Iran’s Influence on the Balance of Power in the Middle East Research Paper

Introduction

The security of the Persian-Gulf region that is often influenced by the balance of power has been a problem to the security and stability of the region. The balance of power is based on the “zero-sum” basis game as well as the emergence of the rival actors in the region1.

This kind of system has resulted to wars in the region, tension, distrust, crises, and wars. With new developments in the region in terms of the political security especially in Iraq after the fall Saddam Hussein, the issue of the balance of power and the controller of the region has been a major problem.

Iran and the US have been the major actors controlling the balance of power in the region. The issue of security in the region and maintaining stability in the region has been the cause of Iran’s intention to influence the balance of power in the region.

The role played by Iran in the region is often as a result of US strategy in the region. In the international zone at the moment, countries such as the United States and Russia are making attempts to reduce the production of nuclear weapons in the world, because Iran’s influence is due to its capability to produce nuclear weapons that has been a cause of concern not only to the Middle East but also the world.

Iran’s nuclear weapon program has changed the balance of power in the Middle East region and with time it is likely to affect other country’s national security in the world. However, with the United States involved in other wars in the region, Iran’s balance of power influence is likely to continue through production of nuclear weapons that would further “complicate” an already volatile region2.

This paper will look at the likely scenarios in the future in respect to Iran’s power influence in the Middle East through LAMP analysis that shall come up with future predictions based on the research questions that are “outlined” below3.

This paper is not however intended to look at whether Iran is likely to continue with its nuclear power production. However, it will consider the reactions of the main actors such as the US, Israel and Egypt in relation to Iran’s balance of power influence.

Purpose of Study

This paper aims to address the issue on Iran’s influence in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab unrest. It further discusses why Iran wanted to dominate the Middle East and its selfish ambitions and to the benefit of the region.

Assumptions of the Study

Some of the assumptions included: All the people involved in answering the questions would read properly and they were not medically unfit to prevent them from understanding the questions.

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Research Questions

This paper aims at answering the question on why Iran has influenced the balance of power in the Middle East. It is important to know that the Iranian “subversion” has been the most feared attacks in the Middle East4. The ant-American activities led by Iran are of most concern to these states as they seek lasting peace in the region.

Another question that this paper aim to answer is the potential reactions by countries such as Israel, the US, and Egypt to Iran’s “attainment” of nuclear power weapons5.

Literature Review

Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the country has a long withstanding history and the current debates that have dominated most books and the media with regard to Iran’s balance of power influence in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Iran’s history is much “complicated” disregard the recent developments and her influence in the region.

Much of its history, shows that the country has been a key player in the region’s strategic policies and its location has given the country an added advantage in “bridging the gap” between the East Asian countries and the Middle Eastern region6.

Iran had become a major trading centre for both the Eastern and the Western countries by 1935, even though this caused conflicts with other countries, Iran remained independent in its affairs at this time. However, during the period of 1700’s Turkey started to cover some sections of Persia as Iran was formerly known while Britain too came later and started to influence her power in Iran?

Britain had managed to control Iran’s affairs however this was for a short time since by late 1960’s Iran had changed socially, culturally and politically with the help of the outside countries. However, Iran managed to control the Middle East with the emergence of the new Emperor after the World War I. During the reign of Rezah Shah Iran changed militarily becoming a major force in the Middle East.

Iran never managed to become a republic because of strong opposition from the religious leaders. With this opposition, however, developments and changes in areas such as the reformation of the judicial system, building of infrastructure like the trans-Iranian Railway, and improving the education system7.

Whichever way the opposition from religious leaders would change the course of Iran’s emergence in becoming a major force in the Middle East and becoming a republican that would change the religious doctrines to approach life in a more secular way. The continued trend to modernize Iran, and the diplomatic and economic relationship with the other Middle East countries continued with future leaders who arose to power.

After 1980, the nuclear weapon production issue by Iran started to become a major problem in the international community, this resulted poor relations between Iran and the Western countries, and this poor relations hold up until now.

It is believed that energy, security and competition for the resources in the region are some of the main reasons for Iran’s major force in the region. The Middle East countries can therefore allow Iran to take control of most of the region’s affairs and avoid competition from the other countries of the world.

This is well taken by countries such as the US who have adopted the same strategies of “containment” and implementation in the region8.

Theoretical Framework

Most of the information found in literature gives the required information on the historical ties and tensions between the various Middle East counties and how such relationships are likely to affect the balance of power in the region. This research is to show how Iran’s nuclear power program has affected the balance of power in the region.

However, other research show that the wars and tensions in the region are as a result of power struggles in the region and the control of energy resources.. Clearly, Iran depends on the energy resources to implement the nuclear program and as leverage over those who are against their nuclear program.

Past research do not look in depth at the various reactions to Iran’s balance of power influence in the region.

Hypothesis

The major hypothesis in this study is that the actions of other world states and those in the Middle East will heavily depend on the US stand with regard to Iran’s power influence in the Middle East. This is because the US is the superpower and thus likely to influence other countries in their decisions.

This implies that the major actors such as Israel and Egypt will look at the US as a diplomatic, economic and military guide to base their reactions on in regard to Iran’s activities9.

Research Design and Methods

It can be said that there is no region in the world affected by conflicts more than the Middle East. This problem in the region is further complicated by Iran’s nuclear weapon possession and how its neighbors are likely to perceive this if Iran is to be confirmed as the ninth nuclear state.

This research paper relies on predictions on this kind of reactions by these countries towards Iran’s balance of power influence and this method is the “Lockwood Analytical Method for Prediction”- LAMP method. However, current debates are concerned about stopping Iran from producing nuclear weapons; however other research papers have not looked in depth about the research questions10.

However, my research through LAMP method of analysis will account for other things that are “overlooked” in Iran’s influence on the balance of power in the region that would give a decision maker the chance to make a more accurate assessment of the situation in the region11.

The use of LAMP method for predicting the actions of the different states relative to Iran’s power influence in the region shall minimize biases, analytic “fallacies” and enable this research to accomplish its purpose that is debated in most of the scholarly books.

None of the research books and other journals obtained in this topic used systematic analytic techniques such as LAMP, Delphi method, or the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). This method gives a more accurate prediction of events.

Limitations of the research methods and Analysis

The LAMP method does not often look on the alternatives of the future events that make the predictions by this method one-sided. Therefore this method is likely to make this research method loom as if it is not in depth however the results presented show the real picture of the situation in the Middle East.

Findings

From this research, clearly Iran has a great influence in the Middle East countries. It uses strategies such as diplomatic power, information, military, and economic factors as “levers” to exert their influence in the Middle East countries12. However, it was discovered that not all the elements used by Iran to exert her influence in the Middle East countries are a negative13.

Clearly, the methods used by Iran to influence her balance of power in these countries are “two-faced”14. One of the methods is the decision by the Iranian government to offer moral support to these countries while targeting their influence in the governments of these countries, and encouraging free elections for the Middle East countries although “manipulating” the election results in favor of their mission15.

However, Iran’s diplomatic and political influence is the most outstanding. This research shows that Iran gives 85 percent support to the Middle East country’s parties and the politicians. The government of Iran develops political relationships with the Middle East political parties with an aim of providing them financial support.

Iran’s support for these political parties especially in Iraq helps the U.S. and Iraq’s “efforts” of building democracy in the country16. However, the intention of Iran is to ensure that the political parties that rule such countries as Iraq are those that are friendly to the Iranian government.

The information, economic and military influence by Iran over the Middle East countries is in line with the country’s mission of dominating the region in terms of her political influence. Iran’s economic influence has helped to stabilize trade in the region, promote transportation and economic development.

However, 80 percent of these agreements are in favor of Iran and the country benefits more in the trade agreements because of the prices of commodities.

The findings show that Iran has the power over the prices of goods and services and the goods involved in trade are cheaper in Iran than in the other Middle East countries. These differences in price make it difficult for goods and services of the other Middle East countries to compete with those of Iran.

Iran’s efforts to increase her influence in the Middle East Countries have enabled it to increase her competition with the US. Clearly after the Invasion of Israel in Lebanon in 1982, and after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, the US has struggled to be in line with Iran’s influence in the region. The Islamic Republic has come up with strong relations with Syria and other non-state in the region.

Iran however, has been active in her military influence especially in exploiting the Arab- Israel that has made it impossible for peace in the Arab-Israel countries. Nevertheless, the US has to deal with the Arab “hostility” to realize her strategic relations with Israel17. However, both Iran and the US face difficulties in dealing with Egypt, Syria, and other Arab countries.

Iran and the US have both been competing in the influence of power in the Middle East. The US wants to bring stability in the region and reformations in democracy that has been affected as a result of the oil in the region. However, Iran wants to “spread” its religion of Islam and therefore her ideologies in Islam are the main concern for Iran18.

Iran moreover, wants to promote “Shia” in the region and provide assistance for the terrorist hit countries19. The competition for control of the Middle East has been for long between the US and Iran.

The research showed that US’s main intention after taking Saddam Hussein from power was to dominate the region, remove the “counterinsurgency” groups and liberate the countries of the region. However, Iran supports some of the insurgent groups but the intention of Iran is to support the region in building the economy, and infrastructure.

Changes in the Middle East regarding the uprisings and other political changes have affected the US policy in the region. Most of the years, the US policies have endured the region but the rise of the “Arab Spring” would change such activities by US in the region. The US policy in the region is shifting with such unrests in the region20.

This research shows that even before the start of these changes, there was a problem in balancing the priorities in the Middle East.

The priority of establishing stability in the region and that of ensuring that the US is protected through dealing with the terrorists and “counter-proliferation” enabled the rise of Iran as an influencing power in the Middle East that ensured that the US would not invade the Middle East region with the intention of bringing democracy and protecting human rights while it had her own selfish intentions21.

Many believe that such cooperation of the Middle East countries was against the US military invasion in the region. However, the provision of assistance in terms of military by the US to its allies in the region to control “interstate” conflicts was seen further as a problem with the US allies in the region, and the relationship of the region’s countries with each other.

For example, both Israel and Saudi Arabia might see the US as a friend to them while taking Iran as a major threat in the region. The region has long been characterized as by wars and interstate conflicts22.

The Arab unrest has resulted in several changes in the region. The US policies are becoming a problem with Iran’s influence in the region and as a result of the unrest, and conflicts in the Middle East. There have been changes in the region such as:

Public Opinion’s Power

The public have done away with dictators in the region during the general elections and refuted the claim that the outside countries understand the Arab world better than them and they can help in dealing with the tensions in the region.

The assumption that the US can now deal with the elite group in the region in the wake of such conflicts in the region has changed. However, it is not clear from this research the types of governments that would be formed in those states that still undergoing changes as a result of the wars.

The governments are not considering the public opinion and the groups that are seeking to bring changes in these countries.

Even though the Arab uprisings do not believe that their main aim is the US policies in the region, writers believe that most of the Arab world citizens argue that their leaders have looked on their interests in favor of the US and other outside powers to get military assistance, and benefit in terms of trade.

Their need to be more research to know how the upcoming leaders are dealing with the external policies more so regarding the Arab-Israel peace process.

Islamist Support and Success

This research found out that most of the public believe that the incorporation of Islam leaders in government may be the way forward for the region’s long standing unrests. They believe that such religious leaders may help in seeing sympathy with the previously targeted people for “repression”, there would be little competition from other parties, and a belief that the Islam parties are less corrupt because of their religion.

Strategic Implications

Clearly the US previously relied on her friends in the Arab region in doing away with forces such as Al Qaeda, Hama, Hezbollah, and other Islamic terrorist groups and the Iran and Syrian government during the cold war. However, the emergency of Iran in the region has affected US policy in the region and therefore the US does not have any influence in the region any longer.

The Al-Qaeda groups have “embraced” the issue of change as the only important factor to do away with the opposition in the Middle East and to the corrupt governments23. The Arab unrest has resulted in the emergency of Iran as the “winners” as most of the US allies came under threat from the region’s countries.

He continues to assert that Iran’s influence is still growing as there is still a problem with the violence in Syria. This situation prompted Iran to protect her “regime” against such uprising24.

The Hamas have put themselves away from the Syrian government while the Hezbollah supported it. This forced Iran to come up with ways to protect itself as the war in Syria would have had many consequences on Iran for its allies in Lebanon and Palestine.

Israel’s Concerns and Peace Negotiations

The government of Israel believed that the Arab unrest was a threat to Israel’s security as it would replace the allies of the country with Islamist governments that would be a problem to Israel. Therefore Iran’s influence in the region would be a more threat to Israel.

Analysis

The Iranian nuclear weapon program has been the issue in most of the world state over the security concern. However, most of the published reports in journals, and books look at Iran’s influence on the balance of power in the region rather than looking at the reactions of the various countries of the region such as Israel, and Egypt.

Therefore this predictive study looks at Israel, Egypt, and the US while looking at Iran’s influence of power in the region.

These three countries were selected in this research because each of them brings a specific point regarding the research questions. These three countries show the availability of enemies to Iran for example Israel, Egypt being a regional rival, and the US being the world’s superpower that is looking at Iran with some degree of “suspicion” and “anxiety”25.

Each of the three countries has different perspectives regarding the research questions. The current debates and the content of books as researched do not put much emphasis on the reactions of the different countries to Iran’s balance of power influence in the region.

However, history gives a more approach to the relationship between the US and Iran, Israel and Iran, or Egypt and Iran but not much information on the reactions of the three countries to Iran’s power influence in the region.

Most of the scholarly books tend to concentrate on the possibility actions of Egypt before Iran becomes a nuclear power threat, and what methods it will use as preventive measures against such nuclear weapons.

However, most literature books and journals show that Iran would become a nuclear power and influence the decisions in the Middle East with time and this situation would be more complicated based on the reactions of the three countries and those of the Middle East regarding Iran’s influence in the region.

The weakness of the present books and journals however do not accept the possibility of a major fall out in the world and security threat should Iran continue with her nuclear production.

There are various reactions from the three countries relative to Iran’s influence of power in the region and the course of action has been influenced by the US and the relationship of the given country among the various Middle East countries.

Through the LAMP method of analysis, Israel is likely to continue with its “status quo” to have its own nuclear weapons while depending on the US to put more pressure on Iran’s “diplomatic and economic” situations.

Iran’s balance of power influence is likely to force countries such as Israel to declare them as nuclear weapon producers and pursue an “open deterrence” (Friedman 2011)26. This is likely to be as a blocking stone to Iran’s balance of power influence.

Discussions

Iran was one of the most powerful states both militarily and technologically when it was a Western ally country. However, much of its powers dropped drastically after the withdrawal of the Western advisor and the imposition of arms “embargo” by the US27. This made the country lose the Iran-Iraq war and its forces were weak, and Iran was unable to recover militarily after the war.

Her influence in the Middle East is a strategy to gain her lost powers in the region and the country is looking for strategies to make nuclear weapons and this has enabled it to build one of the strongest forces in the Gulf. He further believes that Iran uses the membership of OPEC and energy resources as a source of “leverage” to influence its powers in the region28.

Security of the Middle East countries has been deteriorating and therefore the influence of Iran in the region has a major role to play. “Insurgent” military in countries such as Iraq has been a threat to the development of that country. The activities of this militia have caused instability and violence in Iraq in the past.

Even though the rise of Iran’s influence in the Middle East countries has worked in the reduction of such forces in Iraq, they still have the powers to cause insecurity in the country and “destabilize” Iraq29. The violence caused by this insurgent militia in Iraq had cause civil war in Iraq in 2006. Therefore, the influence of Iran on Iraq is to build good working relations with an intention of promoting good security in Iraq.

This is the interest of Iran in the pursuit of her influence in the region. However, the Persian-Arab’s cultural differences have been a problem to Iran’s mission of its influence. The influence of Iran on Iraq limitations as the more country becomes stable economically, the less it is likely that the country will have power influence in Iraq.

Iran is an uncertain country in her decision making that makes it difficult to know the true objectives of her influence in the region. Moreover, it important to believe that Iran has her own intentions regarding its policies towards her balance of power influence in the region. A few writers may support the view that Iran’s regime in the region may “cling towards one principle objective”30.

However, this research proofed that Iran’s goals for the balance of power influence in the region can be represented in a hierarchy form in the order of highest to lowest.

According to Franssen 2010, if Iran achieves her goals ranked as the highest priority then it will focus its attention on achieving the next highest set of priorities. This has greatly contributed to the shift of power in the Middle East especially seeing Iran increase her dominance in the region.

However, Iran’s influence in the region is affected by U.S. policy towards the region and some changes in Iran policy itself. The behavior of Iran and its influence in the Middle East has been eased by the possibility of the US using the attack on Iraq to invade Iran. I believed that the main intention for the US attack on Iraq was to get into Iran.

Nevertheless, the fear of the emergence of strong and unified forces against Iran in the region would arise in effect to Saddam’s fall from power. This would act to destabilize Iran and the rise of civil wars in the region would be harmful for Iran. Therefore taking control over the region, would act as a defense mechanism and the fear drove this factor.

Answering the Research Questions

Why Iran has influenced the Balance of Power in the Middle East

Iran has used several strategies to effect her power influence in the Middle East. The use of diplomacy and political engagement especially in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein is worth noticing. This influence in Iraq was based on several factors.

The involvement in the political and economic relations of Iraq was to ensure that Shiite dominated the Iraq power. This is because Iran wanted her Islamic religion to continue being in power as evidenced by their support of the Shiite whom shared the same religious background.

Research shows that 60percent of Iraq’s population consists of the Shiite. This group was oppressed during Saddam’s reign. Through this influence Iran would benefit through their military cooperation, energy and transportation sectors.

During the Gulf war, most of the US soldiers did not help the Iraq Shia group, who wanted to overthrow Saddam’s government. The Iranian influences through the media has helped to broadcast messages about the intention of the U.S. Government in the Middle East and helping to control US entry into the region.

Reactions of major Actors

The reactions of the major actors such as Israel, and Egypt to Iran’s influence in the Middle East are based on the influence of the US which is the world’s superpower.

Conclusion

The emergence of the Islamist activities and political parties in several countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have raised a lot of concern about the power of the US state in partnership with the Islam-influenced governments. Protests in the Middle East have been driven by “legitimate grievances”31.

The LAMP method of analysis enables the policy makers and the researcher to have a look on the possibility of any security threat in the world soon. By looking at the various reactions of Israel, Egypt and the US relative to Iran’s balance of power influence in the region, the method gives a clear picture of the Middle East situation.

This research nevertheless adds to the already hot debates surrounding the Middle East in an analytical manner. This research, hopes that future research on this topic shall expound, remove some assumptions that are present in the scholarly articles and journals, and give an update on the latest developments regarding Iran’s influence in the Middle East.

The situation of Iran is a security threat not only to the Middle East countries but also to the world. It is time for the world to find a solution to Iran’s nuclear balance of power influence. However, the influence of balance of power by Iran remains the US top foreign policy priority and among the G-20 states. This situation is likely to get worse should no action be taken in the most efficient manner.

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Footnotes

1. Etzioni Amitai. “Shifting Sands.” The Journal of International Security Affairs. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011)

2.. Boucek, Christopher and Karim Sadjadpour. Rivals- Iran vs. Saudi Arabia. Sada,(Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011)

3. Ibid., p. 110

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

5.Ibid., p. 40

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

7.Ibid., p.138

8. Maloney, Suzanne. 2011. “Iran.” In The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East, ed. Kenneth M Pollack, 258-267. New York: Brookings Institution Press.

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

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

11. Edelman, Eric. The dangers of a nuclear Iran: The limits of containment. Foreign Affairs (Chicago: University of Chicago), 66-81.

12 Ibid., p. 81

13.Ibid., p.69

14. Ibid., p.58

15.Ibid., p. 70

16.Ibid., p. 80

17. Kvale, Steinar. Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Thousand Oaks California: Sage Publications (1996).

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

19.Ibid., p.58

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

21.Ibid., p. 86

22.Ibid., p. 90

23. Maloney, Suzanne. 2011. “Iran.” In The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East, ed. Kenneth M Pollack, 258-267. New York: Brookings Institution Press.

24.Ibid., p. 259

25. Garrison, Jean and Ahad Abdurahmonov. “Explaining the Central Asian energy game: Complex interdependence and how small states influence their big neighbors.” Asian Perspective 35 (July-September 2011): 381-405.

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

27.Ibid., p. 668

28.Ibid., p. 669

29.Ibid., p. 668

30. Roshandel,Jalil and Nathan Chapman.2011. Iran, Israel, and the United States: Regime Security Vs. Political Legitimacy. New York: ABC-CLIO.

31. Kvale, Steinar. Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Thousand Oaks California: Sage Publications (1996).