Ever since the Iranian revolution stunned the world in 1979, the Arab world, or at least the Arab regimes and their allies in the West, have been obsessing over Iran's "exporting of the revolution" and the implications it would have on the Arab world. Eventually, this obsession manifested itself into a Sunni-Shi'a divide. Rumors and speculations quickly spread across the Arab world about the Islamic Republic's plans to spread Shi'ism across the Middle East, hence terminologies such as, "Shi'a Revival" and "Shi'a Crescent" have emerged, fueling fear and suspicion amongst Arabs across the region.
Arab rulers feared Iran's governance system, known as wilayat al-faqih (guardianship by a jurist) would appeal to their populations. Wilayat al-faqih holds that in an Islamic state, a divinely anointed scholar of Islamic law must exercise unquestioned authority over elected officials and the rest of the government. This has not materialized; however, something more powerful may have: the powerful images of popular demonstrations against the Iranian government serving as a reminder to Arab rulers of their vulnerability.
During a recent visit to France, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani has praised "Iranian democracy" and said that Iran has "witnessed four presidents since the Iranian revolution thirty years ago" while in contrast "during this [same period] the presidents in some Arab countries have not changed, and so this shows that Iran practices democracy."
The Libyan President Mu'amar el-Qaddafi has been in power since 1969, the current Yemeni's president Ali Abdallah Saleh since 1978, and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak ranks third, ruling The Land of the Nile River since 1981, earning him the title "pharaoh" amongst those who dare to speak out on the streets of Cairo. As we say in Arabic: Allah Yutawal Omerhom, may God grant them longevity.
Those leaders and others may have a lot to worry about as Iran's demonstrations have caused many in the Arab world ask to themselves why they cannot do the same. This might not be evident in the media, but all you have to do is talk privately to some of the youth and read the blogs. Although Iran failed to penetrate the Arab world with its 1979 revolution, it may have succeeded with the recent popular uprising.
While watching news clips from a variety of television networks, the images of smoke, tear gas, small fires, protesters being beaten up by the police and military remind me of another situation that has been going on for decades. Can you guess where?
Now here is a question to all those "brave, fair and balanced" journalists, pundits, bloggers and analysts in the U.S. who have been using strong terms to condemn the Basij and the Iranian government's crackdown on demonstrations, such terms as brutality, murder and horror: why can't you use the same language when you watch and film Israeli soldiers beating Palestinian children in the town of Bil'in, or when they evict a helpless widow from her ancestral home and throw her out to the cold? Why?
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV.