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FT: Iran Will Benefit From This Arab Spring

Author: Suzanne Maloney, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution
February 23, 2011

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Suzanne Maloney explains why, far from being overtaken by a revolution of its own, Iran might very well emerge from this period stronger than before.

As upheaval sweeps the Middle East, optimists have hoped that Iran would soon follow Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In fact, the opposite has happened. As shown by its audacious decision to dispatch warships through the Suez Canal for the first time in 31 years, the Iranian leadership expects to emerge from the regional turmoil further entrenched and emboldened.

With a revived opposition mounting a number of large protests, the Islamic Republic ought to be looking across the region with trepidation. Instead its leadership sees the turmoil across the Arab world as confirmation of its ascendancy as a regional power, and America's decline. Tehran is revelling in analogies between Egypt and Tunisia, and its own revolutionary inception. And despite the resurgence of the “green movement” opposition, Iranian leaders remain confident about their ability to beat back dissent and buy off a conflict-weary population.

They are also savvy enough to recognise that those new Arab leaders who emerge are likely to trumpet nationalist sentiments, and are unlikely to embrace the Islamic Republic. Still, regime change will inevitably produce governments that are less compliant to Washington, and less hostile to Tehran. The American experiment in Iraq has taught Iran's ageing revolutionaries that the eviction of an old antagonist is more than sufficient for the purposes of enhancing influence.

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