Once again, King Abdullah II of Jordan has expressed concern at the growing influence of the Iran in the region. In an interview with Time Magazine, he said: “The region is going through throes where there are other regional powers that are vying for supremacy in this area. Usually when that happens the net result is conflict and violence. [The Palestinian issue] is the core issue, one that should be dealt with very easily because there is something looming over the horizon that is a lot worse.”

Arabs feel U.S. intervention in Iraq has given Tehran a unique opportunity it has not had for many years to exercise a dominant role. They fear the rising of the Shias in the northern tier of the Arab world will destabilize the region. With a Shiite Iraq now in Iran’s sphere of influence, and the Shiite leadership of Syria looking to Iran, Tehran is well on its way. Add in the powerful tool of Hezbollah — Iran and Syria’s made-to-order terrorist group — and we can see an Islamic alliance that will only grow in its ability to challenge the West.

This alliance between the Iran and the Alawite-ruled Syria has frightened the traditional Sunni rulers of the region. King Abdullah of Jordan described this alliance as “Shia crescent”. Vali Nasr, a Council for Foreign Relations fellow, explains, “The first decade of Khomeini trying to mobilize Saudi Shiites, Lebanese Shiites, and trying to stage a coup in Bahrain and cause trouble in Kuwait all hardened views.”

Khomeini threatened the countries around him. He threatened Iraq, and he threatened Saudi Arabia, and each responded in a wrong way. Iraq ended up attacking Iran.

The Dawa Party, Shi’a Islamist party in Iraq, with many linkages to Hezbollah even to this day, is active on the other side of the Middle East. It conducted attacks in Kuwait in 1983, bombing the French and U.S. embassies in December of that year, and launching a nearly successful assassination attempt against the emir of Kuwait in May 1985.

Grand Ayatollah Sistani has been calling for Parliamentary democracy and the exercise of the will of the people for the Shi’ites in the oasis of al-Hasa, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which angered Riyadh. Now, Sistani’s Shiites are the major political force in Iraq. They are leaders in the new government; they run the key Interior Ministry; and one of their own, Nouri al-Maliki, serves as prime minister.

The real cause of the tension, according to Iranian author Amir Taheri, is that “Iran intends to reshape the Middle East after its own fashion” (New York Post, August 8).

Ahmadinejad stated clearly his vision for the future of the region in his election campaign: “The Middle East can have either an American future or an Islamic one led by Iran.” This kind of rhetoric has frightened the Arabs rulers. They are of the opinion that Israel is the devil they know, but Iran is the growing threat.

There is no doubt Shias in the Arab world share a common problem, one of marginality. Whether they are majorities or minorities, they are marginalized from power. They are essentially asking for the same thing. And they do have an attachment to Iran. It’s an attachment of culture and faith, but it does not mean they are controlled by Iran.

It is good to hear Arab Leaders like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia realized this problem. He brought reforms, which helped Shias to practice their religion freely. King Abdullah is their hero now. Under King Abdullah, we can even see the Shia clergy in the royal courts along with typical Wahabi clerics who hate the Shiite. The King is trying get to the Sunni traditional clergy to accept diversity and existence of other schools of thoughts in Saudi Arabia.

Other states should follow the example of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Shias minorities should also try to be loyal to the country in which they live. They have a right to ask for equal opportunities in all affairs. But resorting to violence to get these rights brings more miseries. They should also look for traitors among themselves who collaborate with outsiders and want destabilize governments under the pretext of helping their coreligionists.

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