Image Credit: Illustration: Nino Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

Our region is going through an upheaval. Any way you look at it; any way you slice it; we are going through rough and tumble politics, turmoil, uprisings and implosions in more ways than one.

In Libya, we have entered the decisive and most critical phase of its six months of revolution to topple Gaddafi on the anniversary of his ascendance to power on September 1, 1969.

Thus, the bragging rights of the dean of Arab leaders who relished and enjoyed that title along with his other favourite, the "King of Kings of Africa," has ended. Now the challenges of the post-Gaddafi phase are setting in. The real fear is if it degenerates into dysfunctional politics with infighting by factions and western nations competing for the spoils of war.

Syria is imploding, the situation is dicey and the leadership continues to cling to brute force to put down the popular uprising.

The bloody scene will continue to unfold before our eyes as Syrians are being slaughtered, and Arabs continue to shy away from taking drastic steps to put pressure on the Syrian leadership. The West continues to waver and apply its double standards amid cries: Why Libyans and not Syrians?

In the midst of this, Iran's puritanical revolutionary spirit and its ideology of supporting and cheering the downtrodden and oppressed everywhere seems to have taken a beating and have been put to a cruel test. Iran is being accused of picking and choosing when it comes to Arab revolutions.

Iran's spiritual leader insists that the Arab revolutions were inspired by Iran's revolution and are indicative of an "Islamic resurgence." Iran's claim has been tested and its money is not where its mouth is when it comes to the Syrian uprising.

Yey, Tehran goes out of its way to show all kinds of support to the Bahraini unrest and thus reveals its real intentions of meddling in affairs of other states. Needless to say alarm bells sounded up and down the Arabian Gulf and validated the long held fear of Iran's menacing meddling in the GCC's affairs.

Iran is now seen through a dubious lens even among its supporters when its double standards of coming to the rescue and instigating Shiites in Bahrain to revolt though its propaganda and its Alalam TV satellite channel which airs a daily political show on Bahrain hosting different Bahraini opposition figures from London, Sydney and Beirut are so blatant, while turning a deaf ear to the tragic and brutal crackdown in Syria. This contradictory stance by Iran robs it of its moral and principled stance as defender of the oppressed who yearn for freedom.

Saudis sound alarm

Another alarming development was Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Interior Minister's remarks on the eve of Eid Al Fitr. He was quoted by Al Eqtissadiya daily warning that terrorism and Iran remain a threat to Saudi Arabia, and accused Iran of targeting Saudi Arabia.

"We will continue to be a target for terrorists, who will continue attempting to attack us, supported by other parties. Evil surrounds us from all sides", citing unrest in neighbouring Iraq and Yemen, as well as "Iran and its targeting of the kingdom." Prince Nayef did not elaborate. Such accusations by the cautious Saudis are uncommon. They prefer methodic and quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy regarding regional issues, especially when it comes to Iran.

Iran's reacted quickly to the Saudi accusation with the Iranian foreign ministry official reassuring the Saudis that "Iran has always wanted the stability, peace and progress of Saudi Arabia.

"The security of Saudi Arabia and Iran are linked and the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the security of Saudi Arabia is like its own security," as was quoted by Fars news agency. But words are one thing and deeds are what count.

These Saudi Arabia-Iran exchanges were preceded by Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani's visit to Iran during the last days of Ramadan to carry a message to Iran. He also later headed to Ankara in what seems to be a double message to Iran and Syria about their alliance, and the need to rethink it.

That was evident in Iran opening up to some elements in the Syrian opposition for the first time and a call by the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Salehi, on the Syrian leadership to consider its people's "legitimate demands." Salehi stated, "Either in Yemen, Syria or any other country, people have some legitimate demands or governments should answer them as soon as possible." That is a major Iranian shift vis-a-vis Syria. Since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising, Iran has toed the Syrian line claiming that Syria is subjected to "foreign conspiracies".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's warning of a preventive strike against Iran could lead to a crisis in the region. Sarkozy's remarks at the annual ambassador's conference warned "Iran's military, nuclear and ballistic [missile] ambitions pose a growing threat that could lead to a preventive strike on Iranian facilities and provoke a serious crisis, which France wants to avoid by all means."

That took everyone by surprise, especially the Iranians, considering that the Iranian nuclear programme was on the back burner even before the Arab Spring.

Another flashpoint was the fear of an imminent war between Israel and Hamas and a brewing cold war between Egypt and Israel following calls to expel the Israeli ambassador from Egypt and annul the Camp David accord. Iraq is exploding again with the looming withdrawal of US troops. And Turkey kicked out its Israeli ambassador and lowered its diplomatic and military ties as a result of Israel's stubbornness and refusal to budge and apologise for its brutal attack against the Mavi Marmara ship last year which resulted in the killing of nine Turks in cold blood.

Admittedly, we are going through tough and historic times in our region, and in our perspective about who we are and what we want. As the Qatari Emir has correctly observed, how things will evolve and in which direction we are heading, will determine the fate of this region, its people and the future of our aspirations, dreams and fate.

Professor Abdullah Al Shayji is the Chairman of the Political Science Department, Kuwait University. You could follow his tweets @docshayji