Rapprochement in relations between the U.S. and Iran is a current topic of the information stream. Certain messages voiced by the heads of both states during the address in the UN are indicative of the chance to build mutual contacts. Notwithstanding, tensions are still viewed as running high along the Washington-Tehran line of contact.
Is one phase winding down?
Mass media are increasingly reporting on the news about ”melting of ice” the U.S.-Iran relations. Such claims are underpinned by concrete actions taken by leaders of both nations. And it is even more thought-provoking that initiation of a dialogue between Washington and Tehran is considered to be a game changer, in terms of impact on the geopolitical environment in the Middle East. Analysts and experts alike are using a number of arguments to support that projection.
A publication titled ”Iranian Diplomacy” emphatically describes the speeches of Obama and Rouhani as those capable of alleviating the tensions between two countries (See: Вахид Абедини. ”Выступления в ООН Рухани и Обамы разбили лед ирано-американских отношений” (UN speeches of Rouhani and Obama broke the ice of Iran-U.S. relations) / www.inosmi.ru, 30 September 2013).”Long-anticipated event had happened” rejoices the author expressing his position on the process and reiterates the support of both societies towards the America-Iran rapprochement. Professor of the Eastern California University Jalil Roushandel also does not conceal his optimism. According to him, ”…speeches of both Presidents is a good start” (See: same source).
Western analysts and experts also believe warming-up of U.S.-Iran relations could be useful as it may potentially create a new geopolitical landscape. Interestingly, there is a belief that then development of the processes may conform to the U.S. interests. Presumably, Iran is not likely to lose much while it may also eliminate the threat emanating from Tel-Aviv. The issue is also viewed from the perspective of the interests of regional powers that include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq. Each country has geopolitical ambitions of its own, although in terms of leadership aspirations, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are thought to be Iran’s chief rivals.
Today, the prospects of U.S.-Iran relations are quite fascinating because both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are Washington’s regional allies. How would the geopolitical stakes change in the event of amelioration of Tehran’s relations with the U.S.? Answers to this question will certainly differ in Ankara and Riyadh. Nevertheless, there are speculations that Turkey is ready to revisit its relations with Iran from the renewed perspective.
Turkish experts believe that competition with Iran for regional dominance is futile. They argue that leaderships of both nations have come to realize that striving to secure an undisputed leadership in the Middle East was pointless (See: Yusuf Unlu. New York Kime Yaradi? / ”Milli Gazete”, 02 October, 2013). Some ideas voiced by Gul and Rouhani I New York are suggested as a testimony. Turkey’s President said, ”…Iran’s interests in the region have to be taken into account” while Rouhani stressed that it was his country’s obligation to alleviate concerns with its nuclear program. Experts see it as an indication of abandoning the strategy aimed at ensuring an uncontested regional leadership (See: previous source).
It must also be highlighted that according to experts, new situation around Syria played not the least of the roles in Tehran’s ”softening” (See: George Friedman. ”Реалии США и Ирана” / www.geopolitica.ru, 02October, 2013 and Владислав Гулевич. США на Ближнем Востоке: Cтавка на Турцию /”Международная жизнь”, 03 October, 2013). According to Stratfor’s projections, Iran’s ambitions in the region are to be diminished. The primary reason being the Sunni-Shia strife in the region that would eventually acquire a content conforming to the geopolitical interests of the U.S. Undermined importance of B. Assad both domestically and regionally had prompted the very opportunity. That explains why despite Ankara’s insistence, Washington refrained from resorting to plans of total regime dismantling in Syria.
The U.S. needed a region equally treacherous both for Turkey and Iran. Current balance of forces between extremist religious groups prevents Ankara and Tehran to feel comfortable, whereas Washington reaps geopolitical dividends from the situation. Particular ideas in the aforementioned article by G. Friedman are notable in this regard.
Doubts and prospects of the dialogue
Can these developments underpin the projections about normalization of U.S.-Iran dialogue? Will Obama and Rouhani remain committed to their statements? Admittedly, these are some tough questions to answer because, in both countries, there are people who think differently. Rouhani was welcomed to a shoe hurling in Tehran airport; apparent disapproval of his efforts on normalization of relations with Washington. Some political forces within Iran are convinced that they ought to remain stern towards America. They fail to forgive endeavors of Washington against their country in the XX century. Nevertheless, Iranians are compelled to be realistic.
The point is that strategy pursued by Ahmadinejad’s had failed. Country never became a regional leader, international community rejected Iran’s nuclear program, the sanctions were not lifted, and in the political sense, Shia dominance in the Middle East was not secured. Apparently, West did not want to see any side, neither Sunni nor Shia to prevail. Parity was the ultimate goal of Washington and assistance to both denomination camps was rendered to that end.
In Syria, the U.S. and Russia obviously had the final say which only made it clear that there was a limit to Tehran’s geopolitical influence amassed in the region for years. Notwithstanding, it by no means diminished Iran’s importance for the region. On the contrary, in his above mentioned analytical piece Friedman uses the term “Rising Iran”.
He, thereby, indicates a crucial role to be played by Iran in the development of the geopolitical landscape that has emerged of the Middle East. Such a prospect corresponds with America’s strategic interests of the U.S. In this context, the ideas of Henry Kissinger, the patriarch of America’s foreign policy, are appealing. It was in late 2011 when he said ”… we shall build a new society, a new world order; there will only be one superpower left, and that will be the global government that wins” (See: Киссинджер: США нужна не Сирия, а весь мир. / www.russiapost.su, 03 October 2013). He also said that the military has nearly completed the job of taking over natural resources of seven Middle Eastern states, referring to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Iran (See: previous source).
Obviously, at this stage, normalization of relations with Iran Washington is of immense importance for Washington. This situation certainly satisfies Iran because military strikes would produce dire consequences for its statehood, along with significant undermining of Iran’s clout in the region. Thus, official Tehran will do its utmost to prevent that.
In any event, alleviation of a threat of war in the region is a positive development. It benefits all nations of the region. In the meantime, the U.S.-China fight is far from over, and that has to be taken into account. Involvement of another country in the process would be undesirable. Therefore, normalization of U.S.-Iran relations would be hailed as a promising development also for the South Caucasus.