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  • Strengthening Iran's Status, Greatest Outcome of the Nuclear Deal

    Etemad Newspaper’s Interview with Kayhan Barzegar, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran on the regional developments and its link with a prospective nuclear deal between Iran and P5+1 group. Q: We are currently facing a new phenomenon in the region in the form of the ISIL terrorist group. While having commonalities with many other similar terrorist groups, it is said that this group also has the support of some certain state actors. What threat may ISIL pose to the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran? A: Such groups as ISIL usually thrive in places which lack a strengthening state. ISIL came about in the region between Syria and Iraq at a time that the state in Syria had been totally weakened as a result of the crisis following the Arab Spring developments. This group took advantage of the chaotic conditions to capture swathes of land and announce a self-proclaimed Islamic state in the Arab territory. On the other hand, the ideological frustration caused by the failure of the Arab Spring, not achieving its perceived goals, also provided a good ground for ISIL to recruit radical forces that were in limbo in the region and the world mobilizing them toward Syria on the verge of becoming a failed state. In the next stage and in Iraq, we had a country, which was grappling with the difficult process of state-building and power transformation following the U.S. troops exit. Under conditions when the state in Iraq had been weakened as a result of internal rivalries within the country’s political power-sharing, the ISIL saw its chance to consolidate its presence in this country. I don’t think that ISIL could impose any meaningful threat to Iran’s national security. Because historically and traditionally our country has had a powerful state at all times. Presence of such a strengthening state, combined with the national solidarity, will never allow such groups as ISIL to find enough maneuvering room for expression of their presence. Besides the existence of strong ideological grounds in opposing extremist trends as well as the high capacity of the central government to establish political order throughout the country will not allow the group to find the space for activity. Of course, it is believed that some foreign forces lent their support to ISIL in order to meet their own geopolitical interests at a time that the region was going through a phase of political power vacuum. However, this should not cause us to underestimate the support lent to this group by certain local groups because a major factor here is that in order to continue its presence in a country, ISIL needs to recruit local forces. Due to reasons I mentioned above, it is rather infeasible for ISIL to recruit any forces in Iran. Such an extremist trend will never gain legitimacy under the political atmosphere of Iran. Therefore, given the fact that the continuity of a trend like ISIL depends on the strength or weakness of a state in the region, ISIL for sure is not a serious national security threat. The government of Iran will lose no time for the suppression of this group and, if needed, will even join hands with other countries for the purpose of containing and preempting the threat posed by this group. Iran, if needed, would even consider transregional cooperation in order to put an end to this threat. Q: Considering the existing differences in viewpoints among, for example, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia over their approach to deal with ISIL in Syria and Iraq, do you think that such a sense of common threat would finally lead to regional cooperation? A: Achieving this point is very complicated and difficult, but it is by no means impossible. Every one of these states has their own definition of preserving their interests and security totally different and independent of one another. For instance, the approach taken by Turkey to deal with ISIL is more a function of Ankara’s focus on the Kurdish politics as well as achieving the geopolitical and ideological goals of the current Turkish government in handling the regional issues. As for Saudi Arabia, some analysts believe that Saudi Arabia has been one way or another involved in the emergence of ISIL because Riyadh believed that it can use this trend as a good means to sustain Iran in the region. However, we see that even Saudi Arabia is feeling dangers arising from this group mainly targeting the pillars of its state and political institutions of its neighboring countries. It is now participating in the fight against ISIL. Iran, on the other hand, sees the issue in the context of geopolitical and ideological threat and containing the foreign threat in the broader region, which should be stopped at all cost. This is why the Islamic Republic believes that the problems resulting from the ISIS’ presence in Iraq and Syria are somehow linked and is calling for simultaneous fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, the three countries have their own different perceptions of dealing with the ISIL threat from the viewpoint of the national interests and security. But despite all of these differences, the good news is that they at the same time, agree to certain common concepts and principles such as strengthening the state system and keeping the territorial integrity of all regional countries including Iraq and Syria. They also oppose with spreading terrorism and extremism and that it should be denounced, rejected and fought within the international community. They have reached the conclusion that all regional states should attempt to stop war and further tension as instability will first of all serve to undermine states’ institutions and political structures in an already volatile region. Again despite all of these a regional cooperation needs a powerful diplomacy and to some degree self-sacrifice is needed to get these perspectives closer. I believe that at the end of the day, regional cooperation should be strengthened in order to bolster the position of states as well as political institutions in the region and this can only in my view be achieved by strengthening regional diplomatic efforts and initiatives. I think the current diplomatic equation in the region should change from its dominant traditional form that is that the foreign players, mostly Western always have the initiative and the regional players are positioned in the sidelines in a condescending manner, like what it is being done right now in the context the international anti-ISIL coalition. I think this should be reversed to the degree that the regional players take the initiative in diplomatic efforts while taking advantage of the support accorded to them by the trans-regional players and the international community. This change in terms of policy implications will bring about a lot of positive exchanges at the regional level. I mean, experience shows that no regional crisis can be solved without the existence of a political consensus between the regional players at the first stage. I believe that the current diplomacy or force equation is rather unlikely to thoroughly solve the ongoing crisis in the region. Q: What is your view about Iran's efforts in strengthening its regional relations in more than a year that the new government of moderation took office? Basically speaking, what is the logic underlying invigoration of Iran's regional interactions? A: I think the new government did good and can do even better. Serious steps have been taken in this period for the strengthening of Iran's regional relations with the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf as well as Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. [Iran's Foreign Minister] Dr. [Mohammad Javad] Zarif has been present in any place where there has been even the slightest hope for improvement of relations. Some positive steps have been taken to improve relations with Saudi Arabia. Of course, inability to totally improve relations with Riyadh should not be solely blamed on Tehran, but Saudi Arabia is also to blame in this regard. Pursuant to its regional strategy, Iran has been constantly trying to promote cooperation with Saudi Arabia, but Saudi officials have not appeared very enthusiastic in this regard. Of course, regional variables have been also playing their parts in this regard. Such variables include the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria, which have driven a wedge between Iran and Saudi Arabia. But as to the logic underlying the expansion of Iran's regional interactions, I think the added value and strategic commodity of Iran's foreign policy is to have an active and constructive role in all regional issues. I believe that Iran’s global status is mainly measured by its regional role. Iran has a number of regional advantages which are important for the international community. Firstly, Iran's geopolitical characteristic is such that the country can easily adjust with any new geopolitical developments. For example, following the Arab Spring developments, some analysts predicted that Iran's regional standing would falter. However, the country’s geopolitical role and status is such that it managed to adjust with the new situations in the region. An example of this is Iran's consent to Iraq’s recent power transition. The second characteristic relates to its good understanding of the region’s politics relating mostly to Iran's historical presence in regional developments, the country has close ties with various political groups and therefore plays a decisive role in various issues. As for the case of ISIL, for example, Iran entered this case with no hesitance, confident that it can handle it showing that it is determined and follows its interests in strategic terms. The third characteristic is Iran’s coalition-building power as a result of which it is able to make connections among various political forces. Take in Iraq for instance and in the recent case. I would say no country has this potential. Taking all these facts into consideration, I think the present time is a momentous time for President Rouhani’s administration to rely on Iran’s active and constructive regional role for strengthening its international status. Of course, regional countries have also come to the conclusion that this is a real opportunity for them too to get closer to Iran. I am sure, moderate political forces in Saudi Arabia are willing to withdraw from the current rivalry situation with Iran because the country is an important power in the region. The moderate discourse of Rouhani’s administration is primarily based on the economic development. A government, which seeks economic development, is strongly willing to see stability in its neighborhood. Economic or even political development is only possible through establishing relative security for the country. You cannot talk about moderation and development inside the country without trying to establish stability in your surrounding environment because in case of instability, a large part of the country’s resources should be spent on tackling the security threat and other similar issues. Please Continue Here: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Strengthening-Iran-s-Status-Greatest-Outcome-of-the-Nuclear-Deal.htm

     

    This article dose not necessary reflect the official view points of the embassy


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