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Wednesday 12 Dec 2018 | 00:00 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 12 Dec 2018 | 00:00 | SYDNEY

Iran: Sweet & sour



20 November 2013 09:30

Two events overnight have pitched Iran once again to the forefront of Middle Eastern politics, albeit for completely different reasons.

First was the twin suicide bombing targeting the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed over 20 people but didn't breach the perimeter. An al Qaeda affiliate has claimed responsibility, but whether they did it or not is secondary to the symbolism of attacking the Iranian state in retaliation for its involvement in the Syrian civil war.

The attack itself will do nothing other than to further steel Iran's motivation to support a pro-Iranian regime in Syria and to emphasise to Lebanese Shi'a that Syria really is a sectarian conflict and that Assad deserves the blood and treasure that Hizbollah continues to expend there. 

Back in Iran however, an even more interesting development occurred.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif released a professionally produced (except for the increasingly annoying use of the dual camera angle) YouTube video in perfect English outlining Iran's willingness to move forward on the nuclear issue.

The election of a new government in Iran was cited by Zarif as presenting an opportunity to move forward, and there was much use of 'respect' and 'dignity', two key words that perennially feature in Iranian discourse as a way of emphasising their independence in contrast to their Arab neighbours in the Gulf.

The net effect of these two events has been to once again highlight the increasing centrality of Iran to those issues that are most likely to shape the immediate future of the region; the Syrian civil war and nuclear negotiations.

On the one hand its embassy is attacked by an al Qaeda affiliate, while at the same time its highly educated and urbane Foreign Minister is able to sell his message about nuclear negotiations to the West in their own language using their own social media platforms.

For the Gulf states who are already nervous at the prospect of any form of US detente with Tehran, they will rue events in Beirut both because embassies are considered off-limits in this undeclared battle for regional influence and because of the knowledge that it will harden Iran's resolve in Syria. They will also look enviously at Zarif's video, knowing that it is something they couldn't really pull off themselves.

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