Futurology of Iran's Strategic Influence and Baghdad Negotiations

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Behzad Khoshandam
PhD Candidate in International Relations

Most experts and analysts of international issues have owned up to Iran's continuously increasing influence in international arena following the recent wave of popular uprisings in the Arab world. At the moment, the power to inspire, effective presence in regional equations, political goals and intensions, soft power resources, unique geopolitical position as well as educated and smart human assets are the most important indices of Iran's strategic influence at an international level. As put by George Friedman, during the early months of 2012, all those indices have been manifested within the framework of “Iran's strategy” concept or, in other words, the Iranian diplomacy as seen in international interactions of the country.

While there have been many debates about the changing balance of power and security arrangements in the Middle East following the Islamic Awakening, the main question which is posed in futurology of Iran as a strategic and effective power in international power equations is “what are the most important factors strengthening or limiting Iran's strategic influence?”

Although many factors strengthen and deepen Iran's strategic influence on international developments, four factors are more important. They include regional acceptance of Iran's model of resistance, expansion of Iran's interactions with regional players, the process of democratization in the Middle East, and Iran's nuclear case.

Having Iran's model of resistance accepted by regional countries as opposed to unfair demands of transregional powers, especially in the light of political developments that followed the Arab Spring in Syria, Bahrain and Palestine, is an important goal for high-ranking Iranian officials. Expansion of Iran's interactions with powerful regional and transregional players, especially such emerging powers as India, China and Brazil, will play a great role in increasing the Islamic Republic’s strategic influence. The democratization process in Iran's neighborhood will also increase convergence between Iran and regional states in a direction which will benefit Iran's interests. In addition to the above factors, any possible breakthrough with regard to Iran's nuclear case will further strengthen Iran's strategic influence and increase its bargaining power in crucial international negotiations.

As for the factors which limit Iran's strategic influence, four factors should be taken into consideration. They include Iran's challenging relations with certain big powers, unfriendly relations between Iran and some Arab political players, profiteering relations between some Arab players and big powers, as well as unfair efforts made by some international security institutions to increase their influence on international security arrangements.

The future outlook of Iran's strategic influence will be especially affected by the Islamic Republic’s challenging relationship with some big powers and global blocs, including the United States and the European Union. Approval of several rounds of international sanctions against Iran by those powers as well as the European Union in the past few years can be analyzed along the same lines. The relationship between Iran and some Arab players, which are under the impact of Iran's challenging relations with certain big powers, will also further restrict the extent to which Iran's strategic influence may be deepened in the region. The profiteering relationship of certain regional players as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates with some transregional players is another factor which has, one way or another, limited Iran's strategic influence at international level. Another factor impeding Iran's strategic influence on an international scale is unfair, unrealistic and non-standard efforts made by some international institutions which aim to interfere in security structures and arrangements of the Middle East to block Iran's influence.

On the other hand, if Iran's strategic rights and advantages as well as its areas of influence are recognized at international level, the other players will see that the Islamic Republic’s strategic influence will not be a barrier to other international players that want to boost their clout. On the contrary, it will lead to establishment of dynamic, effective, sustainable, and indigenous structures in the neighboring environment of Iran, including the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Therefore, regardless of all factors which are at work to limit Iran's influence on international equations, the country’s possible success in promoting its influence through what Friedman rightly calls “engaging in complex diplomatic maneuvering” can be a major determinant of Iran's strategic clout. It will be also the key to maintaining Iran's traditional geopolitical security domain and areas of influence. Last but not least, Iran's possible success in future negotiations with P5+1, which are scheduled to be held in Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad on May 23, will be undoubtedly a very important litmus test for future influence of Iran at international level.

Key Words: Futurology, Iran's Strategic Influence, Baghdad Negotiations, Balance of Power, Iran's Nuclear Case, Khoshandam 

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