Value of Neighborhood Geopolitics and Convergence among Neighbors in Foreign Policy of Iran's 11th Administration

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mohammad Farhad Koleini
Senior Expert on Strategic Issues

Giving priority to constructive interaction with the neighboring countries is one of the most important considerations when a country’s foreign policy aims to pave the road for that country’s development. There have been various examples in contemporary times which stand for the idea of allied neighbors. They include the establishment of the European Union; the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Central Asia and Caucasus; making plans by Iran to promote convergence in West Asia within the framework of the country’s 20-Year Perspective Plan; establishment of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council; multilateral and trilateral cooperation among neighboring countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan or Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan; establishment of regional economic organizations such as Economic Cooperation Organization; efforts made to boost cooperation among the littoral states of the Caspian Sea; cooperation among countries that are members of North-South Corridor; Iran's membership in Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation as observer and so forth. At the same time, efforts made by transregional organizations for playing a more active role in the political equations of Iran's neighboring countries should not be overlooked.

Efforts made by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to strengthen its position in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as similar efforts by countries in Caucasus and the Persian Gulf, are good examples in this regard. In our own country and during the rule of the second Pahlavi king, the concept and idea of regionalism and interaction with the neighboring countries was promoted under the general title of moving “toward the great civilization.” The main goal of Iran's monarchial regime was to get closer to the West while simultaneously trying to promote Iran's nationalistic hegemony over the region and this policy was seriously pursued during the 1970s.

The main goal behind the promotion of regionalism at that time was to meet the West’s regional interests under the Cold War climate of the bipolar political system of the world when special importance was attached to management and control of countries located on the southern rim of the former Soviet Union. It was for the same reason that the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was established. Following the overthrow of the monarchical regime in Iran and the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the regional political system that had been established by the West underwent gradual change. Later on, during the 1980s, the theory of Umm Al Qura (which literary means “Mother of Cities”) was brought up by a group of political elites who believed that Iran should play the axial role in this regard and be presented as a role model for the entire region and the Islamic world. Although great significance was attached to the idea of independence and self-sufficiency, the country also tried to speed up the process of convergence with neighboring countries, especially since the former Soviet Union had collapsed and the war with the neighboring Iraq had come to an end. However, a combination of Iran's efforts at economic reconstruction and the West’s inclination to push ahead with its Marshallian policy, led to irregularities in Iran's foreign policy approaches toward its neighbors. Later, and during the 1990s, efforts made by Iran to systematically improve relations with the neighboring countries practically led nowhere due to absence of necessary infrastructure and interventions by transregional states.
During that period, Iran used all its capacities to good effect and took advantage of every opportunity to mend fences with the neighboring countries, and that situation has, more or less, continued up to the present time. Regional thinking needs preparedness of all involved parties, suitable groundwork, and generation of common plans as the most important prerequisites. Due to the warm welcome given to it by the neighboring and other regional states, the 11th Iranian administration, which has just come to office, is endowed with a good opportunity to play a new role for the further strengthening of regional convergence. As a result, to reach a suitable stage in regional convergence, it is incumbent on the new Iranian administration to focus its efforts on the following issues:

- To define a framework for cooperation among the Caspian Sea littoral countries in view of the importance of this cooperation along the North-South Corridor in such fields as energy and transit;

- Prevention and avoiding involvement in artificial religious and extremist conflicts in addition to introducing a common cultural discourse in order to strengthen the Eastern civilization;

- Using the suitable literature and discourse to promote unity and convergence among neighboring countries in order to bolster regional and global security, especially during the United Nations General Assembly summit in New York;

- Making efforts to change the West’s approach from confrontation to interaction within regional political arrangements;

- Taking advantage of the important opportunity offered by Iran's chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement in order to promote Tehran’s regional policies;

- Changing the functions and role of the Economic Cooperation Organization in order to suit the new atmosphere of economic convergence in the region;

- Paying due attention to the necessity of introducing new regional dialogue and literature in line with the common interests of Economic Cooperation Organization and similar regional organizations;

- To play a constructive role to reduce threats posed by neighboring countries to one another. Some useful ideas in this regard include providing good grounds for positive future cooperation among Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as playing active role in protecting the security of three countries and reviving the new Silk Road; converting the existing cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia to gradual peace; bolstering the transportation corridor among Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia in addition to strengthening the transport corridor with Armenia, Georgia and the European Union; making efforts to change the existing hostile relations between Turkey and Syria by helping them to achieve common understanding of the existing problems and creating regional continuity among Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria; changing the existing conditions in relations with Saudi Arabia and promoting constructive understanding of mutual cooperation; bolstering pivotal relations with Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in order to create a corridor between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean, and so forth.

 Key Words: Neighborhood Geopolitics, Convergence among Neighbors, Foreign Policy, Iran's 11th Administration, Hassan Rouhani, Koleini

Source: Etemaad Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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