Iran and Great Powers Struggle

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Behzad Khoshandam
PhD Student in International Relations

Roots and Consequences

The three-decade-old confrontation between Iran and big international powers has cost dearly for global politics. Although “big powers” is a challenging concept, it usually denotes five permanent members of the Security Council (the United States, China, Russia, UK, and France) as well as India, Japan and Germany.

The main challenge in Iran’s relations with the said powers is that big powers basically lack a correct understanding of Iran’s security and strategic approaches. On the opposite and due to a variety of reasons, Iran has been unable to adapt to big power’s approach to new developments both at regional and international levels.
Attention to background and root causes of this confrontation will be useful in explaining the existing problems between Iran and the big powers, delineating their consequences and predicting their future course.

The confrontation between Iran and big powers dates back to several centuries ago and has its roots deep in historical events. International as well as historical, cultural, bureaucratic, and regional issues have shaped the overall nature of Iran’s confrontation with big powers some of which will be mentioned here.

The big power’s approach to developments in Iran before the end of the Cold War and profound cooperation among those powers in restricting Iran’s achievement of its national interests as well as endeavors to contain the country at regional and international levels have been major issues influencing Iran’s challenging relations with the big powers.

The root cause of the confrontation between Iran and big powers in cultural areas is the challenge which Islam and the Iranian identity pose to western interests and liberal values. Iran’s approach to liberal ideology of the west, especially the big powers, is an example to the point.

Iran’s personality-based and bureaucratic approach to big powers is another cause of challenge between the two sides.

The role of regional actors in the Middle East, including special relations between Israel and the big powers as opposed to their interest-based relations with Iran’s Arab neighbors, most of whom oppose Iran’s policies and ideas, is another variable affecting Iran’s relations with the big powers.

Regardless of causes, Iran’s tense relations with the big powers have had international, regional, security and cultural consequences for global politics and peace as well as international stability and security. They have also weighed down on Iran’s national interests. Iran’s nuclear program, human rights issues, Islamic – Iranian ideology, and Iran’s special approach to the Middle East developments, especially Arab – Israeli peace, are major highlights of Iran’s challenging relations with the big powers.

A soaring sense of insecurity on the part of both actors in relation to international and regional issues has been among the most important security outcomes of the ongoing confrontation between the two sides of this equation.

In addition, Iran’s confrontation with the big powers in the past few decades has had major cultural and political results. Iran emerging as a role model for most independence- and freedom-seeking movements is only one of the consequences of the longstanding challenge between Iran and the big powers.

Therefore, this issue calls for serious attention because continuation of challenging relations between Iran and the big powers will further promote Iranian model of independence and development for other independence-seeking actors across the world examples of which are currently happening in the Middle East. Undoubtedly, expansion of Iran’s resistant spirit through the international system will have serious bearing on the interests of the big powers, Iran, and other important international actors in addition to international peace and security. On the other hand, sustainable and purposive interaction between those actors and Iran will have positive, progressive and constructive results for international politics.