For Iran, the United States has always been the big prize. For 30 years, Iran’s bombastic rhetoric against the “Great Satan” was merely an expression of a hurt heart. So the euphoria in Iran in the last few days over the nuclear deal is not surprising. However, some Arab societies are mourning, not celebrating. As I write these comments from Cairo, the reaction expressed in the Arab world’s most populous and arguably more important state is one of fear and discontent. If the deal with Iran extends beyond the six-month interim period and succeeds, this could mean more intrusion by Tehran into the Arab world, shifting the balance of power that has been in place for decades.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s larger objective has been influence in the Middle East. To some degree, that was achieved by its client relationships with Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the ruling Shia government in Iraq. The sectarian Shia card was the draw – at least on the surface – that cemented those relationships, even if religious and political differences remained. But now, what will happen to Sunni Arab societies that have so far managed to escape Iranian Shia influence?
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