One move on the chess board

The Iranian regime has very good reasons to be satisfied with the interim agreement signed recently in Geneva:

The Iranian regime played their cards right. The Iranians came to the table under immense stress due to the growing economic crisis stemming from the Western imposed sanctions. The Western powers – for some reason – failed to take advantage of the Iranian regime’s stress which could have secured a much better deal for the West.

The interim agreement positions the Iranian regime as a regional – if not global – power which cannot be ignored.

The agreement substantially limits Israel’s ability to launch any kind of military strike – a scenario that disturbed the Iranian regime.
The agreement allows the Iranian regime to continue operating in Syria and to improve its negotiating position in an international conference expected to be held in January 2014 to discuss a diplomatic solution for the war in Syria. It is no wonder that Iran’s major allies and proxies – Assad and Hezbollah – rushed to express support for the interim agreement describing it as an Iranian triumph.

The agreement does nothing to thwart the Iranian nuclear military project.

Though the agreement imposes a temporary pause and freeze of the Iranian nuclear program, it is compensated by the benefits the agreement offers the Iranian regime.

The sanctions imposed on Iran caused growing discontent and criticism inside Iran and weakened the Iranian regime. The agreement allows the regime to counter the criticism.

Those supporting the interim agreement argue it is an important step towards a peaceful solution which will ensure that Iran will not have nuclear weapons. That perspective is clearly valid and reasonable.
Yet, paradoxically, it is possible that the interim agreement will not bring about a peaceful solution and will increase instability in the Middle East for two reasons:

The Iranian regime basic assumption is that the West is not interested in a military confrontation with Iran. Therefore, the Iranian regime concludes that the West will contain an Iranian military nuclear capacity. In the eyes of the Iranian regime, the interim agreement validates this assumption. However, it is possible that the Iranian’s assumption is wrong; it is possible that the West is indeed determent to avoid the scenario of a military nuclear Iran by all means – including the use of military might. Thus, the Iranian misinterpretation could result in a tougher Iranian position which will block the diplomatic channels thus forcing the West to use military might in order to secure its interests.

The interim agreement deepens the feelings of mistrust among the major US allies in the Middle East and towards the United States’ President and strengthens their suspicious that the current US administration is choosing a policy of containing a military nuclear Iran. Given the indecisive, incoherent, and ambiguous US policy towards major events in the Middle East (the war in Syria, the use of chemical weapon, the political turbulence in Egypt, etc.) these fears and suspicious are understandable. The continuation of the strained relations between the US administration and its major allies in the Middle East could drive some of the US allies in the region to come to the conclusion that their strategic interests require an independent policy and unilateral actions even if they don’t comply with the US’s outlook. For example, Saudi Arabia can decide to arm itself with nuclear weapon should the Saudis conclude that Iran is going to have military nuclear capacity. Such a development obviously has significant ramifications – and not necessarily positive ones.

In the Middle East chess board the interim agreement with Iran is only one move. Similar to the game, it is sometimes difficult to see or to predict the long term impacts of that move. The game, however, continues…

About the Author
Avi Melamed is a Strategic Intelligence Analyst and an Expert on the Current Affairs in the Arab and Muslim World and their impact on the Middle East. He is the Founder and CEO of Inside the Middle East: Intelligence Perspectives (ITME), an empowering intelligence analysis praxis transforming students and practitioners into knowledgeable, media literate, critical thinkers. ITME’s goal is to ensure that the next generation of policy influencers will have be equipped with the knowledge, skills and tools to independently and accurately decipher the Middle East and accurately predict the direction of future events. He is a former Israeli Intelligence Official and Senior Official on Arab Affairs. In his public service, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities and communities throughout the region – often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. His newest book, Inside the Middle East: Making Sense of the Most Dangerous and Complicated Region on Earth, (also available as an audio book) – a GPS to help you navigate the dramatically changing Middle East, offers a unique insight into the Arab world, challenges widely-accepted perceptions, provides a guide to make sense of the events unfolding in the region, and offers an out of the box idea that could lead to a positive breakthrough in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides intelligence analysis, briefings and tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policy makers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs. An Israeli Jew, fluent in Arabic, English and Hebrew, with a unique understanding of Arab society and culture, Avi has his finger on the pulse on the Arab world. He has a proven record of foreseeing the evolution of events in the Middle East and their impact on a local and regional level. Through all of his efforts, as an analyst, educator, entrepreneur, and writer, he is a bridge builder, and dedicates himself to enhancing the Arabic, English and Hebrew speaking audience’s comprehensive understanding of the Middle East and of each other. www.avimelamed.com @AviMelamed
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