Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Iran: what doesn't kill you makes you weaker

Ever since the CIA concluded that Iran has stopped its nuclear weapon program, analysts have feared that this would make the country stronger. In an interesting article in the IHT of last week, Nazila Fathi argues the exact opposite: due to the CIA report, Iran has lost its common enemy and is now again focusing on internal strive.

That makes sense: the threat of an outside attack usually brings people closer together. In case of Iran, internal differences were put aside and all attention went to the Great Satan, the USA. Now that the CIA has made clear, however, that there is nothing to fear from America for the time being, the Iranians start to look at each other again. According to Fathi, this had lead to a renewed pressure on president Ahmadinejad, mostly over the lagging economy.

How would this affect Lebanon? Obviously, with the Iranians blame-gaming each other for their under-performing economy despite record oil prices, they might be less concerned with Hezbollah.

What's more, now that Iran is no longer under direct pressure from America, it might feel less of a need to use Hezbollah as a pressuring tool vis-à-vis Israel.

Finally, one might consider the Arab pressure on Iran as a positive stimulant to reign in Hezbollah. Iran might just be willing to improve their relationships with the Arab world at the expense of Hezbollah.

The downside of a more absent Iran is that Syria might step up to fill the void and that's not necessarily an improvement.

Anyway, these are all speculations and as usual, the future will tell if they are correct or wrong.