In the late 1970s, the shah of Iran, a staunch ally of the West, found himself subject to frequent criticism from Western journalists.

His significant efforts to modernize Iran, including substantial investments in education and healthcare through oil revenues, were often overshadowed by this disproportionate and critical media focus. This emphasis on perceived shortcomings may have contributed to a global underestimation of the potential consequences of the shah’s fall.

Western media, perhaps inclined to highlight negatives over positives, may have inadvertently downplayed the shah’s accomplishments while amplifying his missteps. The subsequent rise of a repressive theocracy in Iran underscored the gravity of the situation. While initial media reports portrayed a more open atmosphere under the ayatollah, it has become tragically clear that the Iranian revolution ultimately facilitated the rise of a regime far more hostile to both its own people and the international community.

A lesson in history

A pertinent example can be traced back to the British withdrawal from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1971. This decision, taken during a period of domestic economic and political fragility in Britain following the Suez Crisis, transpired despite the clear preference of the Emiratis for the continuation of British presence until the newly formed nation could fortify its position. In the immediate aftermath of this withdrawal, Iran seized islands of strategic significance in the Arabian Gulf. This event is frequently viewed as a precursor to the Islamic Republic’s ongoing endeavors to augment its influence throughout the Middle East.

While Saudi Arabia publicly aligned itself with the coalition, recently declassified documents suggest a more nuanced perspective. Through discreet diplomatic channels, Saudi authorities reportedly expressed grave reservations regarding the complete removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Their primary concern centered on the potential for regional instability and the emergence of a power vacuum that could be exploited by actors like Iran. Their unheeded warnings ultimately proved prescient.

The war led to the collapse of the Iraqi government, creating the very power vacuum that Saudi Arabia had feared. This void has provided Iran with an opportunity to expand its influence in Iraq, undoubtedly bolstering its regional ambitions. The significant level of public opposition to the war within the United Kingdom at the time is a matter of historical fact, with large-scale protests that preceded the invasion. Controversy still surrounds the now-discredited intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, used by the Blair administration as a principal reason for the war, which was later found to be inaccurate and exaggerated.

The destabilization of Bahrain in 2011, allegedly instigated by Iranian attempts to incite an anti-government revolution, was not met with a robust international response. This crisis was primarily addressed by the Gulf Cooperation Council. Similarly, the ruthless suppression of Syrian citizens by the Assad regime in 2011 created a vacuum that Iran exploited by deploying significant numbers of operatives. In this instance, the international community, including Britain, did not intervene decisively, leaving the task of containing the conflict to the GCC.

Furthermore, Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, including the provision of Scud missiles and other weaponry, has demonstrably exacerbated regional tensions. Once again, the international response, with the notable exception of the GCC states, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia, has been lacking.

Indeed, efforts to defend the actions of the council in public forums, such as those made forcefully by me during my 2018 appearance on BBC Newsnight, despite the patronizing and derogatory attitude of my interviewers, have unfortunately been met with a perceived lack of understanding of the Middle Eastern context, and of the significant threats posed by Iranian activities.

The long-standing financial and military support provided by Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, both designated terrorist organizations by a sizeable portion of the international community, presents a further source of regional instability. Regrettably, this issue has still not been adequately challenged on the global stage. While the media are currently highlighting the need to support Israel against Iranian threats, a more nuanced understanding of Iran’s actions and intentions over the past two decades is necessary to address and resolve the current crisis effectively.

Source » jpost