Iran and the Concert of Great Powers in 2015

Friday, January 15, 2016

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

The United States, Russia, China, France, and the UK plus Germany, India, Brazil and Japan were among great global powers of interest to Iran in 2015.

The equation of Iran’s relationship with great powers in 2015 was a function of the old formula of the country’s historical developments over the past two centuries and was based on the relationship between one regional power and a high number of great global powers. The degree of adaptation, adaptability and common understanding between Iran and great powers continued, but the most prominent feature of these relations in 2015 was maximization of the amount of understanding as well as common understanding that existed throughout the past two centuries.

Major reasons for closeness between Iran and great powers in 2015 included Iran’s independence and influence at international level, complexity and multifaceted nature of international interactions, as well as agreement on serious use of joint diplomacy to overcome common challenges and the points of conflict and difference. Therefore, one of the most important reasons behind effectiveness of Iran’s actions as a regional power in the give-and-take among great powers was the country’s bird’s-eye view in both domestic and global politics.

In the arena of world politics in 2015, a coalition of great powers known as the P5+1 group started interacting with Iran and, as put by Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, made negotiations with Iran over the country’s nuclear issue inevitable. Xenophobic action of Iran in world politics, increasing sense of insecurity on the part of this actor, and reciprocal security and strategic needs of great powers to Iran’s geopolitics and soft power were other issues that necessitated a serious return by great powers to Iran option in 2015.

Among great powers, the actions by two powers, that is, the United States and Russia, for attracting Iran’s approach and view toward their interests were especially important and effective.

In its effort to reach reconciliation with Iran, the United States gave many concessions to Iran in 2015, including with regard to the country’s nuclear right, recognition of its spheres of influence, showing relative respect for Iran’s norms and security independence, and also by accepting Iran as a role model and reference point for Shia and Islamic identity and by removing Iran from global desecuritizing agendas. Examples of this change of behavior in the United States toward Iran included Washington’s willingness to invite Iran to take part in political talks on the future of Syria and its effort to convince Iran’s Arab neighbors to respect the Islamic Republic’s interests, approaches and natural role in the region and also in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Russia’s actions in 2015 to get Iran’s attention can be construed along the line of Moscow’s policy of the “look to the east” and Eurasianism that governs the country’s foreign policy right now.

For centuries, Russians have been trying to make the most of the Iran pie. New global developments, the crisis in Ukraine and the changing role of Russia in the emerging world order following the Arab Spring have all ushered Russia in the direction of more serious and even more strategic cooperation with Iran. Russia’s first efforts in this regard in 2015 aimed to encourage and support Iran’s participation in such Russia-oriented institutions as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS in order to prevent more profound relations between Iran and the Western front and, in particular, to thwart the United States’ moves to play the Iran card. Cooperation between Iran and Russia in the resolution of the Syria crisis was the pinnacle of Russia’s efforts, which were practically materialized in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran in late 2015, and were lauded by global strategists.

On the European Union (EU) front of great powers, the role played by Germans in pushing great powers toward cooperation with Iran in 2015, was quite remarkable. Of particular importance in this regard was serious and effective efforts made by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to help build confidence between great powers and Iran.

France as another great European power made many unconstructive efforts to foil options offered by Iran for the resolution of especially Iran’s nuclear issue, but in the middle and toward the end of 2015, France’s approach changed course in the direction of cooperation with Iran on various issues. Following the conclusion of the Iran deal, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was among major European foreign ministers who paid an official visit to Iran. In late 2015, Iran's sympathy with the French people subsequent to the terrorist attacks of November 13 in Paris increased France’s willingness to pay serious attention to Iran. Later on, this issue became more manifest through Iran's constructive participation in the UN Climate Change Summit, COP 24, in Paris.

The role played by the UK in regulating Iran's relations with great powers in 2015 was materialized through continuation of strategic conflicts and tactical agreements between Iran and the United States. The British were particularly on the sideline, not part of the mainstream effort, as they sought purposive regulation of their relations with Iran and also tried to regulate their relations with other great powers in order to take advantage of Iran's capacities to regulate international relations and equations at the lowest cost.

Great Asian poles and such major powers as China, India and Japan also took measures to show their interest in Iran in 2015. The Chinese were mostly regulating their relations with Tehran in economic, energy, trade and military fields. This effort was mostly Eurasian-based and China-based and on the basis of China performing its role in the Middle East and Iran on the sidelines and without apparent hype. India and Japan were also focused on regulating their relations with Iran mostly in the fields of energy and global order. The beginning of the construction of TAPI gas pipeline project by India, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan with the US support was an unfriendly measure against Iran in 2015.

Such powers as Brazil were also trying to balance their relations with Iran in 2015 mostly on the basis of economic interactions and cooperation within framework of such international institutions as the BRICS.

On the whole, in 2015, Iran's political system was a critic of the international system and the concert of great powers, which is a product of the emerging world order, and as a reformist order demanded revision in many international institutions, relations and mechanisms based on a form of balance of powers, which was founded on the logic of realism.

Key WordsIran, Great Powers, Relationship, International Interactions, P5+1, Iran’s Nuclear Issue, Balance of Powers, Khoshandam

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*Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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