity in nationalities and creeds. Those who belong to the prevailing majority are repelled by such coercion, which we witnessed in the popular Iranian Green Movement. Despite its failure, the Green movement might be revived in the wake of the catastrophic performance of the conservatives, paralleled with the promising results achieved by reformists every time they take control of the steering wheel. And the new Iran Nuclear Deal, and all its imminent repercussions, is but another step forward for this reformist (liberal-leaning) movement, which rejects the idea, narratives, and policies of a religious state.

Still, no one can deny the manifestations of Iranian power today and its great influence on our Arab countries, from Iraq and Syria (the two most important countries in the Middle East), to Lebanon and Yemen. This scope of their influence is what bothers us Arabs in general, and in the Gulf in particular. Such power extends over the great Arab vacuum, which Arabs have themselves created with failed authoritarian regimes. What concerns us at present is the question of how exactly to face Iran; the most pressing issue in the region today is how do we defeat Iran?

I have discussed the illusion of Iranian power and of the significant transformations that Iran is about to witness, if it is to seriously become a truly strong and modern state, for which I believe most Iranians hope.

I believe that I possess an effective recipe to defeat Iran swiftly. But before all that I will pose the question: Must we think about, concern ourselves with, and long for, defeating Iran? My first instinct is to say no. But that would be the case if everything was stable and normal, which it is not. Iran is currently a Shiite country playing a key role in our largely Sunni Arab world. But that is not exactly the problem. The Sunni situation is not sectarian in the traditional sense, most people had no problem with the leadership of the Alawite Assad family, or with historical Shiite leaders in Iraq, or with the prominence of Christians in the Levant. The real problem emerges when the majority of people become subjected to persecution in these countries, and they feel, or come to believe, that a tenacious minority is plotting against them. Then a regional neighboring country like Iran assumes the roles of sponsorship and support of such minorities. A series of killings, persecution, displacement and attempts to manipulate the original composition of these countries ensues. And they wake up to a Shiite Hezbollah, and a Shiite government in Iraq affiliated with Iran, and to rebel movements in Yemen sponsored and supported by the neighboring Shiite government. Here is where most people come to perceive Iran as an enemy, and seriously contemplate a recipe for breaking and defeating it.

Confronting Iran and defeating it in our countries would be very easy. All we would have to do would be to stand in opposition to Iranian conduct -- it does not take a genius to figure that out. Iran, under the tight twin-grip of the Shah and an intelligence agency loyal to America, was a tyrannical state. Does that remind you of something? Yes. We need to reject tyranny and blind subordination to the West, a sure recipe for collapse and failure. This is what happened with the Shah's Iran in 1979. Al Khomeini and the revolution did not topple the Shah's Iran: he toppled himself by virtue of his domestic and international decisions. Can we learn from this experience? Tyranny, monopolizing power, absolute subordination to the West, and turning a blind eye to local public opinion while disregarding the people's woes, concerns, preferences and affiliations, leads to the same fate. And we should never again go down the same road. We should take a stand.

What else is in the magic recipe for defeating Iran? Sectarianism is the magic word in Iran's distorted configuration, and it is what we should reject in our Arab case, and particularly in the Levant. We have evident religious, racial and ethnic diversity, and so discourses of purity or partisan majority is incongruous. The language of citizenship and equality is the only key to the door through which Iran and other countries enter our country. Is this impossible?

We must acknowledge that Iran is not all bad: a strong sense of nationalism and self-reliance at times of hardship sets Iranians apart. Persia's journey to success, and process of realizing its strengths is remarkable. Still, Iran basically dictates our recipe for beating it. We no longer have energy for trivialities, and we will not tolerate transforming Arab societies into specimens to be toyed with by young and seasoned dictators. The region is witnessing major shifts and serious risks, and this vibrant nation demands a vision and a real plan, but who's listening?

This post originally appeared on HuffPost Arabi and was translated into English.