Irrespective of one`s ideological and political affiliations, Tuesday 14th of July 2015 was an “historic day” both in Iran`s diplomatic book and for the international community. A fatidic Tuesday, when people and ideas changed the events, crowning an historic and vexed deal that will be sifted and dissected in different ways by experts, analysts, researchers, diplomats, politicians and not only for days but for years to come. The nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran, concluded in Vienna on July 14, has already risen unequal arguments, being called a milestone and a historic chance by some, an act of appeasement and a historic mistake by others.
However, the deal reached after a long and strenuous process of negotiations has brought into attention the more powerful statute that The Islamic Republic of Iran is acquiring lately as international and regional actor too.
In the context of a shrunk world map, the Iran nuclear deal is about necessity, not desire. The necessity of each actor of international relations to defend its own national interest and security and project a coherent foreign policy. The necessities have been driving the world powers and Iran towards a détente of relationships. Because under an insecure international evolution of events, the states of the world are interconnected and complementary to each other. Starting a wider rapprochement is in each one`s interest.
That is why the lately nuclear deal is to be considered a successful and realistic diplomatic solution that will last. The importance of the players involved in the endgame in Vienna rises from their geographical strategic location, political power and economical potential, and Iran is to be considered a key-nation in the Middle East region. There are some strong reasons to assess the Iranian state as a core country, essential for the new order of the Muslim world.
First, the Iranian Republic is equivalent with the Iranian Plateau, thus being a major pivot in the Greater Middle East. The Persian core stretches from the Caspian Sea to Iran’s north to the Persian Gulf to its south, grounding all of the greater Middle East’s oil and natural gas. Just as shipping lanes radiate from the Persian Gulf, pipelines are increasingly radiating from the Caspian region to the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, China, and the Indian Ocean. The only country that straddles both energy producing areas is Iran, as Geoffrey Kemp and Robert E. Harkavy note in Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East. The Persian Gulf possesses 55 percent of the world’s crude-oil reserves, and Iran dominates the whole Gulf, from the Shatt al-Arab on the Iraqi border to the Strait of Hormuz in the southeast.
Moreover, Iran is the greater Middle East’s universal joint, tightly fused to all of the outer cores. Its border roughly traces and conforms to the natural contours of the landscape—plateaus to the west, mountains and seas to the north and south, and desert expanse in the east toward Afghanistan. No other Arab country stretches over two areas rich in energy resources as Iran does, positioning both in the core of Middle East and in Central Asia. All these make Iran a strategic and a focal point for its regional neighbors, providing them the access to sea and energy resources.
The geography offers Iran an invaluable opportunity for economic development. Furthermore, as holding the fourth largest oil reserves and second largest natural gas reserves in the world, Iranian state is able to satisfy future energy market. It is able to control the energy resources of Central Asia and disperse them to the global market, becoming a giant of the region. The country is one of the most advanced states in the Near East concerning the technology, having had built hydroelectric power stations, roads and railways throughout the countries of Central Asia, to whom will be connected. And with a population of 75 million, a reduced growth rate of population – meaning that own population is not a burden for Iran as it happens in Saudi Arabia – and a high literacy rate, Iran is becoming an attractive partner both regionally and internationally.
The Iranian pivot is unique by being the creation of geography and history. Geographical position gave it security, providing with natural great boundaries, while the history conferred the country ancestral prestige and honor to stand as the Persian Empire`s heritor. All these reasons nourish the Iranian country with the force for power projection as a state-nation. Therefore, it is to be mention the influence that Iran spread over the region whose stability depends of it.
However, since it is in possession of key geography of the Middle East, Iran is to be an essential country for global geopolitics.
In the light of the above mentioned, the nuclear agreement recently signed between the West and Iran, has drawn significant changes and perspectives for both sides. In Iran, it is a starting point for defining the Islamic Republic’s relationship with the inside and outside world, in general, and America in particular. In the West, the nuclear challenge is embedded in the broader issue of American and European strategy towards the so-called “rogue states,” such as Iran.
The nuclear deal with the West could change Iran. First of all, it could reshape the balance between the domestic and foreign policy of the Republic. The president Hassan ROUHANI, a moderate politician, struggling to conciliate the Islamic Republic’s top leadership, including the Supreme Leader and his allies within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, would win more popularity at home and more steering on foreign policy directions. But, the era post-deal opens with great expectations and hopes concerning a new strategy of foreign policy, the narrowing of domestic constraints and redefining regional challenges.
Besides these, the nuclear deal immunizes the state against external aggression and opens up Iran to the global economy. Lately, European and even Asian countries expressed their disponibility to cooperate with Iran in various fields of activity, from industry, trade, energy sectors to judicial and social ones. Expanded social and economic exchanges with the outside world, which can enhance the operational capabilities of civil society, are likely to convince the ruling establishment that it needs to adapt to the changing circumstances, despite the powerful conservative groups of the Islamic Revolution having a strong word to say.
Another important issue is the fight against the terrorism, phenomena that has become a threat at the global level. By closer relation with Iran, the West could more effectively play between Shiites and Sunnis, in order to avoid the inflammation of civil wars and terrorist movements in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. A strong Iran could help stabilizing and securing the region, since it has one of the best trained security services and intelligence structures. Iran poses a powerful regional challenge to the GCC countries and a source of divisiveness within the GCC on many issues, chief among which are the question of the Iranian nuclear programme and the question of Iranian influence and intervention in purely Arab crises, most notably in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and, most recently, in Yemen through its support for the Houthi movement which has become the dark horse in Yemeni political equations. The common denominator in the two questions is the US, which is the most important cornerstone of Gulf security strategy. Iran has demonstrated once again its capability and ability to encourage a balance of power more equitable between the religious communities, which might contribute to the appeasement of relations with its regional hostile neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, since US – the ally of KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and Israel – will modify its perception towards Iran. Maybe the chaos in the Middle East will not stop, but at least, by opening up to Iran, there are chances to maintain stability in the region.
A nation-state with a population full of hopes and opportunities, a country enriched with cultural splendor and blessed with natural and historical possibilities, the Islamic Republic of Iran has shown in the virtue of the nuclear resolution that it will continue to be a powerful nation and an indispensable player on the axis of the Greater Middle East.
Photo Source: NY Times
Robert S. Litwak, Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran: A Deal, Not a Grand Bargain, July 20, 2015, http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2015/jul/20/nuclear-deal-proxy-larger-debate.
As cited in Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, Random House, 2012, p. 353.
Michael Axworthy, A history of Iran: Empire of the Mind, Basic Books, 2008, p. 120.