Iran’s Role in Central Asia
A stronger, open Iran, will trade even more with Russia and China, buying more weapons and selling more resources. At the same time China needs to increase its oil and gas imports using continental pipelines rather than sea – which exposes it to a potential military blockade in the event of a conflict with United States. As a result, Iran is certainly going to improve its position within Shanghai Cooperation Organization – possibly becoming a full member – getting even closer to Moscow and Beijing.
It is very ironic that after decades of trying to keep Iran out of communist influence it is now set to become a close partner of communist China and post-communist Russia headed by a former KGB agent, in a bloc controlling vast wealth of resources, extending from the borders of Europe to the Pacific and the Persian Gulf.
Strategically, it is a much broader blow to US interests – and to global stability. Russia will gain a new, serious market for its military technology, paid for by increasing inflows to Tehran’s coffers from Beijing.
Closer cooperation of this trio will make them less vulnerable to Western influence, allowing to pursue even bolder – and destructive – foreign policies – with Ukraine on fire, Chinese offensive in the South China Sea and Shia proxies in the Middle East.
US administration has managed to achieve quite a feat by setting free a partner Moscow and Beijing have been eagerly awaiting, triggering joy and satisfaction among several terrorist organizations and alienating its allies in Riyadh and Jerusalem. All that in exchange for limitations to a nuclear program that hardly could ever produce a real threat other than stronger deterrence.
So it’s no surprise that Israel and Saudi Arabia are not really happy to see their key ally deal with a government that – at the very same time – supports organizations killing or aiming to kill their citizens – without addressing this issue in the negotiations.
And that is the great opportunity missed by these negotiations.
Sanctions against Iran allowed a good leverage to try and begin to solve broader Middle Eastern problems. Instead of tackling the most serious issues and bringing other key topics – and perhaps other states – to the table, it focused on the least concerning one, most likely to gain Obama and the Democrats some points before his departure and the upcoming presidential elections in the US next year.
Iran is the clear winner here. It hasn’t halted its nuclear program, just applied limitations that are hardly costly, while it has received its economy back – together with $100 billion in frozen assets – and, quite bafflingly, hasn’t even been questioned about its terrorism sponsorship in the process.
Considering it’s a result of nearly two years of negotiations between the top Western powers and a broken (and broke), isolated government, it seems to show that the weakness of the West is far greater than anybody expected.
While Israel has no other choice but to stick with the US, Saudi Arabia has been pushed to pursue a more independent foreign policy – something that seems to be a good idea, but only until you realize the potential consequences.
Undoubtedly, KSA is as responsible for the mess in the Middle East as Iran is, but it’s a far wealthier and far more autocratic state than its rival. Hence, it can exert its power more effectively by channeling money and weapons to a far larger population of Sunni radicals.
What US administration has done here is push away one ally without gaining a new one. On the contrary – allowing Iran to grow and enter into lucrative economic relations with two other US rivals – Russia and China. Even Europe has gained more here, by opening up some possibilities of investment and trade with Iran. US left the table with nothing – while possibly (and likely) planting seeds for much worse proxy conflicts in the Middle East.