Iran: A Traditional and Vital Strategic Asset for the West in the 21st Century

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ali-Reza Moussavizadeh, Assistant Professor of International Politics,
Science and Research Branch of the Islamic Azad University
, Iran

Traditionally the Americans have always been of the opinion that cultivating closer economic and political ties with Iran, the most powerful state in the Persian Gulf, with its huge population, and industrialization program would serve Western interests better.

Increasingly, Iran began to play an important part in the United States' strategic thinking, for the protection of the Persian Gulf oil supplies and accessibility to the oil without disruption for producing it. This was, in the face of Soviet threat, and the spread of communism to the Persian Gulf, a view which was shared by other Western Allies, such as the United Kingdom. Ever since the WWII until now, in Western Allies’ view, the United States has been the only country, which could withstand various pressures, such as communism, then, during the Cold War, and now, in the beginning of the Twenty First Century, new challenges. It has therefore been clear to the Western Governments that the United States should take the lead.

In the United States' view "the proximity of important Soviet industries makes the importance of holding the Eastern Mediterranean-Middle Eastern area obvious." 1

The Americans believed that direct rule would be potentially detrimental to the interests of America in the Persian Gulf. Direct rule, in the United States' view in an area as strategically crucial as the Persian Gulf With its huge oil reserves could potentially lead to confrontation with the Soviet Union. The American attitudes towards Iran were:

It is of crucial importance to the United States that Iran remains an independent nation. Because of its key strategic position, and oil resources, loss of Iran would be: (a) A major threat to the security of the entire Middle East, as well as Pakistan and India. (b) Damage the United states prestige in nearby countries and with the exception of Turkey and possibly Pakistan, seriously weaken if not destroy, their will to resist communist pressures. (c) Have serious psychological impact elsewhere in the free world. 2

America's allies' view on the defense of the Persian Gulf was also similar to that of the United States. For example, in the words of the British Ambassador in Tehran:

Both the United States and British Governments are of the opinion that armed forces of Iran should have capabilities beyond those of maintaining internal security. 3

Consequently the American policy towards Iran became: "The United States will exert all feasible efforts to prevent the loss of Iran." 4 Furthermore, according to the State Department, "the United States has a vital interest in assisting free world countries to defend themselves against any subversion"; 5 a policy which was in place until the Islamic Revolution of 1978 in Iran. The Revolution led to the termination of the United States' ascendancy in the country. This was in the height of East-West tension, as the Soviet Union had already been gaining a strong foothold in Afghanistan.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1978 in Iran, successive American Administrations, Democrats, and Republicans alike tried to approach Iran, purely on the basis of the fact that, Iran is geographically, positioned in a vital strategic area of the World. This has been evident, and true throughout the history, regardless of whatever shape, the mosaic of international political system prevails. It was true, before oil issues, for different reasons during the nineteenth, and until the mid twentieth century’s imperial period. It has been true since the middle of the twentieth century until now in the post communism period in the beginning of the twenty first century, again, for emerging reasons. However, it is beyond the scope of this article, to expand further on the strategic significance of the landmass, Iran, between, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, neighboring Russia during any prevailing international political environment.

In Western, and essentially the United States' view the Persian Gulf plays an important strategic part, not only for the protection of oil supplies, but also, as a line of communication for defense, which there are many examples to show: Such as two wars in Iraq, 1990/1991, and 2003, and their aftermath crisis, the war of 2001 in Afghanistan, with its consequences in Pakistan, and now throughout the entire Middle East, the spillover of Al-Qaeda, to say the least, the crises in the Eastern Mediterranean-Middle East, and now, Syrian multidimensional war.

In Western assessments Iran can play its rational, and vital strategic role in the region at the beginning of the twenty first century.

As far as the West is concerned, as in the past Iran is the most powerful state in the Persian Gulf zone, with its industrialization, and population capacities, moreover, its political influence throughout the Middle East. Thus, cultivating closer economic and political ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran could be an asset to Western entanglement in the area.

Iran shows that, when all is said and done, diplomacy rather than force will be the only option. In this way Iran provides an important illustration of the changes in style of international diplomacy in a world that has evolved greatly since even a decade ago.

Key Words: Iran, Traditional and Vital Strategic Asset, Persian Gulf Oil Supplies, Middle East, Islamic Revolution, Diplomacy, Moussavizadeh


1. D. YERGIN Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and National Security, (London: Penguin Books, 1990), p. 269.

2. Y.  ALEXANDER and A. NANES (Eds.) The United States and Iran: A Documentary History, (Maryland: University Publications of America, 1980), pp. 265-266.

3. PRO. London, PREM 11/725, The Correspondence and Papers of the Prime Minister's Office, Sir Roger Stevens, the British Ambassador in Tehran, to the Foreign Office, top Secret, 19th March, 1954.

4. Y. ALEXADER and A. NAES, op. cit., p.275.

5. Department of State: Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, (Washington DC, Annual). 1955-57, Vol. x. p.7, Foreign Aid and Economic Defense Policy.

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