donderdag 3 maart 2011

Iran-Transatlantic Relations Need New Software

by Nabi Sonboli

Part 2: Geopolitical aspects

Bridge of Culture, Isfahan
Geographically, Iran is a big country with more than 70 million young population, vast gas and oil resources, located among four major sub-regions: the Persian Gulf, AfPak, the Caspian Region and the Middle East. Iran’s relations with most of its neighbors have been stable during the past two centuries and although Saddam made a big mistake in attacking Iran, Iran-Arab relations also have been satisfactory for a long time. The influence of the Arabic culture and language on Iran and the Persian language cannot be ignored. Because of common history, religious connections and geographical proximity, a separation of Iranians and Arabs on both side of the Persian Gulf is not possible. Social communication is increasing. Every year more than one million people from Iran and Arab countries visit religious places in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Economically, without the Iranian market there will be no UAE as an important international transit economy. The economy of land locked areas in central Asia and Afghanistan will develop much better by connecting them to the Iranian economy, and the Persian Gulf and Turkey through Iran.

Iran’s strategic location plus historical and cultural connections with its neighborhood have contributed to its influence in the region. Iran’s social, economic, technological, and scientific developments in comparison to its surrounding also support the sustainability of the system and its resistance against foreign pressures. All these factors have led to the failure of sanctions and efforts to isolate Tehran. Pressures against Iran have just thickened the wall of mistrust between the two sides.

While the US and the EU have gradually increased the pressure on Iran, they have benefited from Iran’s policies on many important occasions, for example Iran’s opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union and its support of the Afghan resistance movements that contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War; opposition to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and supporting freedom of Kuwait; the condemnation of the 9/11 attacks; the support of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Taliban; the active participation in state-building and reconstruction of Afghanistan in the post-Taliban era; the active participation in Iraq’s reconstruction and supporting peace, stability and development there, ….

While Iran has been following such positive roles from which the transatlantic countries have benefited, some of their regional allies have played a negative role and have increased the US and the EU burdens especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the US has condemned Iran and the Bush administration wrongly called Iran as part of “Axis of Evil”.

Summarizing, geographically, economically, politically and culturally, Iran is located at the center of four strategic regions and sub-regions: the Caucasus, Central Asia, AfPak, and the Persian Gulf. During the past three decades and even more, the transatlantic countries have not been able to play a leading role in these regions and solve the problems. During the next two decades the situation will not change to their benefit. Neglecting Iran’s role, the unilateral interventions by the transatlantic countries also have only exacerbated the security situation there and increased their burden.

Bringing peace, stability and development to these regions is among the common vital interest of Iran and the West, (especially the EU, because of its geographic proximity).Those who are not familiar with the realities in the region talk about isolation and sanctions against Iran, but those who are familiar with the realities know very well that Iran is the axis of stability among many instable regions and its isolation is neither possible nor productive.

Nabi Sonboli holds an international relations. He is a Research Fellow at the International and Legal Studies section of the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) in Tehran and is currently representing the institute in Berlin working on scientific cooperation.

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