NATO’s Iran Strategy

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Behzad Khoshandam
PhD Student in International Relations

Bandwagoning or Hostility?

Active ImageFollowing September 11, 2001, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) practical strategy for interaction with Iran has been vacillating between bandwagoning (aligning Iran with the West’s policies) and hostility.

While NATO has on several occasions called for Iran’s cooperation with its new missions in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf countries after 2001, it has also tried to introduce Iran as the main enemy of its member states.

NATO’s plan to deploy a 200-million-Euro missile shield across Europe as protection against what NATO secretary-general calls Iran’s nuclear threat, is just one instance in which Iran has been pictured as the enemy of the European countries. However, will adoption of this strategy be compatible with large-scale strategic goals of this defense-security organization as well as operational and objective milieu of the international system in the 21st century?

For many reasons, the answer to the above questions does not seem to be positive.
According to Richard Haass, in the 21st centruy and in an age of nonpolarity of power, coalitions cannot last in the absence of common threats as well as common outlooks and obligations.

NATO is the only military and defense alliance of the Cold War era which has survived into the 21st century and evolved into a global entity. Therefore, threatening Iran while asking for its cooperation cannot be compatible with the main philosophy and functions of the Organization.

By distorting strategic concepts, NATO has been introducing new enemies in a bid to replace a new “collective security system,” which is based on “indispensability of security” and aims to “counter new common threats,” for the old model of “balance of powers.”

According to existing realities of the Middle East, Iran is part of the “collective security regime of the Middle East” and NATO’s strategy to “introduce Iran as enemy” will greatly jeopardize international security.

Fighting terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, establishing security and stability, countering extreme nationalism, protecting security of energy supply and transit, fighting drug trafficking and organized crime as well as dealing with cyber threats are major grounds which have made interaction between NATO and Iran under the new system of international relations an inevitable necessity. Therefore, continuation of the aforesaid strategy by NATO will be a great impediment to the realization of the Organization’s goals.

Although there are many grounds for cooperation between Iran and NATO in the modern world, in reality, there are also many obstacles on the path of that cooperation.

The United States, Russia, Israel, the quality and consequences of NATO operations in Iran’s neighboring countries, foreign policy goals of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and conflicting interests of neighboring countries which require Iran to abstain from cooperation with NATO are major obstacles to development of Iran’s interactions with NATO.

Russia plays an especially important role. NATO was originally established to head off security threats posed by the former Soviet Union. Therefore, it seems that NATO’s strategy toward Iran will be a function of its interactions with Russia.

Since NATO is supposed to redefine its strategic concept in November 2010, continuation of this strategy toward Iran will not be in the best interests of international and regional security.

Apparently, in view of “new global realities” and “NATO’s tactical need to Iran’s capacities,” the organization is now at a historical crossroads to choose only one of the aforesaid strategies toward Iran.

In view of the forthcoming security conditions of the world, transparent choice of either strategy by NATO will have great impact on “global issues,” “world powers,” and “the global security system.”