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Middle East, Role of Iran and New Global Equations


By Behzad Khoshandam, PhD Student in International Relations (Source Iran Review)

Due to various political, cultural and economic reasons and in view of its rich energy resources, the Middle East is considered one of the most important geopolitical and geostrategic regions on international chessboard.


While Middle East has been grappling with various problems at the beginning of the third millennium in the absence of a well-defined regional order, Iran's role has led to emergence of a new configuration in this region.

Iran's rule in the tumult of the Middle East has influenced political heritage and interactive discourse of the region and is challenging new geopolitical and geostrategic equations at international level.

Certain features characterize Iran's role at the beginning of the third millennium. A critical approach has been taken by Iran in recent years to regional developments such as presence of foreign forces, militarization of the Middle East, occupation of Iraq, the Greater Middle East Plan and Israel's measures. The role played by Iran has, thus, caused the regional power balance to be influenced by a greater number of regional and transregional players.

Justice seeking has been another approach taken by Tehran to the Middle East developments in past years. Using capacities of various international and regional tribunes, Iran has been trying to pursue that goal. The situation of regional refugees (especially Afghan, Palestinian and Iraqi refugees) and support for ethnic and religious minorities in regional countries have been among Iran's top priorities. Protecting the Iranian nation's rights, especially with regard to political independence and peaceful use of the nuclear energy, were other goals pursued by Iran. The concern for nation's rights has caused other regional states to pay more attention to their own soft power components. A major instance of soft diplomacy followed by regional countries was the announcement of Tehran Declaration by Iran and Turkey (in concert with Brazil) in May 2010.

Another goal of Iran's concern for its rights was establishment of a new axis of soft resistance in the region to make the most of the available potentials and modify behaviors of regional and transregional players such as the United States and Israel. Support for liberation movements was another coordinate of Iran's policies in the Middle East. Iran's spiritual support for anti-Israeli resistance axis (Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah) has had remarkable effects on regional and transregional players.

As a result of Iran's role in the Middle East, a new configuration is taking shape which is different from past configurations. The new configuration in the Middle East defies traditional structures and aims to create new legal or non-legal institutions in the region. Iran's emphasis on the establishment of an Asian union or Turkey's insistence on the establishment of a common customs union, are but few signs of the new configuration.

As a result of Iran's new role at the beginning of the third millennium, the region has experienced both interaction and confrontation with the international system. As a result of the interaction, the region's bargaining power in international issues has increased while as a result of confrontation; resistance has been introduced as an important variable to geostrategic and geopolitical equations.

The interactive part of Iran's influence has drawn attention from world powers to natural resources and available capacities in the region as a result of which China, India and even Brazil and South Korea have been trying to play a more effective role in the new configuration and enjoy the highest level of interaction with regional players.

The confrontational part, however, stems from various approaches taken to the region by the world powers. A major instance was efforts by NATO to establish a missile shield in the Middle East to contain regional players like Iran by using regional leverages. By using Iran threat, transregional players are trying to give a sense of security to important international players.

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