Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Wise Enemy is Better Than

Last week CNN is on air with live coverage of high tension confrontations between two factions of Lebanese students in Beirut. When the situation resolves during the course of the day, the incident fades from the consciousness of the American media which obsesses over suffering but is indifferent to depth of understanding.

The Tehran-Riyadh Line: It took no more than one hour of telephone calls between Riyadh, Tehran and Beirut to end Lebanon's unavoidable clashes that blockaded the capital with fires and barricades and even shootouts in some parts. Although such contact has demonstrated that the Lebanese battles are in fact puppet shows manipulated from above or stopped from outside, what matters the most is that they have now been put to an end.

However, the issue is more than just an hour of communication. It is a years-old, slow relation-building process between Iran and Saudi Arabia that has finally led to such joint action and proved that many fires could be put out through regional cooperation.

Despite how much we differ with them on serious issues in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, the Iranians are characterized by their ability to practice self-restraint and avoid being dragged into crises. They are clever regarding political calculations, keeping them outside of the shooting range whilst close enough to keep watch. A wise enemy is better than a foolish friend.

There are extremely rich Muslims in the Middle East who achieved wealth and power through intelligent cunning and mercenary ruthlessness when necessary. This means there are regional interests that stand to suffer from further descent in the direction of anarchy and destruction. President Bush needs them to stabilize the Persian Gulf.

Persian Presences in the UAE: Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the UAE witnessed a wave of Iranian immigration, many fled in apprehension of the revolution and its impending impacts. According to semi-official statistics, the number of Iranian residents in the UAE is estimated at about 500,000 throughout the emirates, with an estimated 400,000 people in Dubai, their stronghold, most of who immigrated after the Iranian Revolution when the Shah was overthrown.

In mid-October 2006, without drawing too much attention, Washington launched a diplomatic mission in Dubai that specialized in Iranian affairs in the emirate. The US State Department's ‘Iran Regional Presence Office’ is the first of its kind since the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the severance of the Iranian-American relations. The office sits inside Dubai’s US consulate and has started act with caution as bilateral relations deteriorated recently after escalation over the Iranian nuclear standoff. Just 150 kilometers from Iran, the US found an important location in Dubai to watch Tehran and reach out to its people, according to analysts.

Without fanfare, the Bush Administration establishes the equivalent of a pressure valve for US – Iranian relations. The Iran Regional Presence Office in effect establishes a tiny channel for communication between the two governments, including an official avenue by which a few Iranians can visit the US, and a few Americans can visit Iran. It is side door through which wise enemies can eyeball each other.