Jahangir Karami

International Crises and Iran's Strategic Environment

Date of publication : April 6, 2018 22:02 pm
International Crises and Iran

In recent decades, the three world geostrategic areas, which shape the core of international politics, have faced crises that not only influence the destiny of each of these regions, transregional powers, other states, and even nongovernmental actors such as ethnic and religious currents but also plays a major role in the international structures and the future of the international system.
The most important trend in East Asia is the more power and more effective role of China. Based on giving a top priority to the economy, economic development, and interactionism in foreign policy, this country has managed to become the world's second-largest economic power. In addition, China has made slow and gradual efforts to expand its regional and global influence. However, this is not an urgent problem for today's US. What matters to the US in recent years and led the region to the brink of a nuclear war is the challenge of North Korea and its nuclear program, which has exacerbated regional concerns.
In the Eurasian region and especially in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union collapse, Russia’s retreat from 1989 to 2000, the more aggressive and stricter policy of Russia against the expansion of NATO and the European Union, and the US measures and interventions have compounded the situation, which has turned into a major international issue in the Ukrainian crisis since 2014.
In the light of the Arab Spring developments since 2014, West Asia or the Middle East has undergone a period that is the intersection of regional and global developments and rivalries in Syria, attended by major global and regional powers as well as ethnic, religious, and political groups. Despite the complexity of competitions, conflicts, and security games, Western, Arabic, and Hebrew sides try to reduce this crisis to the role of Iran for regional influence and view the issues such as Iraq, Yemen, and nuclear deal within this framework.
In all these international crises, we face a constant actor, that is the US government, and some variable actors such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. In fact, four states with different tools are in conflict with each other in three regions of the world.
In East Asia, the emergence of China in regional and international equations and business issues are the core of competition between the US and China. However, the more important issue is North Korea and its nuclear program. In this regard, the US administration pledges itself to both inhibit China in order to eliminate the concerns of its allies such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan and also ASEAN countries and prevent North Korea from developing its nuclear program and force it to disarm.
Given the imposed responsibility inherent in its hegemony, the US has no choice but to seek to restrict Russia and its influence in Eastern Europe. Young Europe is becoming more and more reliant on the US security guarantees. In the light of NATO expansion and the deployment of a missile shield, this is targeted at the most important principle of the global stability, that is the strategic alignment. Hence, Russia has begun a more serious policy to maintain strategic alignment in difficult circumstances, while avoids entering a more extensive arm race with the West. Currently, with about $ 1 billion of military funding, the West can invest in this field 10 times more than Russia, but the military budget of Russia is only about $ 100 billion. Moreover, Russia’s 1.5-trillion dollars economy has a long distance to the US economy, with a value of twenty trillion dollars.
But most importantly, despite the complexity of equations due to the presence of numerous actors and conflicting goals in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Israel desire to reduce all these issues to the US-Iran competition and the US claims that intends to control Iran's regional power and influence. Concerns of some European countries about the military capabilities and regional influence of Iran have provided difficult conditions and put the US on harder dilemmas. Within the framework of the regional equilibrium policy in the Middle East during Obama’s presidency, the US had inevitably accepted the regional role of Iran. During the past year, Trump had no choice but to continue this policy as long as Iran was the main actor in the face of ISIL. However, after the weakening of ISIL and elimination of its effective role in the Levant, conditions have totally changed.
The US tries to limit the arenas of military confrontation as much as possible. Nevertheless, Trump’s administration has to make difficult decisions in his second year of presidency; such as talks with Russia and North Korea to begin the process of solving the existing problems and the continuation or cancellation of the nuclear deal and its subsequent issues. In fact, Trump should make decisions in the next year which reveal the accuracy of his claims during the electoral campaign and afterward and also pressures and disclosures of domestic rivals. What is clear so far is that the US will enter into talks with North Korea and Russia and also will immediately or gradually lift the nuclear deal in May 2018 and wait for Tehran’s decisions.
The US efforts to maintain its declining hegemony, China and Russia's efforts for regional hegemony and playing a more limited global role, measures of regional powers such as Iran and Turkey, and Saudi Arabia and Israel at more limited levels, to expand their regional influence, and efforts a smaller player like North Korea for security guarantees are the components which constitute today’s international crises. In the middle of these three areas and several actors, the US has a difficult path for interaction and any decision about a process or an actor will also have a serious impact on the behavior of other actors. This is different from the Cold War in which two certain sides with nearly close power were in conflict with other. However, now we are facing multiple actors, multiple processes, and different levels of power, creating a very complex situation which greatly affects the future of each of the actors. Hence, this is not a certain game but it is a complex situation with no clear, predetermined, and easily understandable rule.
One of the common features of these three recent crises is that the US has mostly involved in them based on the recommendation, encouragement, pressures, and enticement of its allies. Although maintaining the international hegemony requires bearing such costs and the hegemonic power is bound to ride on its allies, other governments were serious encouragers of the US for the presence and taking action in these three crises. Countries of so-called Young Europe like Poland, Baltic countries, Romania, and Hungary in Eastern Europe, eastern and southern neighbors of China, and Saudi Arabia and Israel in the Middle East have the same request and put the US under pressure. However, this does not deny the US interests in maintaining the international hegemony claimed by radical republicans.        

Jahangir Karami, an associate professor at the University of Tehran, is the senior fellow at IRAS.

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ID: 3614
Author : Jahangir Karami