Why Geopolitical Shifts Dictate Nuclear Deal with Iran

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Seyed Hossein Mousavian

Although a week of high-level talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna made good progress, negotiators failed to reach an agreement and instead set a new deadline of March 1, 2015, for a framework agreement on Iran's nuclear program and a July 1 deadline for the final agreement, including annexes. The parties are close to consensus on many of the major issues, but gaps remain on two key issues — defining the size and scope of Iran's nuclear program and the sequence for lifting UN Security Council sanctions. Wendy R. Sherman, the chief US negotiator, remarked Oct. 23, “We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text. However, like any complicated and technically complex diplomatic initiative, this is a puzzle with many interlocking pieces.”

As a result of the tectonic developments in the Middle East in recent years, the geopolitics of the region have shifted significantly. Amid 35 years of all-out sanctions and pressure on Iran, the outcomes of the Middle East’s ebbs and flows include Iran’s emergence as the most stable country in the area and as a regional power, Arab countries either in turmoil or vulnerable to unrest and destabilization and the unprecedented rise of violent extremist groups. These developments could serve as the impetus for an Iranian-Western rapprochement, despite the inconclusive talks in Vienna.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — cannot counterbalance Iran due to its sheer natural weight, leverage and power in the region. They also, collectively, feel vulnerable to the not-yet-settled shocks of the Arab Spring and the rise of Sunni extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS). In addition, Iran and Iraq, traditional regional rivals, are now heading toward alliance in the post-Saddam Hussein era. For the foreseeable future, Egypt, the most powerful Arab nation and potentially Iran’s main regional rival, seems destined to preoccupation with its worsening financial situation and assorted domestic crises, and thus unable to counter Iran’s influence and power or even play its deserved, traditional leading role in the area.

The 22-member Arab League, the symbol of the Arabs’ unity and power, has practically collapsed and is largely irrelevant. In the meantime, the Arab world faces the emergence of several failed states and a growing role by Sunni extremist groups. Today, Sunni-Sunni conflicts are eclipsing Sunni-Shiite rivalries. On another front, Iran’s decades-old political forecast about the peace process has been realized. In part due to the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decades of political effort and investment by the United States in the Arab-Israeli peace process and the two-state solution have ended in failure and have heavily damaged US credibility. On another level, Netanyahu’s policies have isolated Israel more than ever, in the process drastically reducing its ability to mobilize the world against Iran.

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*Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University and a former spokesman for Iran's nuclear negotiations. His latest book, Iran and the United States: An Insider's view on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace, was published in May.

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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