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Iran’s influence and balance of power in the Middle East Proposal

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Updated: May 20th, 2019

Introduction

The structure and balance of power that was established and amended in the Middle East after the Cold War has been greatly affected with Iran becoming a principal player influencing balance of power in the region. Studies indicate that the increasing levels of unrests in the Middle East play a pivotal role in transforming the dynamics and balance of power in the region (Barzegar 2010, 78).

The balance of power in any region depends heavily on the involvement of great power and how this is put into force in regional systems. Iran’s dependence on powerful allies and its superior capabilities have equipped it sufficiently to influence regional power balances.

Research question: Why has Iran influenced the balance of power in the Middle East in light of the Arab unrest?

Background: For the purpose of this study, some of the keywords and main concepts to answer the research question will include Influence, balance of power, Middle East and Arab’s unrest.

Research Objective: To determine why and in what ways Iran is influencing the balance of power in the Middle East

Context: The physical setting of the research and the study environments will be in the Middle East and it will be completely natural.

Literature review

Iran’s regional influence

Nasri (2009, 70) points out in her article Iran: Island of stability or land in Turmoil that Iran’s neighbors and the United states have over the years expressed serious concerns over the regional ambitions that Iran has, the role it has played in influencing its neighbors domestic political circumstances and the capability it has to spoil any peace process.

Many scholars and analysts argue almost unanimously that events happening in the Middle East are due to power struggles between the Arab states which are ruled by the Sunni who are being led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Iran which has formed a team with its proxies and allies like Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria (Pilisuk, Jeniffer & Gianina 2008, 112).

Opponents of the paradigm regard it as overly one-dimensional and argue that the regional influence as well as the role of Iran in the region is due to its demographic and physical attributes. Nasri and Takeyh (2008, 86) concur with the opponents’ arguments and indicates that Iran is a rich country of considerable resources and size which consequently gives it the ability to impact the region both negatively and positively.

Iran’s nuclear power

In their publication called beyond moderates and militants, Malley and Halling (2010, 24) posit that though determining the intentions of Iran in developing a nuclear program may be difficult, the program has massively empowered it as a stronghold in the region able to influence power balances. Iran’s nuclear program and its weaponization have been perceived by many analysts as a certainty.

The international community, Iran’s neighbors and the United States have also shown concern over Iran’s nuclear program and its nature perceiving it as an imminent threat. Malley and Halling continue to observe that the program could be due to competing political and economic interests, and which may eventually lead to arms race, regional and territorial wars, complicated relationships with the US and damaged economies.

Iran’s ability to produce energy

Iran’s source of funds which it uses to support terrorism, fund its nuclear program and as leverage over those who condemn its activities come from its energy resources. Herman (2002, 668) points out in his article ABU DHABI-Abu Dhabi: oil and beyond that out of the entire world oil, Iran owns up to 10% of global oil reserves and is the third largest owner from Canada and Saudi Arabia.

In terms of crude oil, it exports large volumes and is considered fourth largest behind Norway, Russia and Saudi Arabia (Herman 2002, 669). Besides, it has massive oil and gas reserves second to Russia. Analysts point out that even with these, security and economic concerns between Iran and those of its neighbor countries conflict in terms of policies, priorities and relationship.

Iran uses its energy resources to influence and control the regions political activities. Its ambitions have been perceived by many analysts as those which outweigh security concerns and which could easily trigger regional military conflicts (Ulrichsen 2009, 49). Those nations opposed to its influence may not policy challenge its influence for economic and dependence reasons.

Support for terrorism

Iran’s support for terrorist activities in the Middle East is one of the major strategies it uses to influence balance of power in the region (Franssen 2010, 22).

Reports on terrorism issued by the US State Department indicates that Iran has over the years offered support to US-designated militant groups and terrorist organizations which include Afghanistan Taliban fighters, Iraqi militants, Palestinian terrorist groups, Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah (Nasr & Takeyh 2008, 89).

Oktav (2011, 139) points out in his article The Gulf States and Iran: a Turkish perspective, that this has massively undermined the regional political stability especially in Iraq and posed great threats to Lebanon and Israel among others. In addition, its support for terrorism is a great influence that challenges the efforts put by the US to advance peace process, promote regional stability and stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq.

Oktav continues to point out that through supporting terrorism, Iran easily exploits the existing sectarian and political discord in Lebanon and Palestine. Besides, by ensuring that there is a proxy military in Hezbollah, it can indirectly perpetuate conflict between Israel and Arabs.

Hypothesis

The high level of unrest in the Middle East and the political security arrangements tailored along balance of power are incapable of ensuring and maintaining stability and the much needed security in the region, especially with the fall of Iraq’s Baathist regime. Studies indicate that the settings of balance of power are normally based on rise of rival actors to power as well as on a win-lose or zero-sum game.

The unrest in the region has been brought about by a balance of power system which has generated wars, crises, distrust and tensions (Oktav 2011, 140). In addition, the US and Iran are the only two trans-regional and regional actors with the capabilities of establishing solutions on political security and conducting military operations in the region.

Is it nuclear power, energy abilities, political and economical interests in the region amidst the instability and unrest that Iran is taking advantage of and intends to use it to influence balance of power, advance its policies and establish new governments?

Research method and design

Testing hypothesis

The two basic approaches that will be applied to determine the reason for Iran’s influence in the Middle East will be qualitative and quantitative.

In quantitative, the study will involve 300 respondents to represent the total population which is the proportion of the entire population that would have been approached for interviews. On the other hand qualitative research will be conducted through interview either in-depth one-on-one or in groups. Focus groups will also be used.

Dependent and independent variables

To determine the dependent variable, the study will examine the causes of unrest and the Middle East and the factors that are making Iran to influence power balance. On the other hand, independent variables will be obtained from studying the effects of balance of power in the Middle East.

Data collection

The research methodology applied in this research will be designed to achieve the set objective and test of the paper. Data collection methods for this research will be conducted through primary and secondary methods.

The latter method will include books, academic journals, online articles, past projects by different authors, statistics from government and non-governmental organizations on Iran’s influence on balance of power in the Middle East.

It will also involve a study of various academic works and research papers balance of power, reasons for unrest in the Middle East and security measures by the US. Primary data will be collected from surveys and interviews that will be conducted on various government and military leaders in the Middle East.

Data analysis and discussions will be written from the findings on different academic resources, the survey and the interview.

The study will review and classify findings, dependence and independence variables from different statistics and the situation in the Middle East as far as Iran’s influence in balance of power is concerned. It will also present statistics and information collected from the outlined sources to get a professional understanding of the issue

References

Barzegar, Kayhan. “Balance of power in the Persian gulf: an Iranian view.” Middle East Policy 17, 3 (2010): 74-87.

Franssen, Herman. “ABU DHABI-Abu Dhabi: oil and beyond. The Middle East Journal 63, 4 (2009): 668-669.

Malley, Robert & Harling, Peter. “Beyond moderates and militants.” Foreign Affairs 89, 5 (2010): 18-29.

Nasri, Grace. “Iran: Island of stability or land in Turmoil.” Domes 18, 1 (2009): 57- 73.

Nasri, Vali & Takeyh, Ray. “The Costs of Containing Iran; Washington’s Misguided New Middle East Policy.” Foreign Affairs 87, 1 (2008): 85-94.

Oktav, Zeynep. “The gulf states and Iran: a Turkish perspective.” Middle East Policy 18, 2 (2011): 136-147.

Pilisuk, Marc. Rountree Jeniffer and Pellegrini Gianina. “Playing the imperial game: the mindset behind the attack on Iraq.” Peace Research 40, 2 (2008): 39- 59,112.

Ulrichsen, Kristian. “Internal and external security in the Arab Gulf States.” Middle East Policy 16, 2 (2009): 39-58.

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IvyPanda. "Iran’s influence and balance of power in the Middle East." May 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/irans-influence-and-balance-of-power-in-the-middle-east-proposal/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Iran’s influence and balance of power in the Middle East." May 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/irans-influence-and-balance-of-power-in-the-middle-east-proposal/.

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