Iran and the nuclear deal: does Tehran now have the upper hand in the Middle East's power politics?
The important op-ed written by Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and published in Asharq al-Awsat on Thursday is worthy of reading and as a topic of discussion.
In the article, Zarif said that Iran’s presidential elections provided a unique opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue but that the neighbors - i.e. the Gulf countries - have, unlike the rest of the world, voiced their concern that reconciliation may be reached at their expense. The minister insisted on stating that despite negotiations with the West, his country’s priority, in terms of foreign relations, is the Gulf States.
There is one sentence that can be interpreted differently, however: “Unrest in the region proved that no country can live isolated and that luxury cannot be attained at the expense of others’ poverty and security cannot be achieved at the expense of others’ insecurity .We either win together or lose together.”
He suggested a plan, saying: “The core of any regional comprehensive arrangements must be limited to the eight coastal countries. Adding any other country will increase [the number] of complicated issues. This will overshadow the region’s current problems and will further complicate [issues].”
He warned that “the presence of foreign forces have throughout history led to domestic instability in the host countries. It also increased tension between the [latter] countries and other regional countries.”
Must we read between the lines or does the headline say it all?
As a writer, there isn’t much that I disagree with him on. It’s a perfect and realistic vision. The problem will appear when this vision is interpreted by different parties. No one wants Iran to produce one million barrels of oil per day while others are producing 10 millions. But Tehran is to be blamed for this because its weakness is a result of its former decisions to oppose the West which owns the technology, the money and the market. Its weakness has nothing to do with the Gulf. Iran’s poverty is also a result of its policies which reflect the nature of its revolutionary rhetoric as it is more concerned with military structuring and foreign political activity.
Unlike Iran, the luxury of the Arab Gulf is a result of governmental policies which are less interested in foreign adventures. This is what Iraq’s Saddam Hussein failed to understand. He thought that attacking Iran in the 1980s and invading Kuwait in the 1990s would provide him with the power and revenues he needed.
Zarif’s suggestion of an arrangement limited to eight countries - that is the six Arab Gulf countries in addition to Iraq and Iran - should be the logical result reached when Iran proves that it has really stopped inciting unrest against countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Unless the latter is proven, what Zarif is practically suggesting is a mere council which Iran, along with its ally, Iraq, has control over. Arrangements will only yield a trusteeship council and that will be impossible to accept.
We agree with him on his rejection of the presence of foreign powers and his warning that this is a source of unrest. But we must recall when Western warships arrived in the region in these massive numbers. This started at the beginning of Tehran’s confrontation with the US and after Iran targeted Kuwaiti oil tankers to drown them and thus forced Kuwait to resort to the American navy for help. It began after Iran’s attempt to violate Saudi airspace in the 1980s and following the explosions in Khobar, then Riyadh and then Manama and after Iran’s occupation of UAE’s islands in the 1990s.
It’s a long story, your Excellency. Despite that, you and your new president may be the ones to launch a new history with your neighbors and thus end the phase of absurd tension which lasted for three decades and which neither the Arabs nor the Iranians benefitted from.
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed