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Iranian Encirclement of Middle East and Its Cost


Iranian revolution 1979 provides the basis of the current theory of Iranian dominance in the Middle East. To dominate the region, Iran used two theories:

  1. Ideology
  2. Culture

These are the two dominant theories of geopolitics in the Middle East. These are also more sinister than advanced technology and military might. First culture and ideology merely the same elements but for explanation purposes, these are separately defined. How it started, the Iranian revolution 1979 was an ideological shifting phase of Iran from a secular state towards a religiously narrated state. With this stage from 1979 to the current situation, a lot of water had flown under the bridges. Since the revolution stabilizing, the cost which Iran bared gradually out of cover. USA embassy hostages, the aboriginal step was taken by revolutionaries, the first diplomatic blunder, there is a list of blunders which were allowed by revolutionaries. They presented themselves as anti-thesis of every thesis in the Middle East. Iran challenged the USA and Europe by this hostage move not only disassociated its financial assets from USA custody but also did not convert USA Reza Shah Pahlavi’s asylum. Iran compelled the USA toward Algiers Accord. Iran not only opened a front with the USA and Europe but also another front with regional powers. Arab-Iran confrontation was not new in the region, ages ago it was cultivated. Reza Shah Pahlavi’s era, this hostility exposed and showed both neighbors had hostile behavior. The American embassy in Tehran fuelled up the animosity. The USA strategically balanced both regional players but after the revolution the USA putting the balance on Arabs scales. Unfortunately, Iranian strategic interests clashed with both bipolar world powerhouses USA and USSR. Iran's alienation policies create more chaos. Following are strategic goals which Iranian regime wanted to fulfill:

  1. Regional Dominance
  2. International Recognition
  3. Share in Oil Market
  4. Prominent Place in Muslim World
  5. Substitute of Regional Power
  6. Preaching of Anti-Western philosophy

But some challenges encircled Iranian strategic goals as:

  1. Surrounded by Enemies
  2. Super Powers Interests
  3. Diplomatic Isolation
  4. Three wars in the Region
  5. World moving toward Unipolar
  6. Weak Economy
  7. Suppression of Opposition and Human Rights Violations
  8. Sectarian Divisions

The strategic goals and challenges and Iran’s behavioral hostility announced Iran felt unsafe. Another incident materialized: The Siege of Grand Mosque. Conspiracies theories guise Iran was joining the conspiracy. It could be a cost or could be a strategic advantage. Ayatollah Khomeini’s anti-American address incriminated the West and America of the act. As above mentioned, Iran used ideology here as a strategic check on the USA. In Pakistan, the public burned the USA Islamabad embassy to the ground. Iran knew its range of action so a strategic answer to the USA and its allies. Exporting ideology Iranian triumph over the USA, USA strategical ditch, but USA and allies wait for the right time. 1980 Iran-Iraq war, dehydration of Iranian economy. Iran had made colossal blunders before the war as a purge of its own army. Thousands of executions of the cream of the Iranian military. 12000 Iranian servicemen were purged result was disastrous for the Iranian military’s operational capabilities. 60% desertion rate, the human capital flight, Tehran never recovered from the damage. After the diplomatic blunder, another blunder was accused by Iran. The whole Iranian military followed the USA military doctrine and the USA stops the military hardware, including spare parts. There were whispers, Israel helps Iran during the war. In this war mess following damages hit Iran:

  1. Economic
  2. Human Capital
  3. Military
  4. Diplomatic
  5. No Allies

War continued for 8 year's results are stalemates, but Iran was not fighting a single war at a time. Two proxies' wars were also fought by Iran in the region. Soviet-Afghan war and Israel-Lebanon war Iran played a clever move by putting its pawns in South Asia and Central Asia's abutment in Afghanistan. Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Massoud, are more allied with the USA and the West but in the future, they will be useful. Same in Lebanon in the shape of Hezbollah. Enemies surround Iran, there were gaps in enemy's lines disclosed over time. During the war, Iran put a lot of investments for survival and Iran proved, but the world is going to unipolar because of USSR's downfall. Sole world power USA imposed sanctions presage of economic hardship.

The internal tensions raised, the beautiful coincidence of time Iran always has allies in compulsions as Sistan Baluchistan Insurgency, Pakistan and Iran are allies. Iran pushed the Jundallah out of Iran. Guerilla war by PJAK in Iranian territory, Iran allied with turkey and PJAK out of Iran. But in this time period and early stage of revolution Iran surrounded by enemies as the backside covered by communist Afghanistan and Arabs covered the front. From the Indian Ocean to the Arabian Sea heavy presence of Americans. Revolutionary Iran was born in a unipolar world with no world power support, and Iran fought three wars at a time. Economic sanctions caused economic devastation. No doubt it improved the immune system of Iran, but the actual strength is the people of Iran. Because of brutal economic sanctions, there were symptoms of another revolution within the revolution. The rash move of war by Saddam Hussain given the synchronization of unity and energy to Iran. It was a breath of relief for revolutionaries, and they had an excuse of reasons. Only oil export and smuggling is the option for Iran. Iran stabilized, but encirclement remained overcoming this was the only solution.

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The hunters smell wounded animals and flesh from extensive distances, so Iran smells cracks in enemy lines. The first one is Hezbollah, right near the middle of the conflict. Then Hamas and then Iran played a powerful card, you called it the wild card. Which is sectarianism, Iran slowly approaches its ideologically related sector all over the world, especially in the Middle East. 1986 Yemeni civil war first footstep towards this move, then 1987 Hajj incident was an actual trigger to conflict. 1990-91 first gulf war, time and chance for a long time Iran awaited that. After that, the division between Arabs was clear and visible. It involved Saudi Arabia in its own insurgency war. The civil war again in Yemen and the uprising in Iraq is the best time for Iran to cultivate its future in the Middle East. Gradually Iran did it. The icing on the cake, the second gulf war or the Iraq war, so no strong resistance Iran faced. Iran step by step establishing Shia roots in Shia majority countries. The first time Arabs felt they are surrounded by Iran once they are trying to the surrounding. Hamas and Al-Fatah conflict solid its grip on Palestine. Here Iran-Israel’s proxy war starts. With this a dozen of conflicts started with it, most of them depending on ideological rivalry, whether Israel or Arabs against Iran. Bahraini sectarian crisis, Egyptian crisis, Yemini crisis, and then Syrian civil war, these conflicts show the Iran-Arab division but also the Arab-Arab division. Now Saudi-Iran proxy war also started, the Iraqi civil war and the dominance of ISIS in the Arab world posed an obvious threat to Iran's supremacy over Shia majority countries. But Iran is victorious in all campaigns felt the cracks and to widen them that is Iranian successful strategic policy in the Middle East. Iran accumulated all strategic benefits in the region.

But there are also cracks in Iranian allies' lines. Iraq does not want an overwhelmed Iranian influence over Iraq. Arabs formatted an alliance of 37 Sunnis nations under the command of Saudi Arabia. Arab- Israel relations are not acidulous as they were in the past. First enemies encircle Iran, then Iran encircles the enemies now again enemies encircle Iran. Iran has a strategic advantage in the shape of Russia, China, and many ideological Middle Eastern allies, even neutral countries are also a type of relief for Iran. The ideological division not only gives strategic advantage but also heavy cost because of numbers and majority is in the favour of opponents where divisions also attract Turkey in this strategic game, the old experienced player of Middle East. The diplomatic failure also caused disappointment for Iran. But still spending less than the opponents, Iran spreading its ideology in ideological allies as slow poison and opponents spending resources wildly on modern technology where ideology is a bigger weapon than technology. Both have an abrupt fall which is economy, not even empty tummy accept ideology nor the empty mind accept technology. The differentiation between Iran and its opponents is the economy, 2009 to 2019 Tehran protests showed how American sanctions are sore throat for Iran. If Iran knows enemies crack, then enemies know Iranian cracks, so it is a stalemate.

American silence over Iranian role against ISIS in the region, Iran considered it a sign of welcome its foreign policy. According to tissue paper culture, everything is useable and then dispose of, American use Gen. Soleimani at a right time and killed him at a place of time and choice, Iraq. Americans hunt the hunter. Iraq does not want an unnecessary influence of Iran and the USA wants to clear the strategic limits to Iran. It was also an Iranian blunder. They properly know the Iraqi establishment situation with very scrawny manners toward assassination just condemnation no firm action. More pathetic reaction from Iran attack on a USA base rather than hit a strategic point not even close Strait of Hormuz. One thing that threatens Iran’s enemies is hit the oil fields and refineries of Aramco in Saudi Arabia. All the proxies used by Iran are defensive, but Houthis and Hezbollah are not. They played some fruitful tactics against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Harassing the enemies and hitting them at choking points. The more numbers of allies in the Middle East, the more influence Iran has.

The opponents also place their movies in the complex strategic atmosphere of the Middle East. They taught from Iran’s play, proxy vs proxy ISIS, Free Syrian Army, and dozens of them in the conflict zone. They also wanted the cheap way of war. The other faction of Iran is an uprising inside Iran. In 2009, the first symptoms of public anger visible, election rigging Iranian public called them pre-poll rigging, revolutionary establishment favor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and complete support from the revolutionary council. The results were public disobedience, riots, civil opposition for the current government, and one of the protuberant aspects is online activism using social media. Arab spring is a little costly for revolutionary Iran and enemies know where Iran is step backing. Nimr Baqir al-Nimr assassination in Saudi Arabia gives a chance to diplomatically pressurized Saudi Arabia, but 2017-18 riots were broken out against the Iranian regime, reasons:

  1. Sewer Economic Conditions
  2. Regional Conflicts
  3. Human Rights
  4. Corruption
  5. Autocracy

First, the USA economic sanctions are the main nucleus of all this. In 1970 Iran was pro-western and a secular state past somehow affects the future. Every kind of ideology has a tummy to feed it you need money comes through the economy. Simple ideology gradually converting itself to poison causing damages to every regime in the world USSR fits here. Poor economic conditions lead to corruption in the autocratic style of government and human rights conditions always worse with every score of time. The autocratic style of government is a very strict rule of law but for a lower class of society, the ruling class enjoys corruption and human rights violations, and all the ruling rights have no accountability. That’s happened in USSR and now Iran slowly facing it. In 2019-2020 there were again protests against the regime for rising fuel items prices and in the future Iranian regime should expect more of such kind.

The unity of Arabs one of the reasons that a huge hurdle against Iranian goals. Sponsoring terrorist groups or non-state actors both parties have an edge on one and another. New players have emerged in Middle East theatre. They are also non-Arabs, Turkey and Israel, and Arabs have no harsh relationship with them as Khashoggi's assassination created a bitter relation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia but at the need of time, Turkey supports Arabs. Iran and Turkey also fighting a proxy war in Syria.

  1. Unity,
  2. Economy.
  3. Alliances.
  4. Geography
  5. Geopolitics

Of Arabs’ states’ major reason stops Iranian expansion. A weak economy and no reliable alliance in the region also caused a limited proxy war in the region. While on the big powers’ role, they are playing on both sides of the poles. In these complex circumstances, Iran measured the strategic advantage and cost and looked at Iran’s leap every moment. The circumstances in the Middle East always in Arabs favor, Turkey indirectly helped Arabs and Israel directly, so for Iran chances are unfavorable, needs a smart play.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 nomi haider

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