The Middle East is a region with connotations of fear. Some of these fears are constructed externally and others really do have a basis in the reality of our region. Fears and threats are intertwined. It is often difficult to distinguish between threats and imagined or constructed fears. Fears and threats may differ significantly from one actor to another.
In the middle of all these fears, there is an eternal Western perception of Iran as a threat. Putting aside all rhetoric and proxy wars through Israel in the region, it is not possible to cite one tangible major event that justifies the Western fears of Iran, even historically. So, what does this perceived threat and fear of Iran, mainly coming from the United States, mean? Why is Iran a target now, when it was once a major ally of the U.S. until its Islamic revolution?
Again, why hasn’t Iran developed a politically pragmatist approach toward a rational relationship with the West, 30 years after the Islamic revolution? How come the “thousands-year-old Iranian state tradition” cannot develop such rationality? Similarly why cannot the U.S. – which developed politically pragmatic approaches when it came to the Taliban in Afghanistan, anti-U.S. movements in Latin America, anti-American parties in post-Saddam Iraq, frontier countries during the Cold War and the Islamist movements in the post-Arab Spring era – find a way to talk to Iran?
What is clear is that due to these tensions, all actors involved are carving out political paths for themselves through “creative destruction,” to borrow from Schumpeter. These tensions delay finding a resolution to the problems and prevent a politically pragmatic rational approach from emerging. These tensions feed the vicious circle that justifies all those who want to convey an image of resistance to the West, as well as those who want to appear as if they are taking preventative measures against threats perceived by the U.S., and also Israel’s schizophrenic obsessions.
In the previous months, in order to keep the question “when will Iran be attacked?” on the agenda, the media began a campaign of bombardment. As expected, this campaign, repeated almost every year, became meaningless after two weeks, and things went back to normal. In the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Iran’s repeated threat to “seal off the Strait of Hormuz” – unclear as to what this would actually intend – launched another public discussion. There could not have been a better opportunity for the U.S., in its election year, to build up the perceived threat of Iran. The U.S. will seize this opportunity to the bitter end. There could not be better material for the U.S than now, at a time when all fears and threats are interlocked in the region.
The existential question is whether Iran also considers this vicious circle as an opportunity to capitalize. If this is the case, then there is ample reason for concern. Don’t let this be misunderstood: The worry is not about the possibility of a war breaking out; it is about the hope of building a new regional order in the near future fading away.