In Yemen, there are foreign Arab coalition airstrikes counteracting a domestic sectarian and political uprising. In Iraq and Syria, there is the customary news of ISIS and its horrific doings. In the United States, there is entrenched partisan bickering vis-à-vis the Middle East’s unceasing tumult. And in Iran, there is the befuddling confluence of a leadership with inherent distrust for anything beyond its borders and its desire for the ever-elusive concept of domestic stability. This convoluted conglomeration of rapidly evolving developments speaks not only to the increased volatility and deterioration of the Middle East, but also further underscores how imperative the recent landmark diplomatic accord between Iran and the West, on the former’s nuclear program, truly is.
Feeling pessimistic? Don’t be, for, in Lausanne, there now exists the framework for a prospective nuclear deal that might just prove to be the magic bullet which can put an end to most, if not all, of the aforementioned gloom – eventually.
SINCE the early 2000s there has been a concerted effort by many successive Western governments to curb Iran’s self-proclaimed peaceful nuclear program after its disclosure and discovery. Whereas the likes of George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy et al. failed in their castigatory ventures, Barack Obama, David Cameron, Francois Hollande and Co. were efficacious in producing a framework whereby Iran could continue its peaceful and legal nuclear enrichment activities, as afforded to Iran under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while simultaneously being subject to the most intrusive set of international monitoring regimes in an effort to alleviate the fears of governments who suspect a more nefarious intention. Nevertheless, the framework at hand sets out to do exactly what all the parties involved intended for it to accomplish – prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"In the US, there is entrenched partisan bickering vis-à-vis the Middle East’s unceasing tumult"
The implications of such a framework understanding are truly worthy of unreserved marvel for they not only demonstrate to the world that in the face of great opposition, cacophony and warmongering an old-school, diplomatic and peaceful arrangement can still be effective, but it also validates and expounds on the very core ideological tenets of leadership: taking a stand in times of great hardship in the name of making peace. While there is no shortage of unhappy constituents lining up to eviscerate the parties involved in the landmark negotiations, this is the outline at hand and the outline that must be honored fully as the world moves away from brinkmanship, rather electing to opt for statesmanship.
After nearly 18 months of operose negotiations, John Kerry, the de facto leader of the Western negotiators, and Javad Zarif, Iran’s gregarious, yet judicious, Foreign Minister, have ultimately arrived at a juncture whereby the mutual interests shared by the parties, outweigh past transgressions. This framework, if acted upon, has the potential to mark America’s most significant diplomatic accomplishment since the 1995 Dayton Agreement. Affixing their diplomatic and political legacies to a penultimate agreement (the comprehensive technical nuclear agreement is targeted to be reached by June 30), Secretary Kerry and Dr. Zarif have now opened the door to tackling some of the region’s most long-standing misfortunes and heinous atrocities.
FIRST on the docket is ISIS: a band of rearward, misfit outcasts desperately seeking for a sense of purpose and identity by perverting the religion of Islam through arbitrary carnage and enslavement. ISIS and its troglodytic adherents feed off of the misery of their enslaved population and the pervasive apathy of traditional power blocs to intervene against their alarming expansion. The ISIS phenomenon is but one of a long line of Sunni extremists fueled largely by Saudi Wahhabism, a hardline Islamic ideology espousing total fundamentalism which ISIS utilized to come into fruition and repress its subjects. Continuous Saudi indoctrination of its goons has, in effect, likened the vast field of Sunni jihadist terror groups, like ISIS, to modern-day Nazis on the hunt for their contemporary Jews – the Shias. This disconcerting reality has fallen on the deaf ears and thus compelled Iran, the champion of Shia causes, to assert itself in their defense, even if it entails being a part of a most peculiar coalition.
In what can only be characterized as a seismic shift in foreign policy, President Obama has seemingly pivoted America’s interests away from the traditional Sunni camp (Saudi Arabia) and instead allied the United States with the Shia stance (Iran). With a thawing of relations between Iran and the West emanating as per the current nuclear framework, the United States and, its strange bedfellow, Iran, can further escalate their already ubiquitous and effective offensive against these intolerant jihadist barbarians – much to Iran’s liking.
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Feeling the tides of change, ISIS has already sustained heavy losses in men and real estate in Iraq and Syria – most recently and notably in Tikrit. Teaming the formidable Iranian-trained and funded Shia militias with robust American airstrikes is the key to driving these primitive ruffians back into the stone-age where they belong. Having the luxury to no longer perform these routine military exercises under the shroud of secrecy, Iran and the United States stand a very good chance to neutralize the threat posed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
THE PROSPECT of the United States maintaining this crucial, yet informal, coalition with Iran, naturally evokes a deep sense of unease among the Saudis who have profligately reaped the benefits of America’s perfunctory support which was parlayed into their extremist agendas. Now though, the reality of Iran-backed ground troops coupled with American airpower have the power to bring about the eventual demise of ISIS as well as other like-minded factions fighting in Syria and Iraq and likely assist Iran in supplanting Saudi Arabia as the region’s foremost hegemon – a prospect unthinkable to many even a few years ago.
Next up is the Yemeni quagmire. A months-long uprising by the country’s repressed Shia Houthis at the hands of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has culminated into a skirmish between the region’s two heavyweights. With many European and American embassy personnel already evacuated, there is little Western influence in a land that is quickly turning into the Middle East’s equivalent of the Cold War’s Afghanistan, pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran in yet another proxy war. While the prospects of peace don’t look promising, a deal with Iran on the nuclear issue also carries weight when it comes to Sanaa.
"ISIS has already sustained heavy losses in men and real estate in Iraq and Syria"
Not wanting to risk a full-fledged sectarian meltdown which could trigger regional catastrophe, the United States and Iran could strike a quid pro quo whereby the Iranian withdrawal from Sanaa would, in turn, secure the survival of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Ironically, even through such an arrangement Iran would still stand to incur a net gain vis-à-vis its interests. At first glance an Iranian withdrawal (or “retreat” as it would be dubbed by the Sunnis) would serve as a colossal embarrassment and referendum of limitations for Iran, its image and its reach; however, such a thought is misguided. The Yemen chip for Iran does not represent a vital asset in that Tehran holds no real strategic interests save for actively prodding the Saudis in the hopes of potentially drawing them deeper into a costly Yemeni entanglement. Having the Saudi-led coalition falter or reach a stalemate will escalate the already elevated Sunni unease toward Iran. On the other hand, should the Houthi uprising be repelled, there will be no tangible reverberations for Iran’s interests in the region but for the loss of a prodding stick.
The Iranian counter-balance to Saudi Arabia has effectively been marginalized since 1979. Having its foremost regional adversary effectively neutralized for nearly four decades, Saudi Arabia ran amok while Iran has had its true potential handicapped as a result of the longstanding American-Sunni policies toward the Middle East. However, with the Iranian nuclear framework agreement, the power players of the region are destined for a long overdue reshuffling.
THE UNITED STATES, having pursued, implemented and empowered an exclusively Sunni sect, has acted rather counterproductively in its search for any notions of stability. As evidenced in the aftermath of World War II, an arena with two formidable foes serving as each other’s counterweight produces a much more conducive field for stability than does a unipolar arena. The only way the Middle East can harbor any semblance of peace and stability is through the empowerment of Shia Iran as opposed to its relentless demonization and denigration. The Sunni hegemonic force has drastically overplayed its hand in regional affairs and indubitably overstayed its welcome. This archaic alliance is being traded in, rightly so, for one with Iran – a country with a rich and vibrant civilization, a highly educated population and a worthwhile, albeit regulated, system of elections.
The negotiating powers must, once and for all, boldly unite in their effort to run through the tape and arrive at a deal that frankly is long overdue. The world cannot afford yet another missed opportunity when it comes to rapprochement with Iran. Now is the time. Constructing a deal for the negotiation’s proposed June 30th deadline would go a long way in introducing dialogue, discourse and diplomacy to a region of the world that has, for too long, been inundated with death, destruction and deception. Having Iran rejoin the community of nations behooves those who wish for greater equilibrium among warring ideologies. Let us put an end to a long, dark chapter of animosity and vitriol. Let us for once, promote peace over war. This departure from Cold War-era obstinacy would surely stand to have constructive reverberating consequences for the Middle East.
Arash Irani is a student at Rutgers University pursuing a degree majoring in Political Sciences with a minor in History. He predominantly analyzes the most pressing issues affecting the Middle East, with specific focus on Iran. He can be reached at Cbirani37@yahoo.com
Omid Irani is a student at Seton Hall University graduating with a major in Political Science and dual minors in History and Middle Eastern Studies, which he was the founder of at his undergraduate institution. He has written many articles analyzing Iran’s nuclear issue with respect to U.S. and international focus while concentrating on matters pertaining to Iran holistically. He can be reached at Omid484@aol.com