For Iran, Nuclear Deal Is Not at Expense of Regional Concerns

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kayhan Barzegar

With the Geneva nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1, the ground for increased Iran-West cooperation for dealing with regional and global issues has been laid. But this development will not be at the expense of Iran’s increased regional relationships, which have been a fundamental priority of Iran’s foreign policy.

The prevailing view in the Arab world — especially among the conservative Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf, at the top of which is Saudi Arabia — is that a possible permanent nuclear deal with Iran is equivalent to increasing Iran-West, and especially Iran-US, relations at the expense of Arab countries’ interests.

But strengthening regionalism has been a constant in Iran’s foreign policy strategy for two reasons. The first is to decrease the role of outside power in regional affairs. The second is to withdraw from the traditional balance-of-power architecture and instead focus on a balance-of-interests strategy and regional cooperation.

From a realistic point of view, an increased foreign role — for example, the US role — in regional issues such as the Syrian or Afghanistan crises will minimize Iran’s role in its political-security backyard because the foreign actor seeks to impose its favorite political-security and economic trends in the state-building process in the post-conflict era. In doing so — and as experience shows — the foreign actor expands relations with friendly domestic factions and becomes a rival to regional countries, decreasing Iran’s role.

Meanwhile, focusing on the traditional balance-of-power setting will weaken regional cooperation, because it makes states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia check their power politically, economically and militarily. The result would be the preservation of US interests at the expense of these two regional states. Therefore, Iran would like to shift this setting into the balance of interests so that the relative security of the regional states is simultaneously preserved.

In this context, Iran has attempted to strengthen its regional relations at every opportunity. Despite the precarious situation in the Bahrain crisis, Iran has maintained traditional good relations with Saudi Arabia. Iran has also kept good relations with Pakistan’s government despite its anger from the activities of terrorist elements that are believed to be crossing the Pakistani border into southeast Iran. Iran seeks increased relations with Turkey despite tension over the Syrian crisis and the installation of NATO’s missile defense shield on Turkish soil. And Iran has carefully followed political developments in Egypt, trying to not take any side in the country after President Mohammed Morsi’s fall.

With Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president and the coming to power of moderate technocrats, focusing on globalization trends and increased relations with the West have become central in Iran’s foreign policy. Issues such as removing sanctions, energy exports and attracting foreign investments — which require a certain degree of Iran’s integration with world economy — all depend on increased Iran-West relations.

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*Kayhan Barzegar is the director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran and a former research fellow at Harvard University. He also chairs the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Islamic Azad University in Tehran.

Source: Al Monitor

More By Kayhan Barzegar:

*Rouhani and the Prospects For US-Iran Nuclear Talks:

*Paths forward for the Nuclear Suppliers Group:

*The Shifting Nature of Iran’s Regional Policy:

*Photo Credit: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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