April 14, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1696

Jordanian Parliamentary Speaker: Iran's Intervention in Iraq – Product of Historical Conflict Between Arabs and Persians

April 14, 2008
Special Dispatch No. 1696

In a meeting with Kuwaiti journalists, Jordanian Parliamentary Speaker 'Abd Al-Hadi Al-Majali stated that Iran's intervention in Iraq has nothing to do with either religion or with the Sunni-Shi'ite conflict, but that it was nationalistically motivated and part of an historical conflict between the Arabs and the Persians.

This statement reflects a shift from Jordan's previous view of Iran's intervention in Iraq as part of the Sunni-Shi'ite conflict. In the past, Jordan's King Abdullah had warned of the danger posed by the "Shi'ite crescent," [1] estimating that "the main problem would center around Iraq, where a terrible inter-Islamic conflict would erupt between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites." [2]

This new Jordanian approach is in line with the Saudi position. Although Saudi Arabia considers the Iran-Iraq confrontation to be a sectarian clash between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, it has been careful not to refer to it as such publicly, phrasing its harsh criticism of Iran in nationalist, rather than sectarian/religious, terms. Thus, for example, earlier this year, Saudi Foreign MinisterSaud Al-Faisal called on Iran "not to interfere in Arab affairs." [3]

The following are excerpts from Al-Majali's statements, as published in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai.

"...[Iran is] harboring plans to significantly weaken the [Arab] identity. What is happening in Iraq [today] has nothing to do with either the Sunnis or the Shi'ites. Iran's intervention in Iraq is for nationalist reasons, and not in order to support the Shi'ites, as some claim. Hence I believe that Arab identity in Iraq is under threat.

"Iran's current actions are the product of a historical conflict between the Arabs and the Persians. This conflict was renewed with great force during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, whose grounds were nationalist, rather than religious. Indeed, during that war, Iran murdered hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites and their families, a fact that stresses the national, rather than sectarian, aspect of the conflict. Similarly, what is going on in Iraq today is unrelated to religion..."

According to Al-Majali, there is a need for a unified Arab Islamic framework to preserve the Arab identity. He also stressed that Iran's ability to eradicate the Arab identity should not be underestimated.

As for the Iran-Hizbullah relationship, Al-Majali contended that Hizbullah was the foremost stronghold of Iran and its policy in the region, and that Iran was the one supplying it with money and weapons. The motive for this, he said, is that Hizbullah is Iran's tool for attaining its interests, and not - as Iran and Nasrallah claim - for liberating Palestine.

Al-Majali went on to state that the conflict between Lebanon and Israel had come to an end, since Israel had conclusively and officially withdrawn from all Lebanese territories, in accordance with the international resolutions. As concerns the Shab'a Farms, he stated that Israel seized them not from Lebanon but from Syria... Al-Majali further stated that he did not believe that Hizbullah would relinquish its military character even if the Shab'a Farms were liberated. [4]

[1], December 9, 2004.

[2] Middle East Quarterly (U.S.), Spring 2005.

[3] Le Figaro (France), January 24, 2007.

[4] Al-Rai (Kuwait), August 15, 2007.

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