Iraqi academic Dr. Akeel Abbas, on NRT TV (Iraqi Kurdistan), compares the roles of Iran and Israel in the region. Iran has prevented the emergence of a unified and democratic Iraq, because it insists on dividing Iraq along sectarian and racial lines. Israel, in contrast, hasn’t posed a threat to Iraq in almost 20 years.
“I believe that conspiracy [theories] thrive in societies that are replete with indoctrination, sacred narrative about absolute truths, and a very absolute understanding of life. Our society does not have a long tradition of serious analytical critique, and this reflects on our way of understanding the Iranian role or the Israeli role in the region, for example. In the region today, two major forces are in a state of conflict – or in a state of declared war. These are Israel and Iran. Iran enjoys many strategic advantages for reasons that are connected to culture and geography. It has many proxies that are willing to wage proxy wars and that are very talented in this. Iran has extensions in the region. Israel does not have the same capabilities because there is a psychological, moral, religious, and political barrier in the region between Arabs and Muslims and Israel. It’s a long and complicated story. However, Israel is a successful country in all parameters of development, and this is opposite from the case in Iran. It is true that Israel is incapable of spreading in the region, but it has many internal sources of power. Israel’s gross national income surpasses Iran’s by approximately $196 billion per annum. Israel does not have oil and it relies on industry. It is a small country with a population of only 6 million, but they produce more than 6 or 7 Arab countries. Israel’s success comes from within. But we have a tendency to give Israel’s preeminence a moralistic and conspiratorial interpretation. In other words, we attribute it to a Western conspiracy, to Western support, and to these kinds of things. […]
“Iraq does not need external wars in order to build itself. We need to concentrate on building ourselves from within after decades of external wars and proxy wars. There is definitely Iranian influence in Iraq. This influence is problematic and weakens the chances that a unified Iraqi state will emerge. I believe that for the past 15 or 16 years, Israel has not been a real threat to Iraqi democracy. Iran’s behavior is the real threat to Iraqi democracy. Iran insists upon dividing Iraq along sectarian and racial lines. They call it “consensus democracy,” but this “consensus democracy” that is based on race and religion, which Iran has been supporting since 2003, has thwarted the emergence of true democracy [in Iraq].”
As Lee Smith argues in Tablet, at least one (unintended) effect of Obama’s hand of friendship to Tehran was that a great many Arabs in the region came to realise that their real enemy was not Israel after all, but Iran.