Aug 12 2015

Has the Iran deal eased Mideast conflicts?

Published by at 11:51 am under Articles

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By Daoud Kuttab

Contrary to the claims of Israel and US Republicans, the P5+1 agreement with Iran has eased, not exacerbated, the boiling conflicts in the Middle East.

Within a short period of time, a silver lining is appearing in the bloody Syrian civil war. The legitimate Yemeni powers are retaking large sections of south Yemen without any reaction from the Iranians, who many claimed would move to support the Houthis. In Iraq, the prime minister has passed the most wide-ranging anti-corruption law in parliament without the Iranians meddling in the affairs of their neighbour, whose leaders happen to be fellow Shiites. The Libyan conflict also appears to be moving towards a diplomatic resolution as all parties are now meeting in Geneva under UN auspices.

The Islamic republic of Iran has not delayed these diplomatic solutions and appears to have been encouraging them. Iran and Russia seem to be working together with the aim of finding a political solution to end the Syrian conflict.

While various regional conflicts appear to be on their way to being resolved, it is very hard to make a direct connection between the P+1 agreement with Iran and the easing of these crises. It is not that Iran suddenly made a U-turn the moment they signed the nuclear deal.

A more nuanced explanation is more likely. The various conflicts in the Middle East are not purely internal. Regional, and even international, tensions have an effect on them. In some cases the external parties have a direct role and in others they have an indirect impact. But in all cases, an easing of regional and international tensions always has a direct effect on local conflicts.

The moment the fighters in Syria or Yemen see that the international community is working together, as in the Iran deal, they quickly realise that they can’t go on expecting these external tensions to continue for ever and fuel their own conflict.

Another explanation for the easing of these conflicts might have to do with regional balance of power. Until the Iran deal, the role of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iraq and the Gulf countries, was much more important than that of regional powers such as Iran and Turkey. But within a short period of time both Iran and Turkey appear to have made political decisions that have enhanced their potential role as regional powers. Iran made its deal with the international community and Turkey has changed its position on allowing the US to use their Incirlik Air Base to attack Daesh.

Lebanese writer Raghida Dergham captured this issue in a recent column in which she argued that Arab countries are worried about losing regional influence with Turkey and Iran gaining power. This feeling — whether correct or not — has played a big role in the realisation of regional countries that if the situation doesn’t ease, Turkey and Iran will have even more influence in the Arab world than they already have.

Whatever the reason for the apparent current diplomatic movements that are likely to put out the fires raging in the region, there is no doubt that the American diplomatic success with Iran is a contributing factor. A diplomatic success in resolving what appears to be an unresolved problem always has ripple effects.

Despite the fact that the Iran and the international community insisted that the deal was solely about Tehran’s nuclear programme and nothing else, the accord has certainly been felt in all the regional conflicts.

We are still a long way from concluding that the Syrian, Yemeni, Libyan or other Middle East conflicts are on their way to being resolved. It is also a stretch to say that all these conflicts are being resolved only because of the Iran nuclear deal with the international community. But we can safely say today that the P5+1 agreement with Iran has certainly not added fuel to the fire as right-wing American warmongers are claiming. The Iran deal is now suspended until the US Congress votes on it in September. But come October, and if this deal is not derailed, one can confidently predict that Iran under its current administration is more interested in improving the lives of its own people than wrecking the lives of its neighbours.

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