Iranian deal and ‘Reset’ in the Middle East
“Reset” was the title of the Stephen Kinzer book (2010, Times Book) on the possible prospects of the Middle East. Indeed, things evolved into a reset in the Middle East in the last few years, but not in the way that Kinzer imagined or wished. The Iranian-Western deal over Iran’s nuclear program seems to be epoch-making step towards new Middle Eastern order if not hindered by its opponents.
Kinzer imagined Iran and Turkey to be two prospective forces of democracy in alliance with U.S. He rightly claimed that “Although these countries (the U.S. and Iran) have been enemies for more than a quarter century, they have vital interests in common. Both wanted stable Iraq, a stable Afghanistan and a stable Pakistan. Both detest radical Sunni movements like al-Qaeda and the Taliban.” Nevertheless, Kinzer expected Iran to change and presented Turkey as “a model” Muslim democracy. In the meantime, even if the regime did not change, Iran chose moderates under the Rohani leadership, which paved the way for Western rapprochement. Besides, the so-called “Arab Spring” and the hope for “moderate Sunni democracies” have failed completely and, moreover, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) emerged as the most extreme form of Sunni radicalism, in Iraq and Syria with branches almost all over Muslim countries. These developments enforced the logic of necessary engagement of the old enemies (U.S./West and Iran). Nonetheless, Turkey’s position has changed too, although not in positive direction. Instead, Turkey lost its credentials as “a model Muslim democracy” and reliable Western ally. Saudi Arabia and Qatar also seemed to play a risky game by supporting radicals in Syria and Iraq. Therefore, Iran finally became a more important actor than it was supposed to be since “U.S. allies in the region turned to be more a problem,” as Vice President Biden once put it.
It was politics of confrontation between the West and Iran, beginning right after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, that shaped the future of Middle East until recently. Almost all political crises, tensions, conflicts have been derived from this grand confrontation since then. Now, things started to radically change and I think it is a big chance for a more peaceful Middle East. I know that a peaceful Middle East sounds more like a “contradiction of terms” and there may be a lot of hindrances in the way of shift towards a new Middle Eastern order. Nevertheless, I think that this is the right course of change in the region and should be used and defended as a chance of peace.
Since the end of World War II, Western allies in the region relied on Western support to legitimize authoritarian reactionary regimes in return for “their service” in suppressing Communism, Arab nationalism and leftism in general and then hindering “the threat of Revolutionary Iran.” Israel took a similar lead and turned to be “a right wing settlers’ country,” which became a burden for the Western alliance. So, it is no surprise that now, both anti-Semite Sunni regimes and Israel have united to oppose the Iranian deal. The Iranian deal is important in this respect too. A new balance of power can also be a motivating force for those regimes to improve their politics in the positive way, since “confrontation with Iran” will cease to be an asset to be used in exchange for Western support. These “new realities” can operate as a compulsory force for change. No more unconditional Western support may lead these countries to acknowledge their weaknesses and feel the need to adjust, which is also true for Iran. As for the West, it is time to acknowledge the benefits of the politics of peace rather than the politics of confrontation and realize that all will lose if the politics of peace fails. This is what happened and this is how ISIL obtained its hold in the region.