Experts are analyzing the outcome of the Presidential election in Iran, with main emphasis made on possible geopolitical repercussions of Hassan Rouhani’s re-election. Some of them say Rouhani’s assuming the second term means Iran will take a softer stand. A reformist, Rouhani wants Iran to be more open to the world. Other experts believe that Tehran will strengthen global economic competition. They see Iran as a tough opponent for the West. Therefore, risks will remain in relations with Iran. Others look at the situation through a prism of Iran’s internal political realities. Reforms in Iran may change the situation; allowing the country to play a more active role on the international scene, which will contribute to stability. These issues seem to be thought-provoking against a background of Donald Trump’s Middle East tour. In this context, it would be interesting to analyze how the geopolitical situation may change in the region.
Outcome of the election: What awaits Washington-Tehran relationship?
The outcome of the Presidential election in the Islamic Republic of Iran is of particular importance from two points of view. The first is the assessment of the real political situation in the country. The second is about possible repercussions of the outcome of the election for global politics. Experts divide on both aspects. But there is some common ground: the Iranian Presidential election has impact on both the domestic situation in the country and global politics.
It would not be correct to analyze this election out of the context of what is happening in the Middle East and global geopolitical processes because the West, Russia, Turkey, the EU, Saudi Arabia and Iran itself are making considerable steps in this region, with the United States being the most active. American political analysts are assessing Hassan Rouhani’s winning the election with 57 per cent of votes. They divide on some points. Some experts believe that Rouhani’s re-election may have negative impact on the global socio-economic situation.
Charles D. McConnell, Executive Director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative (Texas), believes that a tougher stand should be taken against Iran. “Iran is not our ally, I don’t see them in any other role, as a foreign competitor who will want to exert their power on the market. I see even more reasons for the United States to strengthen global energy independence and to increase the prospects of development that can ensure the safety and stability of the economy“, he says (see: Эксперты разделились в оценке влияния выборов в Иране на мировую экономику / “РИА Новости”, 23 May, 2017).
Scott McDonald, Senior economist at Smith’s Research & Gradings, in contrast, believes that Rouhani’s victory is a positive factor for the US economy and the world in general. Though, he accepts that “relations with the United States are likely to remain problematic” (see the previous source). McDonald says: “He (Rouhani) was probably a more comfortable leader to work with OPEC on the issue of finding the point of stability of the market. Rouhani is much more friendly to foreign investors than the competitors. In addition, the President will have to contend not only with external but also internal forces that believe that the country needs to go deeper into isolation.”
According to Kyle Shostak, head of Fund of Navigator Principal Investors LLC, not everything in this issue depends on Iran. “On the one hand, the election in Iran have shown that different segments of society are ready for reforms and that is the absolute positive” (see the previous source). “On the other hand, Donald Trump and the Department of State are set to revise the nuclear deal with Iran. So this revision will be the deciding factor. The oil prices and how they will affect the global economy will depend on this”, says Shostak (see the previous source). But Rouhani gives a clear message that everything has its limits and that ensuring security is of crucial importance to him. There is a possibility that disagreements will deepen at this point.
A great game in the region: risks in geopolitical dynamics
The last thesis seems to be much more convincing against a background of Donald Trump’s visits to Riyadh and Tel Aviv. Both in Saudi Arabia and Israel, the US President made anti-Iran remarks. Experts believe that a $110 billion military deal that was signed by Riyadh and Washington is first and foremost a warning to Tehran. And the Israeli leadership’s attitude towards Iran is not a secret. So, although Washington is pleased with the re-election of moderate Rouhani, it is not going to change its tough stance against Iran.
Under these circumstances, the geopolitical situation in the Middle East can deteriorate caused by tension in US-Iran, Israel-Iran and Saudi Arabia-Iran relations. Each of them is trying to weaken the other by supporting terrorist groups. Washington has repeatedly said that Tehran supports terrorism in the Middle East, more exactly in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where Iran is financing and arming radical Shia groups.
Tehran, for its part, keeps its anti-American rhetoric, accusing Washington of supporting terrorism and even founding radical groups in partnership with Israel. Iran uses this as a pretext for its fight against terrorism. It seems that Rouhani’s re-election will fail to reduce Iran-America controversy over the Middle East geopolitics. On the contrary, the Iranian President immediately announced that Tehran will continue fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria and seeking the protection of human rights in Yemen.
So on the one hand, an anti-Iranian geopolitical coalition is emerging in the Middle East, while on the other, we see that Tehran is determined to remain committed to its position. This may trigger more armed clashes, terror and violence in the Middle East. What should also be emphasized is that Russia and China are committed to continuing to support Tehran. Russia expressed interest in deepening cooperation with Iran in the Middle East.
European Union superpowers will most likely support America on the Middle East problem. Saudi Arabia signed a military deal with the United States to buy weapons worth $350 billion over 10 years. This means that instead of reducing, military disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran may even reach a new level. Other regional powers will most likely be involved too.
But there are several geopolitical aspects of the problem. The point is that the new American President does not hide that he gives preference to Israel in the region. To experts’ surprise, Trump, wearing a yarmulke, even visited the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism. Experts consider this as indicative of Washington’s excessive connection to the Jewish factor in the Middle East.
This reverence raises questions about possible changes in America’s attitude towards Muslim statehood in the Middle East. It also hints at the US’ plans to establish new states. In this context, America’s paying special attention to Kurds in Iraq and Syria does not seem to be a coincidence. This confirms Washington’s biased position and double standard policy in the Middle East. And a possibility of the establishment of an anti-American coalition should not be ruled out because it’s about the violation of territorial integrity of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. In addition, there is a possibility that an enemy state could be established in the territory of these states.
Therefore, neither Donald Trump’s Middle East visit, nor Hassan Rouhani’s re-election will reduce tension in the Middle East. On the contrary, the situation can easily deteriorate. Terror seems unlikely to be prevented in the region. In addition, new groups may emerge. Al-Qaeda and ISIS seem to have fulfilled their mission and are expected to be replaced by groups with slightly different objectives. But still Muslim countries are the target, and Muslims are being killed.