The Iran Deal and Iran's Strategic Influence

Friday, May 8, 2015

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

During more than a few decades that Iran has been exposed to rivalry among big powers, the issue of the expansion of Iran's strategic influence has been one of the most important concerns of Western politicians. Major developments in the past decade such as the Tehran Statement (2003), the Paris Agreement (2004), Iran's inspiring role in the Arab Spring developments, and Geneva’s Joint Plan of Action (2013) have collectively helped to remarkably promote Iran's position during this period. Therefore, and in the light of past experiences and its own content, the framework agreement reached in the Swiss city of Lausanne has been also an important step toward further strategic promotion of Iran's position in international developments. As a result, the final fate of Iran's strategic influence in the light of the effort made by the P5+1 group to achieve a comprehensive deal with Iran exception following the Lausanne statement, has been subject of many challenging discussions.

All the realities in international relations indicate that in the future outlook, Iran's strategic influence will further expand due to remarkable means that are available to Iran. Therefore, some big powers should scrap the delusion of going to war against Iran from their scenarios. As put by Kissinger and Schultz, “The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran,” and “the implications of [nuclear] negotiations are irreversible.”

Therefore, in the future outlook, diplomacy and negotiation will provide the P5+1 group with the most important and the least costly tool in order to achieve an agreement with Iran. According to this analysis, the quality of the promotion of Iran's strategic influence in this future outlook is also an important issue. Another important point is that the requisite for promoting Iran's strategic influence at international level will be a function of Tehran’s innate and natural commitment to helping with the process of “creating and maintaining stability” in its peripheral regions; an issue, which has been always emphasized by the Islamic Republic.

History has proven that Iran, as a government that is both a spiritual and intellectual model, but also xenophobic, has been committed during the Middle East’s developments in the past few decade to playing an active role in creating stability and order in the region through peaceful settlement of disputes.

From the viewpoint of Iran's regional strategy, creating strategic stability in the peripheral environment is an indigenous goal to be achieved through forming coalitions and commitment of all players, partners and actors to common interests and goals. In Iran's view, disorder in the Middle East will be unconstructive and only help entry of suspicious and uncontrollable currents into interactions in the Middle East and the Islamic world. Iran's approach to distribution of power and wealth, and creation of trends in the Middle East is based on an indigenous and Middle East-oriented model. As a result, it considers restrictions on the Middle Eastern people’s abilities and capacities by transregional forces as an existential threat to the sovereignty, stability and development of nation-states in the Middle East.

During the past four decades, political and strategic history of the Middle East has shown that most ethnic, identity-related, religious and racial crises in this region have been a result of interventionist actions, and scenarios implemented by transregional players. The history of the region is imbued with the role of rivalry and destabilizing efforts of big powers over war spoils as well as regional reserves and identity of the Middle East. Basically, distribution of instability, desecuritization, ethnic and sectarian disputes, collapse of nation-states, and deviation in regional balance of powers in the Middle East have been spinoffs of the absence of correct understanding, lack of correct interpretation and misjudgments on the part of transregional powers with regard to identity-related and indigenous values, norms, ideas, and capabilities of this region, especially Iran's peace logic and war aversion.

Iran's new strategic capabilities in global developments, which have been focused on taking advantage of new diplomatic tools, including multilateral diplomacy, are in a stage of reproduction and expansion. As a result, an indispensable part of Iran's strategic influence in the global arena currently consists of soft power and is related to the country’s identity. Iran has emphasized that it is not trying to “build a Shia” empire and does not seek “empire building” in the region and is only trying to achieve its rights and natural position and aims to get those rights and position recognized. Iran's approach to resolution of regional and global crises and disputes is preventive, cooperative, coalitional, and identity-based. From the viewpoint of Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, as an Iranian diplomat, the most urgent need of Iran's foreign policy is to maintain and promote stability in geographical regions around the country. At present, Iran considers such important crises as Arab-Israeli conflict, civil war in Syria, anti-Islam and anti-Shia approaches of the ISIS, as well as radical moves by Al-Qaeda and other network-based actors, as serious and basic threats to welfare, development and realization of strategic goals of the Iranian nation.

Therefore, in view of the above facts, the logic behind hailing the conclusion of a comprehensive nuclear deal with the P5+1 group by Iranian citizens can be explained as follows. From the viewpoint of Iranian citizens and state officials, conclusion of this agreement will be of great help in promoting Iran's standing at international level and will facilitate the country’s peaceful and cooperative role in solving regional crises on the basis of civilized values and norms of human community as well as indigenous needs of this region. Just in the same way that Iran's strategic influence at international level has gradually increased during the past three decades, conclusion of this agreement will serve as a driving force to facilitate Iran's purposive, proactive and strategic role at regional and global levels in the next few decades. It will also prompt the international community to resort to recognized international means to interact with Iran.

The scope of this influence on international and regional equations is considered by Iranian citizens and statesmen as an endogenous, mostly non-state, indigenous, irreversible and developing phenomenon, which cannot be limited by any precondition. After the signing of the Lausanne framework agreement, Iran considers itself a responsible and valuable member committed to modern values and norms of human community away from Arab-Arab disputes. The existing capabilities and capacities for boosting Iran's strategic influence at international and global levels are the outcome of complicated bureaucratic, religious, cumulative, cultural, social, political and economic developments of Iranian civilization during its thousands-of-years-old history and are not open to any deal. Regardless of whether a final nuclear deal is achieved or not, Iran would remain an actor, which creates order and forms coalitions in the Middle East. So, if Iran is supposed to interact as a strategic partner with Western transregional powers in economic, trade and civil fields, its normal strategic influence should be recognized and respected at regional and global levels, especially by the United States.

Key Words: Nuclear Deal, Iran's Strategic Influence, Joint Plan of Action, Iran's Regional Strategy, Transregional Forces, Existential Threat, P5+1, Iranian Civilization, Arab-Arab Disputes, Khoshandam

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*Photo Credit: Qudsonline.IR