A Nuclear Deal Could Change Iran’s Understanding of 'Strategic Stability' in the Region

Friday, April 3, 2015

 Kayhan Barzegar, Director of the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies

A nuclear deal could change Iran's understanding of strategic instability from the U.S. policies in the region, subsequently leading to increased regional interactions.

With the rise to the possibility of achieving a nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the world powers by the end of March 2015, one cannot ignore another positive effect of such a deal and that is the probability of a change in Iran’s understanding of strategic stability from the U.S. policies in the broader Middle East. This development may increase Iran’s tendency for playing a more interactive policy towards the regional countries, subsequently paving the grounds for increased regional cooperation.

Iran's understanding of strategic stability in the region has related to its view of the strategic positions of rival countries in the region and their proximity or remoteness to the West and especially America. Within this context, strategic issues in Iran's foreign policy such as establishing political coalitions, adopting deterrence policies, arms control and rivalry, cultural, economic, and energy integration policies, and even the advancement of the country's nuclear activities have been formed. During the Shah's regime, strategic stability was defined within comprehensive economic, political, and military proximity with the Western bloc and its regional allies. During the Islamic Republic, that strategy reversed and making a distance from the West and reliance on independent national relations have become significant.

In both of the above cases, the effective presence in regional issues and playing an active role were defined as a constant in Iran's understanding of maintaining strategic stability in the region. This principle has been due to both Iran's view of the precarious implications of regional instability on its national and security interests and to the definition of its position as an important regional actor and the subsequent right to participate in the region’s political-security issues. Iran’s engagement with the Dhofar War (1962-1976) in the past and its current confrontation with the self-declared Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS, although with different characteristics, both fall within this context.

From Iran's perspective, America's current presence in regional issues, such as leading the international coalition against ISIS, adds to the instability, complexity, and severity of crises. Meanwhile, Western solutions to resolve regional issues, such as the crises in Iraq, Syria, or recently Yemen, mostly ignore Iran's role and political position as one of the most important regional actors. This is while Iran has the capability to build political coalitions among internal political groups in those countries, especially in post-conflict situations.

Yet, Western countries and their regional allies, especially Saudi Arabia and the Israeli regime, consider Iran to be the main source of threat in the region which is seeking to expand its influence with an expansionist approach. Unfortunately, America's regional policy is to a great extent influenced by the goals of those actors seeking to contain Iran's role and power in the region. This, itself, leads to Iran's negative understanding of the strategic positions of the regional rivals.

In this regard, a dominant view in the West believes that by the signing of a nuclear deal between Iran and the U.S., Iran's role and influence in the region will increase and this will be to the detriment of West and its regional allies’ interests and therefore such a deal must be prevented in any way possible. However, an opposite perspective believes that a nuclear deal will pave the way for close cooperation between Iran and the U.S. for the sake of regional stability.

But from Iran’s perspective, establishing strategic stability in the region at present is not necessarily related to closeness to or distance from America. The reality is that for many years Iran has maintained that establishing stability is equivalent to expanding regional cooperation. The logic of such a strategy is that the interest-centered policies of foreign actors have themselves led to fissures between countries adding to regional instability. Meanwhile, the political, security, and economic realities of the region, especially after the Arab Spring developments, would sooner or later necessitate the governments of the region to focus on regional cooperation in order to resolve increasing regional problems on top of which is the expansion of extremism and terrorism.

From this perspective, Iran still considers the presence of America in the region as a source of increasing regional rivalries, split between nations, and consequently strategic instability for its own interests and seeks to weaken it. Iran is not interested in cooperating with America to crackdown on ISIS in Iraq because it perceives that as the price of weakening its relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt or deepening the gap between Shiite, Kurdish, and Sunni groups in Iraq, which will ultimately lead to the diminishing of that country's coalitional government and therefore the territorial integrity of Iraq.

As a result, Iran seeks to have close relations with Saudi Arabia despite all of the sabotage done by the Saudi regime in the formation of a nuclear deal or all out opposition with Iran on regional issues. Iran calls for close and comprehensive relations with the new Egypt after the regime of Hosni Mubarak, regardless of any government being in power in that country, be it Morsi or Al Sisi, because it wants to neutralize the role of Egypt as a traditional anti-Iranian actor in the Arab world. And Iran also considers close relations with the Erdogan government to be in its benefit, despite its all opposing stances against Iran in regional issues including the Syrian crisis.

In other words, strengthening or weakening regional cooperation has a direct relationship with Iran’s understanding of strategic stability in the broader Middle East region. The issue becomes more significant when one notes that a dominant view in Iran maintains that Iran's strategic value for America is only to play an active role and develop close relations with its friendly allies in the region and that accordingly Iran’s regional strategies, based on increased political, economic, cultural and even energy integration, must be formed to contain America's threats.

In such circumstances, a nuclear deal between Iran and America will, to a large extent, reduce the sense of strategic instability and insecurity from the U.S. policies in Iran's regional view. The result will be Iran's growing tendency for playing a more interactive policy towards the regional countries. Such a development is likely to encourage countries such as Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf littoral Arab countries, Jordan, and even Egypt and Turkey to seek increased regional cooperation with Iran.

In this context, however, one issue is still important and that is how to strike a balance between Iran's definition of maintaining its "strategic value", mainly relating to the existing political coalition with friendly states and political factions on the one hand, and its interaction with other regional countries and their Western allies to achieve "strategic benefit", mainly resulting from the necessity of building regional  partnerships on matters of mutual interests such as combating terrorism and extremism in the region.

President Rouhani's regional policy should combine the above two approaches.  Such a policy can itself be a new ground for strengthening regional cooperation. Iran's support for the formation of the new government in Iraq and its all-out struggle against ISIS terrorists in the country is an example that has increased Iran's significance among its regional friends and at the same time the necessity and value of partnership with Iran for solving regional issues before the West and its regional allies. As such, Iran should stress on playing its coalition-building role in the post-conflict situations in Syria and recently Yemen to find political solutions based on establishing inclusive governments.

Key Words: Nuclear Deal, Iran, Strategic Stability, U.S. Policies, Middle East, Regional Cooperation, Iran's Foreign Policy, Regional Instability, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Barzegar

Source: Tabnak News Site
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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