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Saeed Naqvi | 20 JULY, 2015

Iran Deal Sets Into Motion New Regional Balance Of Power

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif


Excessive projection of the “eye for an eye” passage from Deuteronomy as the defining feature of Israel is exemplified by Benjamin Netanyahu’s verbal pugilism. But it obscures a large Israeli constituency for peace. Having signed the nuclear deal, Iran will expect this constituency to expand. This expectation does not contradict its principled stand on Palestine. Somewhere in this space will germinate the seed for the next phase of politics within Israel. There is a school of thought in Iran which sees the destroyed economies of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen as an opportunity for reconstruction in cooperative ventures with Israel’s vast intellectual resource.

Political fermentation will take place on the Palestinian side too. Factions will outline and disguise their roadmaps towards Israeli moderates.

From President Hassan Rouhani to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, there are a range of factions in Iran which will grapple with each other and also orchestrate. The deal unshackles Iran in so many spheres that it now has a range of external players to incorporate into its strategies with recalcitrant adversaries.

Israel’s occupation of that other Hill in Washington is well known. But the forces which enabled President Obama with the nuclear deal will manage the US Congress too. To use Marxist terminology, the US Congress is only as autonomous as the US imperial interests permit. How useful are Israel and Saudi Arabia to these interests will determine their saliency in the region.

The area where there is likely to be no ferment on account of the deal are the GCC countries because the people are not involved. Elsewhere, as I have indicated the deal will catalyze ferment which will, on occasion, boil over.

The regional picture has been radically altered. The US backing all Israeli and Saudi misadventures in West Asia may well be a thing of the past. With the emergence of Iran, a different balance of power has been created which partially frees the US from the day-to-day housekeeping in West Asia. It can now attend to the bigger league in the Pacific.

The powers required to maintain the new West Asian equilibrium are Iran, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The last mentioned in the list is internally a little move unstable than even the Saudis. Ironically, the Saudis are directly responsible for this instability.

When the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia returned from convalescence in Europe and saw his friends Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak in Tunis and Cairo respectively, crushed by the Arab Spring, he swore to halt the Arab Spring and indeed, reverse it.

First, he quelled incipient rebellion at home by raining $135 billion hush money on his own people. Then he helped fuel the Syrian civil war in response to an Israeli desire to remove Damascus from the Iran, Hezbullah, Hamas “axis”. Behold, that “axis” now stands even more strengthened, even as the Saudis are exhausting their ordnance on the Arab world’s poorest country, Yemen towards an unquantifiable end. A purpose clearly is to appear to be checkmating a “Shia” threat but the real purpose is to control forces within the country.

Yes, during King Abdullah’s hyper active phase, the balance in Cairo was also disturbed. A pro Muslim Brotherhood conduct and official appointments by Mohamed Morsi had, by way of a reaction, brought out secular demonstrators onto the street, supported by the army Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The Saudis and the Israelis leaned heavily on the West to tilt the scales in favour of the Army. Muslim brotherhood or political Islam is anathema to Riyadh and Jerusalem for separate reasons. Political Islam is inherently anti monarchy and therefore a threat to the House of Saud; it is also coherent with Hamas which adds to Israeli nightmares.

Countries like UK postponed taking decision on whether or not to recognize Muslim Brotherhood by setting up committees on the issue. There is no reason why foreign offices will endorse long term support for army rule or dictatorship in preference to Muslim Brotherhood which in essence is not very different from Europe’s Christian Democrats during the cold war. The results of these committee reports will be a matter of suspense.

The deal with Iran places John Kerry in the history books. His record will provide a contrast to Hillary Clinton’s dismal record as Secretary of State at a time when she is aiming at the White House. The killing of the US Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, in Benghazi; her inept statement, synchronized with the macabre murder of Muammar Qaddafi – “I came, I saw and he died”; her imperious wave of the hand – “get out of the way, Assad”, will not look pretty in the US election season, particularly if Bashar al Assad keeps smiling as if nothing happened. But should a consensus in favour of Muslim Brotherhood emerge in the West as a coherent, Sunni force to checkmate Iranian Shia-ism, Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan will be emboldened at Assad’s expense. This, Iran will exert every muscle to prevent. The new West Asian balance of power will have been set in motion.

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