Iran and the Middle East in 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

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

The Middle East in 2015, like the Middle East one hundred years ago and in 1915, is still a place for remarkable political trends, actors, groupings, as well as various forms of political dealing.

Iran’s actions in the Middle East of 2015 led to a return by all actors to Iranian solutions from the viewpoint of fighting against terrorism, bolstering alliances, emphasis on regionalism and opposition to presence of foreign forces in the region. The importance, role and position of the Middle East in 2015 was highlighted for Iran in the fight against terrorism, especially with regard to the ongoing crisis in Syria. However, the idea of regional convergence, which was continuously promoted by Iran in the Middle East in 2015 was overshadowed by other crises that are raging on in various parts of the region.

Of course, after conclusion of the Iran deal with the P5+1 group of countries on July 14, 2015, Iran took steps to rebuild its foreign policy in the Middle East on the basis of emphasis on neighborly rights. However, a set of measures taken by the Arab and Israeli front and radical groups erected impediments on the way of Iran’s effort in this regard. Of special note is the role played by the Arab-Israeli front, which is against Iran’s views and is pivoted around Saudi Arabia, in blocking Iran’s participation in building security across the Middle East. As the situation of the all-out civil war in Yemen became critical followed by expansion of Daesh terrorist group’s destructive operations in Iraq and Syria, and subsequent to the Mina tragedy in which a large number of Iran Hajj pilgrims lost their lives, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia became extremely tense and the Middle East in 2015 was pushed to the brink of proxy wars.

The futility and final failure of Saudi Arabia’s Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen in the middle of 2015, drew attention to Iran’s potentialities and strategies, and highlighted the need to bank on the Islamic Republic’s actions and influence for the resolution of strategic crises in the Middle East. Holding of the Munich Security Conference in Tehran in 2015, was one of the most important results of the increased attention by European neighbors of the Middle East to Iran’s original, natural, game-changing and solution-building role in the equations related to the Middle East, especially in Iran’s neighbors.

After Russia’s air raids against the positions of radical and opposition groups in Syria started in late September 2015, the international community’s need and Iran’s high potentialities, paved the way for the country to be officially invited by world powers to take part in new rounds of political talks on the situation in Syria in the Austrian capital city of Vienna. Iran’s official participation and presence in political talks on the future outlook of Syria in Vienna, was indicative of the country’s considerable influence on future security, political and strategic arrangements in the Middle East. Also, after Turkey’s F-16 fighter jets shot down Russia’s Sukhoi 24 bomber over Syria, Iran took a reasonable position on this incident by advising both sides to exercise self-restraint. Iran's position was also endorsed by NATO and the United States and encompassed Iran’s strategic viewpoint toward the Middle East in 2015, which gives priority to order, security and stability.

Continuation of the crisis between Arabs and Israel, official hoisting of the Palestinian flag at the United Nations headquarters, and soaring of the Third Intifada were other important developments in the Middle East during 2015. Meanwhile, despite frequent promises by the United States President Barack Obama about settlement of peace talks between Arabs and Israelis before his term in office is over, the case still remains among unresolved dossiers of Obama’s tenure as the year 2015 draws close to its end.  From Iran’s viewpoint, the issue of resistance against the occupying forces and transregional troops is a legitimate right and is based on the ideas of the resistance movement. While Israel practically suspended the European Union’s role in the peace process with Palestinians in late 2015, Iran continued to support the Third Intifada, while putting special emphasis on promotion of its relations with Lebanon as one of the main pillars of the resistance movement in the region.

Another important development in the Middle East in 2015 was the official announcement about strategic return of the UK to the Middle East region followed by the plan to build a new British military base in Bahrain, which led to further reduction of relations between Iran and Bahrain through instigations by intraregional and transregional actors in 2015.

The year 2015 was also a high time for reciprocal visits exchanged between Iran’s high-ranking officials and their counterparts from other Middle Eastern countries, especially following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and six world powers. During this year, exchange of regional viewpoints and making effort to promote a common understanding and regional discourses were among major steps taken by Iran to achieve or bolster common discourses, interests, viewpoint, and values within the Middle East, especially following recent terror attacks in the French capital, Paris, on November 13, 2015.

Although regionalism and attention to building new alliances and institutions can be pursued through neighborhood spirit, the Middle East lacked these coordinates in 2015. In the year 2015, the Middle East and Iran were characterized by a set of gaps, disorders as well as complicated and eventful developments whose various dimensions and consequences stemmed from specific national and international reasons. The complicated, different, extensive and vast developments of the Middle East in 2015 and Iran's role in them have confirmed the fact that the Middle East and Iran will continue to remain among the most internationalized and the most effective actors within framework of the international system for many years beyond 2015.

Key Words: Iran, Middle East, 2015, Iranian Solutions, Fight against Terrorism, Crisis in Syria, Civil War, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Daesh, Iraq, Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), International System, Transregional Troops, Resistance Movement, Israel, Europe, Peace Process, Palestinians, Third Intifada, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey, Khoshandam

More By Behzad Khoshandam:

*Iran's Foreign Policy in 2015:

*Strategic Analysis of 2015 Yemen Crisis: Global Proxy Wars vs. Regional Balance of Power:

*Consequences of Paris Terrorist Attacks for Middle East and Iran:

*Photo Credit: Common Dreams