December 19, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1398

Al-Hayat Editor: Iran is Trying to Position Itself as ‘The Only Power in the Region’

December 19, 2006
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 1398

In an article titled "Iran and the Obstructing Third," published December 13, 2006 in the London-based Al-Hayat daily, the newspaper's editor-in-chief Ghassan Charbel depicts Iran's policies in Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, and elsewhere in the Middle East as an attempt to attain regional hegemony and to position itself as a counterweight to the U.S.

The following are excerpts from the English version of the article: [1]

"What Impedes Solving Some of the Current Regional Crises is that Iran Holds the Obstructing Third"

"The Lebanese opposition adheres to its demand of obtaining the obstructing third of the cabinet, which it calls the 'securing third.' Grabbing one-third of the cabinet is tantamount to holding the power to prevent the government from convening... It would also entail the impossibility of taking any decision on any important matter without its consent. Under the Constitution, the government is considered illegitimate if one-third of its members resign, which means that the one-third opposition is capable of thwarting the government once it finds it is in its interest [to do so].

"Let us put Lebanon aside. What impedes solving some of the current regional crises is that Iran holds the obstructing third - namely, the demand that the U.S. recognize its right to obtain this third. Some simple questions are sufficient to clarify this issue: Can security and stability be achieved in Iraq without the approval of Iran? Can a government be installed in Mesopotamia without giving Tehran the obstructing third…? Can a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq be arranged under reasonable or semi-reasonable conditions without the help of Iran, which has already offered assistance if Washington decides to withdraw? No Arab will ever rejoice either at seeing Iran holding such a large number of trump cards in the Iraqi scene or at Iraq becoming an arena like Lebanon.

"Let us put Iraq aside. Can we see a Palestinian national unity government being formed without the approval of Iran? Can we settle a deal to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit without addressing the Iranian obstructing third? Is it possible to arrange a sustained ceasefire against Iran's calculations, which can be characterized by ostensible flexibility or excessive intransigence, depending on the ongoing bickering and negotiation in the region? Embattled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should wait for the return of the envoy from Damascus and Tehran whenever he requests anything from his prime minister."

Iran "Presents Itself as a Rival, or a Partner, to the U.S. Presence In the Region"

"Whoever looks forward to possessing the obstructing third in the region should have a very important trump card in the conflict with Israel… Imam Khomeini made Jerusalem Day an Iranian tradition. The relationship with Hizbullah allowed Iran to have a permanent presence on the borders of occupied Palestine. Launching Iranian-made missiles on northern Israel last summer came within the context of asserting the ability to use the power of this one-third to threaten the security of Israel. Through the Iraqi file, southern Lebanon, the alliance with Syria, and the camps of Gaza, Iran reminds the U.S. of its ability to act as an obstacle, having proved its ability to cooperate in Afghanistan.

"Through the attitudes, statements and practices, as well as [through] uranium enrichment, Iran is trying to stage itself as the only power in the region by employing what it believes is its ability to hold the obstructing third in the security of oil, the region, and Israel.

"This means that it presents itself as a rival, or a partner, to the U.S. presence in the region. Some believe that Iran goes beyond this dream by betting on filling a relatively larger part of the vacuum left by the Soviet Union in the region after its collapse and disintegration.

"Iran's attempt to seize the obstructing third in the countries, files, and the entire region is not a simple issue, as it affects other countries' security, interests and sensitivities, and disrupts the balance of the structure of the region…"

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