By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam (for Safe Democracy)
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam explains how Iran has developed a multilateral strategy to enhance the diplomatic bargaining power of the Ahmadinejad administration. In Adib-Moghaddam‘s opinion, given Iran‘s defiant international stance and widespread influence, resolving the nuclear crisis will depend on a realistic assessment of Iran‘s role in world politics.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is the author of “The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A Cultural Genealogy” (Routledge). Educated at Hamburg, American and Cambridge Universities, he teaches International Relations at Oxford University.
FOR A LONG TIME, THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAS BEEN TRYING TO ISOLATE IRAN both economically through sanctions and diplomatically via inter-governmental organizations.
But it has been difficult for the US to gain support in its opposition to Iran. With the ongoing mess in Iraq, US allies are hesitant to enter into yet another crisis in the Middle East.
But there is a second motive behind world reluctance to stand up to Iran, and that is Iran’s surprisingly agile foreign policy.
INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR IRAN
Analysts around the globe have undervalued the effects of Iran’s multilateral foreign policy strategy, but the time has come to face the truth. Ahmadinejad’s administration has managed to gain an immense amount of diplomatic bargaining power.
Dozens of countries have expressed their support for Iran. Rather than labeling the country a rogue state, Iran has been described as a stabilizing regional force by President Assad of Syria, and as a moral booster of Africa by President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia at a summit of African leaders attended by Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Even regional skeptics like Jordan and Egypt have expressed their support of the country’s right to develop a civilian nuclear energy program.
Far from being considered a member of the axis of evil or a rogue state, Iran’s successful combination of multilateral engagement and diplomatic brinkmanship has helped the country to claim a prominent role throughout the Muslim world, and much of the third world as well.
Iran’s strategy to mobilize support in Asia and Latin America has gained the country some unlikely allies. Ahmadinejad’s call for Asian Unity in his speech to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has won him the support of members Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and his desire for a strategic partnership with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, has called Hispanic leaders to his side.
As well as being involved in prominent international institutions such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the UN, Iran is also a vocal member of the Developing Eight (D-8) comprising Egypt, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) including Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan, and the G-77, which has grown to include 133 countries since its foundation in 1964 to lobby the UN on behalf of developing nations.
With such international involvement, Iran has been able to counter US attempts to mobilize public opinion against Ahmadinejad’s administration and its bid to harness nuclear energy.
Resolving the nuclear crisis, therefore, will depend on a realistic assessment of Iran’s role in world politics.
In order for negotiations to progress on an equal footing, the Bush administration must acknowledge Iran’s role as a regional power and inspirational power in the Muslim world.
As the old doctrine of Kennanian containment and the Waltzian balance of power theory go, being realistic vis-à-vis Iran means both acknowledging the country’s legal rights under the NPT, including the right to enrich uranium; and accommodating the country’s position as an emancipated member of international society.