Iran Deal

A New View of the Middle East

Iran America AFP
Iran is back on the world stage.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Lifting sanctions on Iran may lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, the author warns.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Iran has agreed to scale back its nuclear activities in return for the phasing out of Western trade sanctions.
    • Iran continues to support radical Shiite groups and those who oppose Sunni regimes in the Middle East.
    • Four capital cities, Sanaa, Beirut, Baghdad and Damascus, are strongly influenced by Iran, the author says.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

The deal struck this week to end sanctions against Iran, and curb its nuclear power, was a historic one.

The energy which U.S. diplomats invested in the talks highlights a new dimension of U.S. policy in the Middle East. President Barack Obama is clearly taking a step back from his traditional allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and looking for a new relationship with the country where the United States are demonized to this day as the “big Satan.”

The signing of the nuclear agreement appears to confirm what many have long suspected, that Washington is no longer so focused as it was on finding a solution to the Middle East conflict. It is possible that U.S. diplomats have given up hope of promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. One thing is certain: the U.S. made a conscious decision to ignore the warnings of its traditional allies in the region in signing the deal with Iran.

After a long period of banishment, Iran is back as a member of the world community. For Tehran this is not just an admission ticket to the club of the “great and the good”. The agreement with the world’s powers secures and strengthens the regional position of the Islamic Republic.

That is bad news for stability in the Middle East.

For years Iran has encouraged the Shiites in the region and supported those who opposed Sunni regimes. It is notorious as the best friend of many terror groups all over the world and is actively engaged itself in state terrorism.

The strength of Iran’s influence in the Middle East is shown by the fact that four Arabian capital cities are in their hands, either directly or indirectly.

Tehran stands by the radical Islamic Hamas and supports its aggression against Israel. From Lebanon to Yemen, Iran’s agents are busy disrupting the regional order of things. In Lebanon, Tehran is financing the Hezbollah militia; without the money, weapons and soldiers from Iran, the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, would have been finished a long time ago; in its neighboring state, Iraq, Tehran is helping the Shiites; in Yemen Tehran backs the Huthi rebels, who have instigated a civil war.

The strength of Iran’s influence in the Middle East is shown by the fact that four Arabian capital cities – Sanaa, Beirut, Baghdad and Damascus – are in its hands, either directly or indirectly. Moreover, extensive areas of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are part of Iran’s de facto sphere of influence. With or without the agreement: Iran’s support of terror militias will continue. This was not addressed in the context of the deal.

Israel and Saudi Arabia are the big losers of this agreement. For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the deal is a personal defeat. For many years he has made prevention of an Iranian nuclear bomb the most important component of his foreign policy. What Mr. Obama is claiming to be a success, is being marked down as a huge failure on the part of Mr. Netanyahu.  

In Riyadh the agreement is cause for great concern. The Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia regards Shiite Iran as its arch enemy and fears an even greater influence of Tehran in the region. That is the reason the Gulf states called for greater security guarantees from the United States – a call rejected by Washington. Observers now expect the Saudi king to pursue his own nuclear weapons capability with the help of Pakistan.  

Even if the agreement is meant to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, Jerusalem and Riyadh will remain skeptical. With or without a nuclear deal, Iran will be feared as a neighbor which supports terror organizations, destabilizes the region and advances the cause of the Shiite religion. 

From Jerusalem to Riyadh people are convinced Washington wants to put distance between itself and its traditional allies. That Mr. Obama is increasingly focused on the Mullahs. There is an interesting article in this context, written by the former British Ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, in the British press. The Sunni Islamic state in the Middle East is expanding its influence, and Mr. Meyer writes that it is clear “that in the 21st century our strategic ally in the region has to be Iran.”

His words are like pouring ice-cold water on the relationship with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the countries in the Persian Gulf.

 

To contact the author: heumann@handelsblatt.com

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