Iran Returns to the International Community

When, in 1979, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s regime collapsed in Iran under the weight of the Islamic Revolution, the regime to succeed was that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a religious and political leader who led the country to international isolation. Iran was a close ally and one of the most important pillars supporting Western economic interests in the area. Besides, Iranian oil was considered crucial to maintaining the energy balance, which was imposed on the international community by Western interests.

Such interests, at least in the beginning, prejudged the U.S., and in a more general sense, the rest of the Western world’s hostile attitude toward the Iranian Revolution because, after that, 52 American diplomats and 20 Iranian embassy staff were held hostage in Tehran for 444 days. During those troubled times in 1979, they demanded the extradition of the recently overthrown shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had already sought exile in the United States, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Iran, lasting to this day.

Iran’s isolation for the last 36 years, among other negative impacts on the current international system, has been a hotbed of conflict, constituting a permanent threat not only to regional but also international security. This threat took on new dimensions when, in the late ’90s, the Iranian regime decided to restart the nuclear program, the design of which dates back to the shah’s era. Tehran’s reassurance that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, in addition to its statement that it is committed to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations and its willingness to agree to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency failed to convince the international community. In fact, how could it persuade the other parties when it announced the production of 20-percent enriched uranium, something that is not consistent with peaceful purposes, although Iran has a long way to go to reach weapon-grade enriched uranium for nuclear purposes?

The most dangerous scenario of a formidable stalemate, which was created and threatened international peace and security, was necessitated both by Washington and Tehran’s refusal to engage in dialogue for many years. The political landscape changed with Barack Obama’s election in the United States, and recently, in 2013, the election of a moderate politician, Hassan Rouhani, in Iran.

Nuclear talks, which started last year between Iran and the so-called P5+1 —the USA, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia, plus Germany — so that Iran and the international community conclude a deal, are still in progress, and there are indications of a positive outcome. Although the agreement has not been finalized yet, the various parties involved seem determined, through mutual concessions, to conclude an agreement that would resolve the Iranian nuclear program. Of course, when that development occurs, great upheaval will ensue in regional and global politics. With the Middle East in the epicenter, the anticipated upheaval is expected to have a direct impact on mainly four countries: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey. Saudi Arabia and Qatar will acquire a powerful competitor in the global oil and natural gas market respectively. Israel will lose a common enemy with the United States, for whose exploitation it relied on part of the American civilian-military support it enjoyed in the area. Turkey will obtain a strong competitor, a counterweight to the hegemonic role it wants to play in the region. Besides, Turkey and Iran, as in the case of Iran and the Arab world, or Iran and Israel, but also the cross relationship they have, historically relied on an ambivalent balance of power based on Middle Eastern standards.

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1 Comment

  1. It should be remembered that signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty have the right to enrich uranium. The deal will therefore have to give Iran something substantial if the P5+1 are to get any kind of agreement to the modification of that right.

    And it should also be remembered that Israel is not a signatory to the NPT.

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