Few weeks ago, I had intention to write something on the Iran as an entry here on ADV. Yet, I have been waiting for the end of the negotiation between Iran and P5+1 to strike a final deal over Iranian nuclear issue to tease my thoughts out on the issue. I have been waiting for the end result, even though it had been extended time and time again, since a deal with Iran is not just a deal on nuclear proliferation, it will create a new strategic environment in the Middle East and beyond. Here, I aim at describing a part of this new environment that emerge in the post sanctions era.
The first and foremost important part of the new era is the fact that Iran is destined to dominate the region. My basic argument on this interpretation is that Iran, in the post-sanctions era, will have economic, politic and cultural capacity to dominate the region due to four facts on the ground.
- Iran has great amounts of resources to create an economy of scale and once it can easily receive necessary investment it can produce and sell large amount of oils and gas and makes lots of money out of it. The deal stroked at Vienna on 13th of July 2015 basically allow Iran receive such investment to boost its footholds as a gas and oil producer. According to OPEC data, Iran has the third largest oil and gas reserves in the world just after Saudi Arabia. With necessary investment in hand, Iran could rise its share in current oil and gas market and make huge fortune out of it. There are already numbers of foreign companies ready to make investment in Iranian energy sector as an investment window of tens of billions of U.S. dollars for companies once the sanctions are lifted. More over, once the sanctions lifted Iran starts collecting payments from its oil and gas trade, which is already exceed $100 billion. With that huge amount of money, Iran could invest itself into its energy sector to boost its capacity even if it does not receive any investment at all in the short run. All in all, Iran will be rising petro state in the post sanction era.
- More than two decades old sanctions have helped Iran to create a society which is vibrant, educated and capable in science and technology on the contrary to other petro-states in the region. Without having any “Dutch disease” Iran would move forward at an incredible speed, and build up its strategic hegemonic capacities from military to culture. Iran has been showing fastest scientific growth of any country over the last few years whereas many Middle Eastern countries stuck into conflicts and backwardness. Iran has a great cultural, technological, and political advantage over others regional countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia. Plus Iran has huge and vibrant diaspora that boosted its advantage. There are thousands of Iranian doing Ph.D. in the Western universities, while in domestic sphere scientific awakening is under way in Iran. Iran has an industry that capable of produce a variety of advance technology from car to satellite. In terms of economy, military, politics and culture there is no rival to Iran in the post sanction era.
- Even with an agreement on nuclear issue, Iran will have a position of strength in the area of nuclear weapons compare to other regional rivals, which over all makes Iran more assertive in the long run. Apart from nuclear technology, Iran has one of the largest conventional military capacity in the region and the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal. Moreover, with a deal on the nuclear issue, Iran will be the US natural partner on many issues in the region replacing old allies ie Saudi Arabia, Turkey. As F. Kaplan put it “The fact is, the United States and Iran have a common interest in keeping Sunni radicals from taking over Iraq. Yes, forming an alliance with Iran to beat back ISIS would leave Iran—which already has huge influence over the Iraqi government—stronger still. So, we have to decide which prospect we dislike less: an Islamist state in Iraq (perhaps joined with one in Syria) or a strengthened expansionary Iran.”
- After series of recent developments and crisis in the region, Iran has now strategic “lebensraum” and wide range of geography to control without any rival. As a Reuters new analysis stated “Since 2012, Iran has given support worth billions of dollars to regional allies, funding and arming mainly fellow Shi’ite Muslims in conflicts that have taken on a sectarian dimension. Its enemies say lifting sanctions will provide it with the means to do even more.” Having control of four historical Middle East capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Sana and Beirut, Iran will be linchpin of a new Middle Eastern order.All of these push Iran’s near hegemony in the region. Persia is rising again!