US, Region Should Benefit from Lifting Sanctions on Iran

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kayhan Barzegar

If one wanted to point to an outdated argument advising the United States on how to deal with Iran in regional affairs, the best candidate would be the April 9 op-ed by David Petraeus and Vance Serchuk in The Washington Post. In “U.S. Needs to Plan for Day After an Iran Deal,” the authors propose that President Barack Obama pursue the policy of maintaining an intense US presence in the Middle East to contain Iranian power and in doing so preserve US national and security interests.

The article’s main argument is that lifting economic sanctions will unleash Iranian power in the region. Tehran’s subsequent support of terrorism, they contend, would gravely endanger US geostrategic interests in the Middle East. This point is disputable, because any improved relations between Iran and the United States that result from a comprehensive nuclear deal, following the removal of sanctions and a reduction in nuclear activities, will immediately bring about positive implications for regional stability through cooperation.

Influential groups in US politics with the support of regional allies and pro-Israeli and pro-Saudi lobbies have for decades pushed a conservative view that Iran is pursuing an expansionist regional policy in an effort to increase its power in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Palestinian territories. Iran was thus anointed the main threat in the region, and the necessity of containing Iran’s role and power became firmly established in the United States’ Middle East strategy.

Obama’s policy of seeking a diplomatic approach to resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran stems from the region’s emerging new political-security realities and is a serious counter to the conventional wisdom in Washington. One tenet of this wisdom holds that cutting any deal with Iran would ultimately be at the expense of US allies in the region.

Yet, insistence on following the traditional policy, as in the Petraeus and Serchuk op-ed, ignores possibly benefiting from Iran’s role in regional affairs. It overlooks entirely that the conservatives’ view has been detrimental to regional peace and security and has also been at the expense of US security interests by spreading instability, extremism and terrorism. Following such a policy has resulted only in increased tensions and distrust among nations, triggering an arms race and establishing rival regional coalitions. The Afghanistan and Iraq crises are two examples of this.

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*Kayhan Barzegar is the director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran and a former research fellow at Harvard University. He also chairs the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Islamic Azad University in Tehran.

Source: Al Monitor

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*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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