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February 8, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9172

Bahraini Journalist: While Iran Has A Vociferous Lobby In The U.S., The Arab Voice Is Not Heard

February 8, 2021
Bahrain, Iran | Special Dispatch No. 9172

In a column published in the Bahraini daily Akhbar Al-Khalij on January 26, 2021, several days after the inauguration of the Biden administration, and against the backdrop of speculation that this administration will resume negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue, journalist Al-Sayyid Zahra discussed the discrepancy between the Iranian advocacy efforts in the U.S. and those of the Arabs. He noted that, while the Iranian lobby in the U.S. is busy promoting Iran's causes and demands, including the demand to lift the sanctions on Iran and resume negotiations with it without preconditions, an Arab lobby promoting the Arab's interests and opinions is conspicuously absent. Zahra called to urgently establish such a lobby that will present the Arab positions regarding the security of the region and offset the influence of the Iran lobby. In another column several days later, Zahra stressed the importance of formulating a clear and united Arab position on the Iranian issue, which can be presented to the U.S. so as to prevent it from reaching understandings with Iran at the expense of the Arabs and their interests.


Al-Sayyid Zahra (source: Nononline.net)

The following are translated excerpts from his columns:

In his January 26 column Zahra wrote: "In times of change in the U.S., various lobby groups generally act to defend their interests and persuade the U.S. administration to adopt their positions - and that is what is happening in the U.S. today. [The country] has a new administration, whose positions and policies on various issues, especially international ones, is not yet fully formed. In this transitional period every pressure group is seeking to persuade the Biden administration to adopt the political positions and policies it favors.

"As part of this, the Iranian lobby has been acting for weeks, on every political and media level, to forcefully present its positions, opinions and proposals to the Biden administration…  Its main objective is to defend Iran and its regime, and pressure the U.S. administration to adopt positions and policies that suit Iran's interests. Therefore, the current campaign of the Iranian lobby, [launched] upon the advent of the new administration, involves a number of proposals that were known in advance and can be summed up… as follows:   

"1. The Biden administration must immediately renew the old nuclear agreement with Iran.

"2. It must lift all the sanctions imposed by Trump on Iran.

"3. It must negotiate with Iran without preconditions.

"4. The lobby is [also] presenting its perception of the future security of the region, and its expectations from the U.S. in this context, all of which obviously correspond to Iran's interests and plans.

"In presenting these positions to the Biden administration, the Iranian lobby is describing them as the way to actualize the U.S. interests in the region. This is accompanied by an attack on Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf countries, [in a bid] to incite the U.S. administration against them.

"Clearly, nothing compels the Biden administration to accept the opinion of the Iranian lobby or to adopt the positions it preaches, for [this administration] takes many considerations into account in formulating its position on Iran. But whoever thinks that this lobby has no impact on U.S. policy is mistaken. On the contrary, it has considerable impact, which may increase even further now that the Biden administration is in office, and this for two main reasons: The first [reason is] Biden's stated position on the Iranian issue. It is a known fact that he generally wants to adopt a different policy from that of Trump. Generally speaking, he tends to be more lenient towards Iran and to [seek] mutual understanding and accord with it. Second, many members of his administration were formerly part of the Obama administration. In other words, this is the same team that was involved in drafting the policy of conspiring with Iran, [the team] that publicly undertook to market the Iranian regime [to the world] and to cast it in a positive light. 

"[But] the important point is that, while the Iranian lobby is acting and making great efforts to influence Biden's policy towards Iran, the Arab voice is conspicuously absent from the American arena. That is, the Arabs are making no organized effort to present their positions and perceptions on the Iranian issue, as the Iranian lobby is doing. [The only ones doing so are] a few American analysts and writers who adopt positions and approaches that are close to the Arab view.

"Sadly, this is nothing new. The absence of the Arabs from the American political and media arenas has been a source of concern for many long years, yet the situation remains unchanged. As a result, [the U.S.] will surprise us with policies that will gravely harm the Arab interests, and then we will do nothing about it except complain."[1]

In his January 28 column Zahra wrote: "So far, the public statements on Iran that have been made by the officials of the Biden administration have generally been without blemish, and can be summed up as follows: Iran must not be allowed to attain nuclear weapons; compliance with its commitments in the nuclear agreement is a basic precondition for making any further moves [in its favor]; any negotiation towards a new agreement must also address the issues of Iran's ballistic missiles and the role it plays in the region. This is in addition to announcements by Biden's officials that they intend to consult with their allies, including the Arabs, and involve them in any [future] negotiations with Iran…

"Iran, on the other hand, has expressed radical positions, mainly a demand that the Biden administration restore the nuclear agreement without conditions, and lift the sanctions on it before any negotiations commence. It has also announced that it will not negotiate on its missiles or its role in the region…

"[So] what should the Arabs do? First, we must understand that the expected U.S.-Iranian negotiations and their outcomes will create a new reality in the region… The Biden administration's promise to consult with its allies and consider their position provides the Arabs with a chance to have an impact on and a say about this new reality. But for this to happen, the Arabs must first of all have a unified position on Iran and the negotiations [with it]. They must also have a clear and definite idea of what they want and what they demand. Hence, it is paramount that the Arab countries immediately form a team to phrase the Arab position and demands, so as to present them to the U.S. during the negotiations. If this does not happen, the Arab position will have no impact…

"If the Arabs want to have a role, and want their interests to be considered in this 'phase of opportunity,' they must do all this without delay, so that Iran and the U.S. have no chance to [come to understandings] at our expense."[2]

 

[1] Akhbar Al-Khalij (Bahrain), January 26, 2021.

[2] Akhbar Al-Khalij (Bahrain), January 28, 2021.

 

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