Geneva Agreement and Iran's Strategic Power

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mohsen Shariatinia

The Geneva agreement [signed between Iran and six world powers last November] has been considered as the most important development in Iran's foreign policy during the past decade. Therefore, it has been the subject of many discussions and debates both inside the country and at international level, with the main focus being accurate assessment of its consequences. Most of discussions about the agreement have been about the acceptance or rejections of Iran's right to enrich uranium on its soil by the aforesaid agreement. In other words, this agreement has been often discussed and analyzed from the viewpoint of its impact on the enrichment activities of Iran.

However, the main argument in this article is that the analysis and assessment of this agreement should go beyond simple enrichment and the agreement should be viewed in terms of the impact it has on strengthening the foundations of Iran's national power. To do this, the Geneva agreement and basically any kind of negotiations as well as such issues as peace and war, should be looked upon as means for the expansion of a country’s national power. Therefore, and under current circumstances, the right question is whether the Geneva agreement has actually helped to increase the national power and strategic capacity of the Islamic Republic.

To answer this question, a first step is to have a clear image of the concept of the national power. Following the end of the Cold War and with deepening of the globalization process, various components of national power have also changed in importance. As a result, the military component has been increasing falling in significance and giving way to economic and cultural components which are currently enjoying a higher degree of importance. Therefore, in such a changed world, only those countries will succeed in boosting their national power that could amass more potential and energy in order to further strengthen economic and cultural components of their national power. On the other hand, countries that continue on the traditional path to raise their power have been constantly losing their importance within the new system of global political order. Such a difference in international standing of countries can be clearly seen in countries like India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cuba, China and Russia. India, Vietnam and China can be considered as symbols of correct understanding of the changing concept of national power while Pakistan, Cuba and Russia epitomize countries that lack correct understanding of this very important concept.

In view of the above facts, the Geneva agreement can be considered as a major stride in the direction of increasing the national power of Iran. It goes without saying that during the past decade, systematic pressures exerted on Iran have caused the country to face many problems for taking full advantage of its potentials. Therefore, it is quite clear that the Geneva agreement will pave the way for the generation and strengthening of the fundamental components of Iran's national power. At the same time, it has paved the way for win-win negotiations with the world powers by convincing the opposite negotiating parties to recognize Iran's nuclear know-how at an international level. From this standpoint, the foreign policy approach adopted by the new Iranian government of “foresight and hope,” with the Geneva agreement as its most important manifestation, has so far led to a remarkable hike in the country’s national power through the following mechanisms:

1. Reducing the pressure of international sanctions on Iran's national economy, reducing predictability of Iran's economic trends and minimal improvement of business climate: As said before, following the termination of the Cold War, economy has been considered as the most important component of the national power of countries. As a result, having normal relations with global economic system is now considered as the most important precondition for development. Therefore, the Geneva agreement, which is very important due to its role in gradually reducing international sanctions against Iran, can be considered as the most outstanding strategic measure taken during the past decade in order to prevent further decline in Iran's national power and gradually increase it.

2. Changing tarnished international image of Iran and introducing the Islamic Republic as a logical and interactive state that is ready for dialogue: Such a change has greatly uplifted international prestige of the country as one of the major components of Iran's national power.

3. Presenting a new model of agreement over one of the most important international crises: The history of nuclear crises shows that such events usually end with the complete surrender of the country that is under international pressure, its occupation by foreign armies, or maximum isolation of that country. The path that Iran has taken to become a nuclear power, however, has been different from paths taken in the past by such countries as Libya, Iraq, and North Korea. By signing the Geneva agreement, Iran has managed to logically defend its rights and, at the same time, show respect for the concerns of the international community. Therefore, designing and implementing an Iranian model for the settlement of nuclear disputes can be considered as a very important achievement for the country’s diplomatic apparatus during the past decades.

4. Another important achievement of this agreement is to change the balance of regional power in favor of Iran: The regional standing of the Islamic Republic of Iran during the years that have passed since the Islamic Revolution, has been greatly influenced by the type of relations that Iran has had with big global powers, especially the United States. As a result, as tension in relations with the United States increased, Iran's position in the region was faced with more challenges and vice versa. Under present circumstance and as a result of the conclusion of the Geneva agreement, Iran has improved its position in the regional power balance system. This allegation has been already confirmed by the extreme concern that has been shown by other regional players such as Saudi Arabia and Israel over increasing power of Iran in the region.

5. The Geneva agreement has been effective in creating a clear divide between the United States and its allies in the region over the best way for dealing with Iran: This issue has been also attested to by the existing differences between the United States, on the one hand, and Israel and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand. It is evident that further deepening of this gap can lead to reduction of the power of countries that are considered as Iran's regional rivals.

6. The improvement of relations between Iran and Eastern and Asian powers, especially China, India, Russia and Japan: Under the current circumstances, although the agreement between Iran and the West is still nascent, positions taken by those countries on Iran have evidently changed and through interaction with Iran, they have already accepted conditions which they would have never accepted in the past.

Given the above fact, one may claim that the agreement clinched in the Swiss city of Geneva has offered Iran with a major strategic opening and the impact of this strategic opening on promoting the national power of the country has been too obvious to be denied.

*Mohsen Shariatinia is assistant professor of International Relations at the Mofid University (Qum, Iran) and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Trade Studies and Research. He is the author of Iran-China Relations: An Introduction (2007) and Developmentalist Foreign Policy: Chinese Experience (2008), both published by the Center for Strategic Research - CSR, in Persian.

Key Words: Geneva Agreement, Iran's Strategic Power, International Sanctions, Balance of Regional Power, Shariatinia

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