Pan-Arabism’s Legacy of Confrontation with Iran (Revised)

This article was originally written by Kaveh Farrokh in 2004. It was revised for kavehfarrokh.com on October 20, 2010. The 2004 version of this is available in pdf format and in Persian text (pdf) (this is a translation of the 2004 version).

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Few Iranians (or westerners) have heard of Pan-Arab nationalists such as Satia Al-Husri, Sami Shawkat, Michel Aflaq or Khairallah Tulfah. Their version of Arab nationalism is as anti-Western as it is anti-Persian. The philosophies of these men have done much to inspire generations of Arab leaders such as Gamal Abdel Nasser, who passionately advocated the changing of the Persian Gulf to “A–b Gulf”, or Saddam Hussein, who defined his Arabism by the extent of his brutality against Iranians (Kurds, Persians, etc.).

Before we engage in this relatively long discussion of pan-Arabism and Arab chauvinism, let us (Iranians) remind ourselves, that we too have our faults and are not perfect. In fact, I have always found the attitudes of a number of Iranians against Arabs embarrassing and unfair. Nevertheless, I also find the hostile anti-Iranian attitudes and actions of the pan-Arabists shocking (you will read some of these in this commentary). As you read this article, please balance your feelings with how many of us Iranians are also embarrassingly chauvinist, with cultural expressions such as “uncouth Arab” or “Lizard eaters”.

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