The Iran Deal and Proxy Wars in MENA

Thursday, June 4, 2015

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

In the early days of June 2015, heated efforts aimed at achieving Iran deal are underway within both Western and Eastern blocs. Based on many important estimates, various dimensions as well as consequences of Iran deal will affect many international issues. One of the strategic, security-related, and military spinoffs of such a deal for transregional powers is the spread of proxy wars in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Will Iran nuclear deal be a starting point for proxy wars of attrition in the Middle East? What effect will Iran nuclear deal have on the beginning and spread of these wars in the MENA region? What driving forces will determine emergence and spread of such wars on the basis of Iran deal? Basically, what effect will the emergence and spread of such wars – as a spinoff of Iran deal – have on the implementation, efficiency and effectiveness of Iran deal? And finally, if proxy wars in the Middle East are launched with the goal of restricting Iran's strategic influence, what effect will Iran's support for such wars have on interactions between Iran and the West?

Proxy wars in this region have a relatively modern background. This modern background is a result of various factors including the nascence of international borders and nation-states in this region; purposive distribution of ethnic, racial and religious identities in this region; the impact of some transregional actors in setting the course of regional trends, currents and actors; and in short, imbalanced distribution of power and power balance in the Middle East. Ideological grounds, geopolitical rivalries, the void of institutionalized power due to lack of regionalism, the emergence of the resistance axis, and disparity among influential regional models are other reasons for the growth of proxy wars in the modern Middle East.

The main tactic used by the Western front, including the United States, with regard to proxy wars in this region is focused on maximal reduction of all kinds of direct costs for the West in this region. Increased sales of weapons and investment on different regional actors on the basis of the macro strategy of creating a new power balance in the MENA are other major tactics used by the West in this regard.

At first, it may seem that proxy wars have many negative impacts on the feeling of security and the sustainable security of countries in this region. However, through a more serious and more fundamental approach, it may appear that such wars, through their further development in medium and long terms, can act against the 70-year goals of international system, the UN Charter, and the principles of cooperative security. And in doing so, they will have profound effects on the interests of transitional actors as well. The spillover of savage and medieval actions of various terrorist actors such as Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, or ISIS from this region to peripheral security domains such as the security complex of the West, which has actually taken place in many cases in the past, is good evidence in favor of this claim.

The encouragement and management of proxy wars in the Middle East at the beginning of the third millennium through terrorist networks and tools is a grave mistake, which is being unwittingly made by international system with the main goal of infusing a new “balance of powers” in this region. As a result, such measures as fanning the flames of discord between Shias and Sunnis in the region and taking advantage of unknown, new and emerging tools and actors are being taken based on the principles of proxy war in order to destabilize security environment of main poles, centres and pillars on the basis of which regional security can be built.

The main focus of all these wars in the past 36 years has been containment and management of “the riddle of the hegemony of an independent and influential Iran.”

The impact of Iran nuclear deal on the course, development and effects of proxy wars in the Middle East and North Africa can be considered as both an opportunity and a threat for the West. Just in the same way that the process of achieving such a deal has coincided with the spread of these wars, achieving the deal can, on the contrary, delineate new horizons in this regard.

Achievement of Iran nuclear deal can lead to possible management of proxy wars by trusting in Iran and believing in its strategic influence to help resolve regional issues. As a result, it can change the objectives and general course of such wars toward other directions and actors.

Strategic dimensions of conclusion or non-conclusion of Iran nuclear deal are multifaceted, profound and consequential. In both cases, it is quite predictable that Iran nuclear deal will be followed by complicated strategic effects and will lead to emergence of long-term complexities in the MENA region through the impact of proxy wars in this region. Available evidence shows that the spread of proxy wars in the MENA region will continue regardless of whether Iran deal is achieved or not, and it will have serious impacts on major international actors as well. Finally, in order to contain the nature and consequences of such wars in their spheres of influence, major international actors will try to encourage cooperation and take advantage of natural regional role and coalition-building potential of the main models of regional order in the Middle East, including the “riddle of the hegemony of an independent and influential Iran” regardless of whether a nuclear deal is achieved or not.

Key Words: Iran Deal, Proxy Wars, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), US, West, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, ISIS, Khoshandam

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*Photo Credit: Beast Watch News