The Aftermath Of The Iran Deal: What Can We Expect From Iran?

The Iran deal has caused quite a stir amongst regional Arab states and Israel. As much as we would like to think that the deal has been done and dusted, many debate the place and behaviour of a reemerging, sanction free Iran. Politicians from Saudi Arabia to Israel and to the shrills of the Congress and the White House, all echo the dim and gloomy warnings of a stronger Iranian rise of terror now that the deal has been struck.

International Relations theories have time after time tried to explain the rise of regional hegemony and the tactics in a multipolar world. Walt, Mearsheimer and Morgenthau amongst many have predicted how states would react to a new rising power or why a state would want to be as threatening as a 1930s’/40s’ Germany. In a nutshell, the theories explain that if a state would feel threatened by other regional powers it will seek to obtain its own force of influence. However, if you appease such a rising power it will refuse to obey and be contained, such as Hitler in the 1930s’. Enter Iran, a case that is no longer fixated on because of the deal, centrifuges, uranium or transparency but rather because of the fact that the deal took on a life of its own. What if Obama is appeasing Iran? What if Iran is a rising regional power that is best contained by sanctions? What if its new-found influence will inflict terror on minority groups and will allow it to extend its arm into other regional chaos as it does with the Houthis in Yemen?

Predictions offer a great deal of insight and understanding but they can also just be false promises. Yes, Iran’s aggressive attitude might worsen and its regional meddling might not stop. But then again, it also might. How many deals such as the Iran deal have been made in the Middle East or even in history? Not as many as we would like to assume. Wars on the other hand are common and to some a daily recurrence of a harsh, cold reality. As much as we would like to believe that the Iran deal is but a fairy tale script that would unravel as soon as sanctions are lifted, it could also force Iran to face a reality in which it does not exist in a vacuum. If it hopes to get its economy back on its feet and strike oil deals with states like India (Iran used to be its second largest oil supplier and now seventh) then it has to get its act together. If anything, the deal creates the necessary breathing space to monitor the actions of a nuclear-free Iran and to open up possibilities for cohesion and negotiations on other issues. It could quite possibly foster cooperation that other regional states should take an advantage of. It would also set an example of the consequences of obtaining a bomb or participating in a nuclear arms race to other regional countries that seek nuclear power.

The Middle East is no stranger to chaos and conflict and it is home to many terror cells and organisations. Therefore, to expect that that chaos will tone down, regardless of whether or not the deal was made, is also an illusion that many politicians in the region have. Crippling the Iranian economy or as Israel would have it, go to war over the summer with Iran will not solve the Palestinians’ problems, the refugee issues, the child soldiers recruited by ISIS or the lack of human rights. It doesn’t stop the Houthis in Yemen or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria either, nor will it prevent the bloodshed spilled on the borders of Lebanon or stop the Syrian death toll. Even if Iran vanishes into thin air, it does not stabilise the region. It is because Iran is not the source of all the terrible issues that burden this region. It is plagued with a series of unstable bloodthirsty dictators that toppled down one government after another and created a power vacuum up for grabs after they have long gone.

Israel was once, and still is thought of, as a pariah state that conveniently sits in the Middle East, squeezed between Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Syria. Many Arab states seek its demise and think that if it pulled a disappearing act it would stabilise the region. However, as much as we would like to laugh that idea off, it is an existing perception, the same haunting perception that others have on Iran. It does not solve anything. As a result, the deal will not worsen or better this situation. We are forgetting that in this day and age of nuclear weapons, complex challenges in every region and the global war on terror, working with adversaries is the way forward. We should at least foster dialogue and cooperation while seeking to contain their actions and, as Jonathan Powell suggests, to ‘talk to terrorists’.

We need to challenge the assumption that the deal will somehow magically transform Iran. The deal is not meant to transform the Islamic regime, nor is it meant to turn Iran from a theocracy to a democracy. We should stop fixating on such transformations and focus on what it is: a nuclear deal. It is meant to prevent Iran from getting its hands on a nuclear bomb and as a result lift the sanctions that have been destroying Iran’s economy and victimising its people. It is not meant to bend the arm of the current supreme leader of Iran, Khamenei or creep western morals and habits into Iran. Instead of thinking of everything we cannot gain from the deal (a democratic or a “moderate” Iran), we should focus on the fact that it is a deal that avoided an unnecessary war or preemptive strike and achieved justice for the people of Iran through effective diplomacy. In this case, I do not think of terms such as containment, punishment and hegemony. At the end of the day, it’s easy to sum up that diplomacy won.


Breaking The Silence Of The Cold War: Should There Be A Western Military Support And Assistance In Ukraine?

Dobry den” is the first word that I can recall from my Russian Foreign Policy class when I was twenty years old. From as long as I can remember Russian foreign affairs and history are topics I enjoyed delving into.

Tzar Nicholas II, The Russian Revolution, The Soviet Union and all the Russian tactics that make absolutely no sense to Americans, such as: out suffering the enemy with harsh cold conditions, the pride that still remains left over after the USSR has long crumbled, the fear of NATO and US troops in Russia’s former satellite countries and the habit of showing off the purchase of new weaponry in public ceremonies. These make Russian tactics fascinating.

The partnership between the United States and Russia has never been easy. After the Cold War, there was not much else to say: America:1, Russia: 0. It seemed that this competition and the obsession over the defeat of the Cold War was never going to be over no matter how many summits the US share with the Russians. It seemed that the former KGB Putin was still harbouring ill-will and was determined to let America know that the Cold War is far from over.You can hear the shrill rhetoric of the Kremlin about the idea that Ukraine would be a member of the European Union and NATO or that South Ossetia and Abkhazia would ever claim independence without Russian support.

Russia was never here nor there, it was never clear if it is a European country that sought to never join the EU or it was comfortably placed in Asia amongst its other Asian allies. It is no secret that Russia keeps a close eye on European politics, desperately trying to play nice with the big powerful countries club: America, UK, Germany and France. Russia was determined to be thought of as a superpower and its quest for this status never stopped when at the same time, it partnered with a regional rising superpower, China. Understanding Putin’s head is like trying to take a stroll in the Kremlin, dangerous and impossible. Time after time, Putin managed to resist staying out of Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine. Meddling in the affairs of the Middle East, which had been the playground for the Americans and the Russians in the Cold War, and even having a say about the Iran Nuclear Deal proved that Russia is not easy to ward off.

Moscow’s latest dealings with Crimea and Ukraine have put a strain on Russia’s economy through western sanctions. Merkel has constantly warned Russia against its Ukrainian involvement and Washington has given Moscow the cold shoulder with its no show at Russia’s propaganda filled Veteran Day parade in May this year. Russia is willing to endure this to get what it wants despite the sanctions taking a toll on its economy, the Russian oligarchs’ pocket money as well as its oil prices. So what do you do with a Putin controlled Russia?

It is not clear whether or not Putin’s sought after control of Crimea and Ukraine will show that Russia is still in charge of its former states or whether it will prove to Obama and the leaders of the western world that Russia is too a superpower and that their involvement is unwelcome. Perhaps it will be a combination of both. What is clear however, is that the economic sanctions are not working and an end to Kyiv’s battle with Moscow is far from over.

Sanctions do constrain capacity, they do not constrain behaviour” said James Sherr when sharing his opinions about whether or not the west should go beyond sanctions in order to provide assistance to the Ukraine’s dealings with the Russian military force. Perhaps, the Russians did not see the possibility of the attack escalating in Ukraine the way it did and assumed it’s a sure win that would turn the state of Ukraine to a 2008 Georgia. However, the Ukrainians are fighting back and their morale seems to only grow with war. Up until now the Russians are controlling less than five per cent territory in Ukraine. However, Ukraine’s capacity to fight in the long run will lack the means to combat well-armed Russian troops. It seems that the current western approach to halt Russia’s actions in Ukraine is to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons. Although this request was denied before by Obama, many now believe that NATO’s contribution and Ukraine’s military force are not enough to handle the current escalated situation.

I, on the other hand belong to another group that believes in resisting lethal military support to Kyiv. Ukraine is with out a doubt unequipped to handle the lethal weaponry that they are asking for. Ukraine’s military defence is worn out, underfunded and over time Ukraine has struggled to employ capable defence minsters.

Ukraine is also endemic to chaos and political, economic and social problems. The idea that the weapons might fall into the wrong hands is a bigger possibility than the lethal weapons actually contributing to the war against the separatists. As Scott Sagan once warned, the repercussions of giving weapons to an already unstable government and risking these weapons ending up in the wrong hands are far more dangerous than not being involved. An example of this is Taliban in Afghanistan that got a hold of US weaponry.

If Ukraine obtains lethal weapons, the war would escalate even further, causing more bloodshed. What remains a viable option is further efforts to take a dab at diplomacy with Russia and perhaps, helping Ukrainian forces with better guidance from the United States and NATO.