Persia, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, home to one of the world’s oldest civilization, is showing signs of emergence as the regional power after the signing of a tentative nuclear deal with P5+1 countries. A final agreement to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions is slated to be drawn up by the end of June this year. For years, talks between Iran and the six world powers had been in a deadlock because of concerns over the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme. But what has changed the stand of the world power towards Iran is Iran’s growing influence in the region, which can be felt in major capitals across the region — Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.
Not many countries have come out of the Middle East’s recent upheaval unscathed. And even fewer have seen their fortunes rise. But one country, Iran, has seen its influence and power grow, while its neighbours battle to keep their states from disintegrating. Iran is still facing economic sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme which are really bleeding its economy In spite of this, the country has seen its influence and power grow, while its neighbours are struggling hard to manage their states. With the post-Arab spring chaos in the Middle East and the re-emergence of Iran as a stable and key political player in this crisis-torn region, the United States and European countries finally realised that the only way to manage the complexity of the Middle Eastern geopolitics was to engage Iran in international diplomacy.
Let’s see what made Iran an oasis of stability in the world’s highly destabilize region. There are numerous reasons for that such as plenty of natural resources, developed industrial sector, and qualified human resources. First if we talk about the natural resources of Iran, it has the largest natural gas reserves in the world, third-largest proven oil reserves in the world, the most zinc in the world, plus copper, iron, lead and coal. Secondly Iran has well-developed industry compared to its Middle East neighbours, including auto and cement plants, food production and telecom. Moreover Iran possesses a highly skilled, well-educated, highly literate population and its more than 75 million consumers, many of them middle class, make it a very attractive market as well.
In addition to these, Iran has made the investments in its infrastructure sector despite a faltering domestic economy, weakening currency and increasingly punitive international sanctions. The country is aiming to strengthen its petro-chemical industry and instead of exporting oil and natural gas in their crude forms, they want to be one of the leading chemical producers in the world.
All these characteristics of Iran make it very hard to ignore and isolate, at least in the region. Now Iran find itself near to fulfilment of its lofty aspiration to be a top ten economy over the next couple of decades. It’s a truism that if Iran does eventually emerge from decades of economic sanctions originally dating to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and significantly expanded by the U.N. in 2006, it could become a regional economic powerhouse.
It’s not only the economic potential of Iran that has made it hard for the west to ignore, but its military might also made it a major geo-political player. Iran is increasing its military presence in the Middle East, raising a lot of questions about its ambitions. So what is Iran’s military reach? Let’s see: In Iraq, the Quds Force is fighting alongside Shia Iraqi militias and the Iraqi Army, and 30,000 soldiers and advisors are reportedly operating in a number of Iraqi cities. Across the border in Syria, Iran has supported the Syrian government of President Assad. It is estimated that up to 10,000 Iranian operatives are in Syria and that support has come with $15 billion in financial aid, according to Syria’s minister of finance and economy, Ibrahim Miro. In Lebanon Shia militia Hezbollah is backed by Iran, which is a significant political and military force there, and in Yemen, Houthi fighters backed by Iran have taken over many cities, including the capital Sanaa. The Iranian navy has a good presence in the Gulf of Aden and Hormuz which are major shipping route for Oil. Recently Iran increased its presence by sending its 34th fleet of the Iranian Navy for the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab Strait. Iran has the largest and most diverse arsenal of ballistic missiles in the Middle East just after Israel.
Iranians for long have lived with the pain of having great potential, but being largely shut out of the global economy. There has been layer upon layer of sanctions applied on Iran but now Iranians, especially the young ones, want themselves reintegrated into the global economy but without compromising their national integrity and pride. Iran is a significant national state with a historic culture, a fierce national identity, and a relatively youthful, educated population; its re-emergence as a global partner would be a consequential event. But For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order. Iran has to understand that to gain the stature of a responsible regional power it has to help stabilize the region in whatever form it emerges after this period of readjustment and realignment.
Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of geo-political news agency Viewsaround can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org