Iran's influence in Iraq has superseded that of the US, and it is increasingly rivalling the US as the main actor at the crossroads between the Middle East and Asia. Its role within other war- torn areas such as Afghanistan and southern Lebanon has now increased hugely. This is compounded by the failure of the US and its allies to appreciate the extent of Iran’s regional relationships and standing - a dynamic which is the key to understanding Iran’s newly found confidence and belligerence towards the West. As a result, the US-driven agenda for confronting Iran is severely compromised by the confident ease with which Iran sits in its region. This is the key finding of Iran, its Neighbours and the Regional Crises, a major new report published by Chatham House. (full report in pdf)
The report also looks into the ideology of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and unpicks Iran’s complicated power structure. It claims that despite his popularity, Ahmadinejad neither holds an insurmountable position within Iran nor commands universal support for his outspoken foreign policy positions. The paper outlines the friction between Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, with the former increasingly trying to wrest control of foreign policy away from the extreme positions of Ahmadinejad and his hardline supporters.
On hostility with the US, the report argues that while the US may have the upper hand in ‘hard’ power projection, Iran has proved far more effective through its use of ‘soft' power. According to the report, the Bush administration has shown little ability to use politics and culture to pursue its strategic interests while Iran’s knowledge of the region, its fluency in the languages and culture, strong historical ties and administrative skills have given it a strong advantage over the West. The report also holds a cautious view of the Iran-Israel relationship. It outlines four future scenarios for the relationship between the two states, one of which is the creation of a ‘cold-war’ style nuclear stand-off should Iran achieve nuclear capability.
Dr Claire Spencer, Head, Middle East Programme said 'Iran's intricate relationships with other states in the region, as well as a number of sub-state actors within these countries, have put it in a remarkably flexible position from which to defend its interests'
Dr Ali Ansari, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, said: 'Western policy towards the Middle East shows a complete lack of imagination. There is a world of opportunities between neglect and military action which has yet to be fully explored.'
Nadim Shehadi, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, said: 'While the US has been playing poker in the region, Iran has been playing chess. Iran is playing a longer, more clever game and has been far more successful at winning hearts and minds.'
In the widest-ranging report of its kind, Iran’s position in relation to all of the players in the Middle East and Asian regions is analyzed, with sections on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, the GCC states, Turkey, Russia and the former Soviet states, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and Japan.
Iran, its Neighbours and the Regional Crises is published by Chatham House and draws on the expertise of eighteen of its experts:
Rime Allaf, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
Ali Ansari, Reader in Modern History, University of St Andrews and Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
Maha Azzam, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
Olivia Bosch, Senior Research Fellow, International Security Programme, Chatham House
Laura Cooper, Administrator, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
Fadi Hakura, Founder, Conkura Consulting and Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
Christopher Hood, Director, Cardiff Japanese Studies Centre, University of Cardiff and Associate Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House
Ayesha Khan, Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge and Associate Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House
Robert Lowe, Manager, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
Yiyi Lu, Associate Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House
Valerie Marcel, Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Development Programme, Chatham House
Yossi Mekelberg, Lecturer in International Relations and Politics of Development, Webster Graduate Centre, Regent’s College and Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
James Nixey, Manager, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House
Gareth Price, Head, Asia Programme, Chatham House
Farzana Shaikh, Associate, Centre of South Asia Studies, University of Cambridge and Associate Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House
Nadim Shehadi, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
Claire Spencer, Head, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
Gareth Stansfield, Reader in Middle East Politics, University of Exeter and Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House
... Payvand News - 8/23/06 ... --