FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iran’s Changing Role

Iran’s three main foreign policy objectives are regime survival, national security and regional influence. The Rouhani administration is trying to lead a détente towards both the west and the South. This policy has its historical roots in the presidencies of Rafsanjani and Khatami. The current administration’s opening towards the west centers on the nuclear issue, while the policy towards the South focuses on convincing the Persian Gulf states that Iran does not pose a threat to them. The historic animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran runs deep and rests on several structural barriers to rapprochement. These obstacles include the different regime types and a stark asymmetry in their regional policy. With varying degrees of intensity, relations between Riyadh and Teheran have been defined by a zero sum mentality for the past three decades.

Some Iranian political elites inside the country assume that Saudi Arabia is too ideologically driven to accept Iran as a legitimate part of the International Community. The Saudis fail to recognize that there is a degree of continuity in Iran’s political system that no President will change.

Iran is a Shia regional power by its shier size, population, vast energy resources, old culture and military capabilities. Some GCC countries and KSA in particular, perceive Iran as a threat to their traditional order. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain refuse to engage with Iran partly because they fear the IRI could undermine the loyalty of their Shiite citizens. On Tehran’s part, a rapprochement with the Persian Gulf countries demands a sensitive approach with regard to the Shiite population in the Arab Gulf states. The Persian Gulf states, on the other hand, need to realize that hostility towards their Shia Community merely serves Iran’s ability to meddle in their internal affairs.

Political and economic relations between the smaller Gulf states and Iran are rather diverse: Kuwait and Iran, for example have had positive relations since 1991 and are currently expanding their economic ties. Oman and Qatar have a long history of fairly good relations towards Iran. While the UAE has had a troublesome relation with Iran in the past, in particular due to the three island dispute, their relationship is currently improving. All this indicates that Saudi Arabia might not be able to hold its own house together when it comes to confrontation with a regional power like Iran. Many GCC states welcomed the election of President Rouhani but remain skeptical about the depth of change in Tehran especially the overall influence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Iran’s policies towards Syria are mainly motivated by two factors: 1)the role of Syria in strengthening Hezbollah as a deterrent towards Israel and 2) the fact that Syria is Iran’s only loyal state ally in the region. Iran’s support for Assad is based on pragmatic calculations rather than ideological commitment. Tehran might agree to give up Assad in exchange for a comprehensive nuclear deal, and recognition of Iran as a defining and indispensible power in the region by the west.

Iran has consolidated its power in Lebanon and in Syria through Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a key political actor in Lebanon today. While the current political vacuum in Lebanon is not new , Hezbollah now for the first time does not wait for a green light from Assad to move ahead. Hezbollah’s primary goal is gaining domestic power in Lebanon-a goal for which it need financial and military support of Iran. Both Hezbollah and Iran fear the empowerment of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The US and Europe should provide the framework for Iran to turn from a potential spoiler into a constructive member of the International Community. The negotiation table in the nuclear crisis might not succeed. But not including Iran in the regional deliberations, however, guarantees that the crisis will not be solved.

Dr Fariborz Saremi is a regular contributor for Freepressers.com, World Tribune.com and Defense & Foreign Affairs. Dr Saremi is a member of The International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA).

More articles by:

Dr. Fariborz Saremi is an Iranian strategic analyst based in Hamburg/Germany.Dr.Saremi is a regular contributor for World Tribun.com,Freepressers.com and Defense & Foreign Affairs. At times he has been a commentator for the German TV, ARD/NDR.

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail