Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
The two primary reasons why other nations remain interested in stability in the Arabian Gulf are oil and natural gas. While the Gulf provides a host of opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors in sectors such as construction, tourism, infrastructure development, aerospace and defense, all these prospects flow from the resources bubbling out of the ground.
Oil and gas sales provide a vast majority of revenues collected by these countries and despite their consistent increase in production, the world’s hunger for these resources seems never ending.
It is for this reason that Iran is such a valuable player:It has one of the world’s largest oil reserves yet, because of the sanctions, is unable to reach its export potential. It’s obvious that once it fully enters the world market, Iran will have a major positive impact on global energy prices and significantly increase the opportunities available to global investors. Consequently, there is a large and varied group of individuals and companies that are anxiously waiting for Iran to come out of the gloom of sanctions.
This is not to say that the reasons behind these restrictions aren’t justified and Iran’s case clearly has not been helped by its current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, now that the president’s term is about to end and the country’s economic situation is worse than ever, it would make sense for the Supreme Leader to use this transition to make a relatively friendly move towards the international community.
Another factor that could weigh on the Supreme Leader’s mind are the ongoing developments in Syria. Iran has long supported President Assad and with the Syrian president’s situation getting increasingly precarious, the Supreme Leader needs to consider how Iran’s continuing rancor with the west will affect his chances of retaining any influence in Syria.
The conclusion here is that there a number of reasons why Iran should comply with the international community’s conditions as this will help improve its economy and allow it to retain its influence in the region.
However, there is very little evidence that Tehran will actually follow a logical path because doing so could make it seem as if it is giving in to the US and the international community. Furthermore, and likely even more damaging, would be the impression that Iran lost to Israel in a battle to develop/maintain a nuclear capability, especially since Israel will never give up its nuclear resources.
I find this point particularly interesting because of the commonalities between the two nations because one could well consider Iran – for all intents and purposes – the Israel of the Arabian Gulf i.e. a nation surrounded by enemies on all sides.
The Persians of Iran have long thought of themselves as different from the Arabs that inhabit the rest of the Arabian Gulf. While the Shia of Iran can – and in certain instances do – stand together with the Shia of Iraq and Bahrain, at the end of the day the Iraqis and Bahrainis consider themselves Arabs and not Persians. This difference gives us an insight into Iran’s interactions with its neighbors and why this inherent cultural distrust affects the relations between the residents of this region.
Iran’s concerns are mirrored by the Israelis who also see themselves as being surrounded by enemies. It, therefore, makes sense that a union between these two countries – similar to the one between Egypt and Israel – would solve a number of significant problems.
To begin with, if Israel and Iran combine forces, the entire Palestinian problem will fall by the wayside as the former will be able to use the latter to undercut Hamas’ power and begin negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Iran, on the other hand, will be able to use the US’ global influence and private sector acumen to develop its oil sector – similar to what Saudi Arabia did early in the 20th century. Furthermore, western companies will be able to use Iran’s need to develop its armed forces to increase influence and sales in the region. Finally, such an agreement would have an astronomical impact on the global oil markets and an exponentially positive impact on the global economy.
The combination of these two countries – which could also include Egypt – would extend their influence from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and, while that may raise concerns in Riyadh, Doha, et al, those could be easily assuaged by the US and the global community.
Obviously, the chances of such an alliance are quite slim but given the benefits inherent in such a partnership, they do make for an interesting case study.