Iran and its expansion in the Middle East - Corneliu PIVARIU

Iran and its expansion in the Middle East
Corneliu PIVARIU

After the end of the Iraqi-Iranian war (1980-1988) and especially after Iraq’s  invasion by the USA-led coalition, Iran undertook a series of complex strategic actions for strengthening and expanding its influence not only in the Gulf region but also in the entire Middle East. The so-called Arab spring and the world geopolitical developments provided Iran with new possibilities of achieving its strategic plans which were so far harnessed with maximum competence.

In recent years, the tensions in the Middle East came forward in the form of different crises which became entwined, from the Syrian civil war to the war in Yemen, the Qatari crisis or the termination of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and all that had as a common denominator: Tehran’s direct or indirect involvment.

Although Iran’s bilateral relations with Arab countries of the Middle East are, as a whole, inferior to the integrated Iranian foreign policy in the area and Tehran succeeded in being very penetrating in countries such as Syria (by harnessing the relations during the war with Iraq and the preservation of the Alawis in power in Damascus), Iraq (where the existence of the Shia majority and the consequences of Saddam Hussein’s removal from power were cleverly turned to better use), Lebanon (Hezbollah’s support is a constant of the Iranian policy ever since the 1980s) and Yemen, benefitted from the Qatari crisis to improve its relations with Doha.

Tehran’s relations with Saudi Arabia witnessed an increased deterioration in spite of a short period of improvement. Riyadh considered always Iran as the main regional threat and cooperated with the USA in order to exert pressure on Tehran. Instead, Iran did not consider Saudi Arabia as a too dangerous regional threat. Only after the economic sanctions imposed by the USA begun to be implemented and Washington’s cooperation with the Saudi regime increased, Tehran begun to feel the destabilizing effect of the tensions with Riyadh and that determined Rohani’s administration to look for a dialogue between the two sides. The September 22nd attack on the military Iranian parade in Ahvaz contributed to the increase of tension in the Gulf especially since countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates kept silent and did not condemn the attack while Tehran interpreted the silence as a tacit acceptance and blamed Great Britain, Holland and Denmark of giving shelter to members of the group hwo claimed the attack and to offer them media platforms.

The conflict in Yemen contributes fully to increasing the tensions in the Middle East as Saudi and American officials declare that Tehran plays an important role in supporting the Houthi rebels especially by supplying equipment for the missiles, including technology transfer for the UAVs and trainers, mainly by means of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Iran has a valuable diplomatic staff able to cover the main fields of the Iranian foreign policy, has an army and especially a Revolutionary Guard  Corps (Pasdaran) well trained and relatively well equiped, trained in real conditions especially in the Syrian civil war and harness promptly all the rifts in the Arab world, including those between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The last development is linked to the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (according to last data, Riyadh is prepared to acknowledge his death during an investigation which went wrong”).

Under the circumstances and taking into account the prospects of the developments in the Middle East, we appreciate that on a short and medium run the Iranian position in the region will not undergo important changes. Its eventual de-escalation imposes all sides, including the extra regional actors’ in the maing security issues’ achieving compromises for securing a stability on a long term. Or, on a short term at least, such compromises are not being contemplated.

Read the whole material
back Published in 2018-10-20 Print Download up