The Iran Deal, Arab-Arab Struggles and Rights of Neighborhood

Friday, July 3, 2015

Behzad Khoshandam
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert on International Issues

Although Arabs have been seriously preoccupied with Arab-Arab struggles after the beginning of the Arab Spring, they have also paid special attention to the Iran deal in their policies. Traditionally and strategically, Iranians and Arabs have had different viewpoints on the best model that would guarantee security in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf regions. The recent meeting between Arabs head of state and the US President Barack Obama in Camp David, Washington, in May 2015, reflected the sensitivity and importance of a nuclear deal between Iran and the West for Arabs.

The issue of different approaches taken by Iran and Arabs to security structures in the region, the issue of national security, and particularly, the issue of creating stability in the region are all of high importance. It seems that the contents of a possible deal with Iran will have important impacts on Iran's relations with Arabs in the Middle East, including in the Persian Gulf, the Levant, the Gulf of Aden and North Africa.

What effect will the Iran deal have on relations between Arabs and Iran? Will Iran-Arabs relations undergo a profound change in the context of the Iran deal? Will Arab-Arab and West-Arab relations be also affected in the context of the Iran deal? What concerns will the Arab states along the southern rim of the Persian Gulf have about accepting a deal between Iran and the West? Will the beginning and continuation of proxy wars be affected by the changes that the Iran deal will create in Iran's relations with the Arabs? What position will be taken by regional Arab institutions – such as the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC], and the Arab League – on the Iran deal and what possible consequences may it have for the cooperation between regional Arab states and transregional institutions such as the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? Finally, what impact will the Iran deal have on cooperation between Arabs and non-Arab actors in the region and on the type of their interaction with the emerging networked and desecuritizing actors?

All existing evidence points to the fact that the cynical, competitive and outward-looking approach taken by Arab neighbors of Iran (which includes efforts to get the backing of the United States, the EU, and the NATO) will continue in the light of the Iran deal. At the same time, the constructive role that Iran plays in resolving growing Arab-Arab conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt and other parts of the Arab world cannot be denied.

The scope and range of reactions that Iran's Arab neighbors have shown to early steps taken toward an Iran deal through the Geneva Joint Plan of Action (in November 2013) and the Lausanne Framework Agreement (April 2015), have been quite remarkable. Of special importance has been the reaction shown by Arab states to a possible Iran deal in the form of promoting Iranophobia, purchasing an unprecedented amount of advanced weapons, the beginning of Saudi Arabia’s proxy war against Yemen, initiation of such pan-Arab activities as the establishment of a Unified Arab Force, as well as suspicious cooperation between Arabs and Israel and between Arabs and Turkey.

Therefore, spread of terrorism, securitization; militarism; efforts to get the backing of transregional actors; widening of ethnic, racial, and religious gaps; growth of extremism; de-regionalism, and further deepening of hostilities in the peripheral environment of Iran have been among early reactions shown by Arabs to a possible Iran deal.

The Middle East and Persian Gulf naturally, basically, fundamentally, and in principle belongs to Iranians, Arabs and other ethnic, religious and indigenous groups living in these regions. Stability in the Middle East needs cooperative efforts by these main traditional actors in the Middle East. The Iran deal will not lead to stability in the Middle East, unless Arabs change their traditional attitude toward indigenized and internalized approach of Iran to regional issues and the sense of belonging in the strategic thinking of Iran's foreign policy.

Continuation of serious and constructive cooperation between Arabs and Iran in the light of the Iran deal would depend on Arabs respecting Iran's rights of neighborhood and also showing respect for the dynamic nature of Iran's foreign policy with relation to versatile development in its periphery of this serious present and future actor of the region.

Also, future outlook of beneficial regional cooperation between Arabs and Iran would depend on show of goodwill and trust in Iran's regional intentions and soft power by Arabs. Practical recognition of the neighborhoods rights of this major regional actor and formulation of a common national security culture between the two sides would be a step forward in this regard.

To do this, more sustainable interaction between Arabs and Iran would be necessary on the basis of new agendas for bilateral relations, especially in such fields as regional cooperation, joint fight against extremism and terrorism, approach to transregional actors, human security, and establishment of a common neighborhood culture.

Of high importance in this regard is the role played by such significant countries as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Oman in setting joint agendas in order to achieve a joint sustainable and constructive discourse between Arabs and Iranians with the final goal of establishing a new security structure in the region.

The key to sustainable interaction, coalition building, and regionalism in future relations between Arabs, Arab institutions, and Iran is mutual trust on the basis of good neighborly relations and building a suitable culture of neighborhood. Fundamental trust of Arabs and Iranians toward each other with Arabs avoiding any effort aimed at promoting Iranophobia and extremism and avoiding recourse to transregional actor and security institutions to establish security in the geopolitical domain of Iran-Arab interactions in the light of the Iran deal should be considered an inevitable requisites for the promotion of regional development and creation of a good neighborly environment.

Key Words: Iran, Nuclear Deal, Arab-Arab Struggles, Rights of Neighborhood, Arab Spring, Middle East, Persian Gulf, National Security, Stability, Lausanne Framework Agreement, Geneva Joint Plan of Action, Khoshandam

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