Mehrdad Pahlevani Asia Analyst
The structure of power and politics in the Middle East has always been different from other regions of the world. There have been many factors to be analyzed as the main factors in this region, but five months after finalization of the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, this factor is still weighing on regional developments and its impact is even more powerful than older factors. Unfortunately some Middle Eastern countries believe that the nuclear deal will only benefit Iran, but any win or loss in this region is usually a collective phenomenon.
Since those parties that support the idea of Tehran playing its deserved role in the Middle East are few, the overall outcome of developments related to the nuclear deal have led to creation of a wide gap in the region. As a result of this gap, those regional powers, which have been opposed to finalization of the nuclear deal, are making efforts in order to prevent full implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Who needs crisis?
The main question is why despite the general welcome given to the JCPOA by the international community, Saudi Arabia and Israel are still against it and try to block it? Various answers have been given in this regard, including that they do not want Iran to become more powerful or do not want to see a more active resistance axis led by Tehran in the region, but it seems there is a more accurate answer to this question. In fact, both Israel and Saudi Arabia need to foment crisis in the Middle East region, and creating an artificial crisis around Iran’s nuclear deal will meet their need. If this artificial crisis ends, it would be turn for reforms in the Middle East and attending to real crises. The overall spectrum of such real crises in the Middle East, which need serious reforms, start in Saudi Arabia and ends in Israel.
Reforms in Saudi Arabia would mean establishment of democracy and attention to demands of all social classes and citizens of the country, which would mean bidding farewell to the Al Saud monarchy. On the other hand, reforms for Israel would mean putting an end to the oldest political crisis in the Middle East and resolution of the issue of Palestine. In a best case scenario, the outcome of such reforms would be restriction of Israel, while in a worst case scenario they would leave behind an Israel which would be both embarrassed and weaker than any time before.
Everybody believes that historical lessons should be learned as a guide to the future. As evidenced by history, clandestine conclusion of the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916, which led to division of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine between France and Britain and determined the borders of these countries, humiliated many people in the Middle East who reacted to it in later years. Now, on the one hand, Israel’s measures in the region create a sense of humiliation for the Middle East, while on the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s nondemocratic measures humiliate both the citizens of that country and some neighboring governments such as Yemen.
The role of the rest
The parties involved in the Middle East crises are not simply Middle Eastern states, because in a globalized world, measures taken by other countries can affect a political entity while any measure taken by a political entity may backfire; that is, that political entity is possible to see the result of its measure.
Foreign powers, which may not necessarily be directly interfering powers in the Middle East, can affect crisis in this region. When Iraq’s former dictator, Saddam Hussein, attacked Iran, some countries supported Saddam to weaken Tehran. When Iran was under international sanctions, the same countries adopted unilateral sanctions against Iran which went far beyond those sanctions imposed on Tehran by the United Nations Security Council.
At present, some countries are intensifying the crisis in the Middle East through conflict balance and by looking at regional issues from the viewpoint of their unilateral interests. The nature of this measure, however, is very different from what took place under Saddam Hussein against Iran. This means that these countries engage in negotiations and consultations with their anti-Iran partners, condemn Iran indirectly, or arrange their economic interests in such a way that it would benefit the anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East. Some of these countries even teach the Middle Eastern powers how to fight and how to weaken their rivals.
Despite these issues, it must be noted that their measures will unfortunately lead to a new round of humiliation for the Middle East. To remedy this situation, the share of power as well as the orientation of foreign powers in the Middle East must change. Instead of promoting “proxy war” and instead of teaching regional countries how to fight one another, they must teach them how to interact and cooperate in the Middle East. There are many problems that divide the Middle Eastern countries, but foreign forces have always played the role of a serious factor in any hard war in the region.
The model governing China’s relations with Taiwan is no more a Cold War model, but is a competitive model. Instead of offering indirect support for wars and instigating regional powers in the Middle East and teaching them how to fight one another, it would be also better for transregional governments involved in the Middle East to teach the countries in the Middle East how to take advantage of a model of economic competition and interaction. Iran has frequently announced its readiness to introduce this model and has offered various plans to promote dialogue and cooperation within the framework of 5+1 formula – including five Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and Iran – while emphasizing the need for promoting political cooperation instead of military rivalry.
The Iranian government considers welfare of its citizens and economic growth of the country as its most important agenda and mission, has turned this into a domestic discourse, and is also trying to take advantage of opportunities outside the country to bolster this discourse. Perhaps, the present time is the best opportunity for foreign powers to play an effective role to create a stable and peace-oriented Middle East and repetition of this opportunity in the future would be quite difficult.