Grand Shift in Global Economic and Political Power Structures

Sharmine Narwani, Commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics, wrote in Iran nuclear deal: Why Empire blinked first (published on 5 August 2015 at RT):

In 2012, cracks in the global economic and political power structures started to shift dramatically. We started to see the emergence of the BRICS, in particular Russia and China, as influential movers of global events. Whether it was a shift in trading currencies from the conventional dollar/euro to the rupee/yuan/ruble, or the emergence of new global economic/defense institutions initiated by BRICS member states, the world’s middle powers began to assert themselves and project power on the international stage.

Sharmine Narwani described how old power and new power came to clash most ferociously in the vast and complicated Middle East arena:

In November 2011, the year of the Arab uprisings, the BRICS announced their first collective foreign policy statement, urging the rejection of foreign intervention in Syria’s internal affairs.

By 2012, it started becoming clear that the crisis in Syria was being heavily fomented by external players, including the three UNSC Western permanent members, the US, UK and France and their regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO-member Turkey.

In 2012, it also became clear that Al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist fighters were dominating the opposition inside the Syrian military theater and that these elements were being backed by the United States and its allies.

The American calculus, at this point, was to allow and even encourage the proliferation of fighters prepared to unseat the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, anticipating that at some future date they could then reverse the gains of radicals.

Assad did not fall, but extremism – fueled by funding, arming and training from US allies – entrenched itself further in Syria.

Narwani relates how the “rise of ISIS (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and the flood of jihadists into the Syrian theater began to change the American calculations. The US began to work on hedging its bets…and that is when Iran began to factor significantly in America’s Plan B.”

That Plan B began in mid-2012, just as Saudi Arabia’s incoming intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan was preparing for a violent escalation in Syria, one that would exacerbate the Islamist militancy in the Levant exponentially.

That July, secret backchannel talks between the United States and Iran were established in Oman, kicked off, according to the Wall Street Journal, by “a pattern of inducements offered by Washington to coax Tehran to the table.”

Take note that the Americans initiated this process, not the allegedly “sanctions-fatigued” Iranians, and that this outreach began when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was at the helm, not his successor Rouhani. 

The Americans “set in motion a face-saving strategy”, Narwani explains, that became the Iran nuclear deal, which allows the US administration “the freedom to pursue more pressing shared political objectives with Iran.”

The Iranians understood full well in Vienna that they were operating from a strong regional position and that the US needed this deal more urgently. The Americans tried several times to get Iran to expand discussions to address regional issues on a parallel track, but the Iranians refused point-blank. They were not prepared to allow the US to gain any leverage in various regional battlefields in order to weaken Iran’s position within broader talks.

Although the Iranians are careful to point out that the Vienna agreement is only as good as the “intentions” of their partners, this deal is essentially a satisfactory one for Tehran. It ensures rigorous verification that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program, which is great for a country that doesn’t seek one.

It also provides Iran with protections against ‘over-inspection’ and baseless accusations, dismisses all UNSC resolutions against the Islamic Republic, recognizes the country’s enrichment program, provides extensive international sanctions relief, binds all UN member-states to this agreement (yes, Israel too) and nails down an end-date for this whole nuclear saga.

Sharmine Narwani quotes from a post-Vienna article by Gardiner Harris in the New York Times to show how the deal frees up Iran to pursue its regional plans with less inhibitions and how this will assist the US to contain the damage done by the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen:

What the president (Obama) and his aides do not talk about these days — for fear of further antagonizing lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have cast Iran as the ultimate enemy of the United States — are their grander ambitions for a deal they hope could open up relations with Tehran and be part of a transformation in the Middle East” (Gardiner Harris, 31 July 2015)

Gardiner Harris quoted in that New York Times article from a senior administration official who said that Mr. Obama sees the deal as helping ameliorate the “meta-conflict in the Middle East” caused by sectarianism and the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, commenting at the Council on Foreign Relations after the deal, said:

“I know that a Middle East that is on fire is going to be more manageable with this deal and opens more potential for us to be able to deal with those fires, whether it is Houthi in Yemen or ISIL in Syria and Iraq than no deal and the potential of another confrontation with Iran at the same time.”

 And EU foreign affairs chief Frederica Mogherini was quoted in a post-agreement op-ed in The Guardian on 28 July 2015: 

ISIS is spreading its vicious and apocalyptic ideology in the Middle East and beyond…An alliance of civilizations can be our most powerful weapon in the fight against terror…We need to restart political processes to end wars. We need to get all regional powers back to the negotiating table and stop the carnage. Cooperation between Iran, its neighbors and the whole international community could open unprecedented possibilities of peace for the region, starting from Syria, Yemen and Iraq.” 

Sharmine Narwani’s conclusions are astounding:

Clearly, for Western leaders Iran is an essential component in any fight against ISIS and other like-minded terror groups. Just as clearly, they have realized that excluding Iran from the resolution of various regional conflicts is a non-starter.
That is some significant back-tracking from earlier Western positions explicitly excluding Iran from a seat at the table on Mideast matters.
And stay tuned for further policy revisions – once this train gets underway, it will indeed be “transformative.” 

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