Iran Entering Negotiations as a Regional Power

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mahdi Mohammadi
Chief Editor of IranNuc.IR and Expert on Strategic Issues

One of the most important missing links in the nuclear talks that are currently under way is the assessment of nuclear negotiations from the viewpoint of Iran's geopolitical power. Traditionally, the Americans have tried to separate the nuclear issue from other issues for a number of reasons, and talk about Iran's nuclear program as an isolated case.

The first reason was that the United States has always believed that negotiations, and a possible agreement, with Iran over the country’s nuclear issue have nothing to do with other areas of confrontation or strategic rivalry between Iran and the United States. Therefore, the Americans were of the opinion that the nuclear talks should be steered in such a way that even if an agreement were achieved, the United States would still have its own excuses and tools to mount pressure on Iran in other areas, including with regard to regional issues.

The second reason, from the viewpoint of many Americans, is that regional issues have become very complicated and the distance between positions of Iran and the United States on these issues is increasing. Therefore, linking the nuclear issue to other regional issues may practically reduce chances of reaching a final result through nuclear talks.

Despite this viewpoint, certain reasons have emerged recently, which make it practically impossible to draw a sharp line between nuclear issue and geopolitical changes that are going on in the region. The United States’ regional strategy has been proven a failure or is heading in that direction. This strategy has been based on a number of building blocks, at least, during the past decade:

1. Changing religious and sectarian rivalries into geopolitical conflicts;

2. Complete destruction or at least containment of Iran's inspiring and operational power in the region;

3. Suppressing ideological capacities, or using them in line with the United States’ interests if they cannot be done away with;

4. Changing the nature of regional conflicts, from conflicts between Muslim nations and Israel to a conflict between Iranians and Arabs or between Shias and Sunnis;

5. Assuring security of the routes used for transfer of energy and equipment, and maintaining control over regional air space;

6. Preventing the growing influence of other transregional powers in the Middle East; and

7. Trading interventionist policies for policies that pave the way for more influence in the region and boost the United States soft power capacities in the Middle East.

This article does not seek to discuss how various components and principles of this strategy have already hit a brick wall, or how some of them have even backfired. The point whose understanding does not need a lot of complicated arguments is that the United States has committed basic mistakes in the Middle East both for prediction and analysis of the regional developments. Even when it has been able to predict those developments, the United States has lacked needed tools to deal with them effectively. And in those cases where tools have been available, erroneous strategies have been formulated and pursued as a result of which regional developments have become more complicated. Even in some cases, where the United States has been able to complete its strategy vis-à-vis a development, the results have been quite the opposite of what Washington intended.

On the other hand, Iran's regional strategy has been breaking new grounds day after day. In a simple schema, Iran's regional strategy can be considered as a combination of the following components:

1. Establishment of connections with regional nations in parallel to their governments;

2. Creating networks of popular forces that support the idea of resistance;

3. Preventing regional rivalries from taking a sectarian turn;

4. Reducing to a minimum the soft power and operational capacities of the United States in the region; and

5. Making the strategic periphery of Israel totally insecure.

Iran's strategy has been clearly fruitful. The Islamic Republic is currently the sole power in the region that even its enemies feel they need its influence and power, and any kind of stability or instability in the region is directly related to Iran's will. Under these conditions, some US allies that previously imagined they can maintain their control over the Middle East for a long time, are now asking Washington to take the increasing pace of regional resistance seriously and attach the same importance to regional issues that it extends to Iran's nuclear case. Perhaps, this is one of the most important reasons why Saudi Arabia and Israel are angry with the current trend of nuclear talks and one of the reasons which has largely gone unnoticed.

It is a reality that the United States has not have any coherent strategy for confrontation with the increasing regional clout of Iran, just in the same way that it did not have any clear strategy on how to deal with the Islamic Awakening or the emergence of the ISIS terror group. In short, the main strategy that is now being followed by the United States is official denial and practical acceptance of Iran's rising influence in the region. Such a strategy has given birth to conflicting approaches to major regional developments such as the recent developments in Yemen which have led to the Houthi movement gaining control of the country.
So, as long as nuclear talks are involved:

1. Regional developments will lead to a point that the risk of possible failure of nuclear talks will greatly increase for the United States. If negotiations fail and the Americans enter a new phase of hostility and confrontation with Iran, they will pay a price, not at Natanz or Fordow, but in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. From this viewpoint, the recent developments in the region should naturally increase the self-confidence of the Iranian side, raise its expectations, and lower the chances of Iran giving more concessions because the Islamic Republic is now not afraid of a possible failure of disruption of negotiations. Now, it is time for the Iranian negotiating team to enter the talks as representative of a real regional power. Of course, this does not mean that Iran's regional influence is to be used as a bargaining chip during nuclear talks, but it means that the side that should be wary of the consequences of possible failure of negotiations is the United States, not Iran.

2. Secondly, there is no doubt that Iran's undeniable regional dominance will make the United States stick to the sanctions policy more than the past. Under conditions when the United States has already entered a period of strategic and geopolitical decline, sanctions constitute the sole tool that it can use to contain its main rivals, including Iran. Under these circumstances, it is very unlikely that the Americans will be ready to give Iran basic concessions in the form of revoking sanctions. From the viewpoint of the United States – which has been corroborated by Washington’s strategic documents – Iran, as a regional power, should remain under long-term sanctions. This is the main problem, which greatly tarnishes the outlook of negotiations and reduces the chances of nuclear talks reaching a final result. A combination of these two factors show that the best strategic formula that Iran can use to guarantee its future success and progress is to boost its regional power in parallel to following a resistance economy model without putting much hope in the cancellation of sanctions as a major option.

Key Words: Iran, Nuclear Negotiations, Regional Power. US. P5+1, Sanctions, Strategic Rivalry, Regional Strategy, Regional Conflicts, Middle East, Idea of Resistance, Strategic Periphery of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Mohammadi   

Source: Vatan Emrooz Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: Iran Matters