After two years of negotiations between the U.S. (P5+1) and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, an agreement has finally been reached. And while many will debate whether the deal actually prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, I think the Iran deal marks the beginning of a fundamental shift in U.S. policy towards the Middle East by replacing Saudi Arabia with Iran as its indispensable ally in the region.
Of course, this will not happen overnight, it is going to take a decade or so and the deal has to be implemented. The rhetoric from the GOP, Israelis and Saudis is going to be very toxic and hostile in the short-term, but they’re just background noise.
The lifting of international sanctions guarantees that Iran will be (re)integrated into the global economy. This is going to be HUGE in terms of energy (geo)politics.
- The global oil market will receive an additional million barrels of oil per day. This will push down the price of petroleum even further, which is good news for American consumers, but bad news for countries that depend on high oil prices like Venezuela (CNN Money, 2015).
- Europe has wanted access to Iranian natural gas for a while now. The reason why is obvious: to ensure energy security by reducing its dependence on Russia. Now that politics is permitting, Europe can begin to sidestep Moscow and make preparations to diversify its energy supply through the introduction natural gas imports from Iran. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement since Iran is looking “to establish a strong presence on the world’s gas market” (Tully, 2015).
- Investment and business opportunities will open up for the Western multinationals in multiple sectors including energy, mining and pharmaceuticals. Arms manufactures, particularly from Russia and China, are salivating at the opportunity enter the Iranian market and sell it weapons (Klein, 2015).
Most importantly, both the U.S. and Iran have shared, common interests: both want a stable Iraq and Afghanistan, both want to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda, both would want to protect sea lanes so energy supplies can continue to flow into global markets without interruption, both would seek a political solution to Syria, and Iran has the leverage to rein in Hezbollah.
And for whatever it’s worth, Iran’s population is (generally) pro-US and both countries share similar political systems. Both are democratic republics: the U.S. a secular state and Iran an Islamic one.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has proven to be the PRIMARY source of instability in the Middle East. They are too reactionary, they have spent billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism (Butt, 2015), they have been unable or unwilling to curb funding for extremists, they have been the main counterrevolutionary force in the Arab world since 2011, and supporting Saudi security interests has not only damaged U.S. credibility, but has failed to bring stability in countries like Yemen.
This is not to say that Iran is necessarily a stabilizing force in the region, but they are more of a stabilizing force vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia.
You can’t solve the problems of the Middle East unless there’s a paradigm shift in the status quo, and that involves confronting Saudi Arabia.
And I say that process starts as soon as international sanctions on Iran are lifted. The U.S. will slowly, but surely, abandon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Butt, Yousaf. (2015, January 20). “How Saudi Wahhabism Is the Fountainhead of Islamist Terrorism.” Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-yousaf-butt-/saudi-wahhabism-islam-terrorism_b_6501916.html
CNN Money. (2015, July 14). “$2 Gas Will Be Back After Iran Nuclear Deal.” Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2015/07/14/news/economy/2-gas-iran-nuclear-deal/index.html?sr=tw071415gasirandeal2pVODtopPhoto
Klein, Ezra. (2015, July 14). “Ian Bremmer On Why the Iran Deal Is About Much More Than Nuclear Weapons.” Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/2015/7/14/8960095/ian-bremmer-iran-deal
Tully, Andy. (2015, June 5). “Could Iran Play a Part in E.U. Energy Security?’ Retrieved from http://time.com/3910631/europe-iran-energy/