Iran is on the march in the Middle East following the P5 + 1 nuclear agreement that brought billions in sanctions relief, which means the Iranian regime is now the biggest threat to regional stability. Iranian proxies, which include Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Houthis in Yemen, allow the Iranian regime to project force on an unprecedented scale in the Middle East and emboldens other bad actors on the world stage.
The Middle East is in a shambles, as Iranian proxy wars and other wars dominate Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali and Egypt, along with a Palestinian civil war possibly being around the corner. Now that the United States has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Turkish prime minister Erdogan has called Israel “a terrorist state,” passions are on the rise, which has allowed Iran to escalate its attacks on Israel and Sunni nations that disagree with its Shia interpretation of Islam.
The geopolitical situation with Iran has seen tensions increase further the second half of 2017. In October, the U.S. Navy defended itself from missile strikes by Houthi rebels, backed by Iran off Yemen’s coast. The P5+1 agreement was intended to usher in the dawn of a new era for relations between Iran, the West and Sunni-led Middle East nations; instead, other bad actors have perceived weakness in the United States and Western resolve to ensure the post–World War II order.
Iran recalcitrant actions in the Middle East have seemingly emboldened the Russians to threaten nuclear war, and the Chinese to crackdown on freedom of speech. Moreover, the overthrow of international law in the South China Sea continues unabated along with rising tensions involving the Japanese government and the North Koreans testing an ICBM.
When the sanctions were in place the Iranian government understood Western global military force and political fortitude to fight terrorism and bring its economy to the brink of disaster. Unless the EU, NATO, Western-aligned Asian allies re-engage Iran on the world stage with military strength, crippling economic sanctions, deterrence and forceful balance of power, then Iran’s future nuclear program will be a bigger problem than the North Koreans. When small countries like the Philippines openly mock the United States, EU, and NATO that is an example that allows the Iranians to believe they can march forward in the Middle East the way they have in Iraq and Syria.
The Iranian nuclear deal, led by President Obama, was built upon false information and the unreliable narrative that Iran would give up being the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. The book: The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles and the Secret Deals that Reshaped the Middle East, by Jay Solomon details the inept schmoozing during negotiations, sordid details and unbelievable danger the United States and world are now in since this agreement has been executed.
It’s also believed the Iranians got the best of the United States and Western nations at the negotiating table. This also benefits the Chinese, Russians and North Koreans by opening up illicit funds to sponsor terrorism and proxies that are reshaping the Middle East. Germany intelligence officials have said that Iran has “continued trying to illegally procure nuclear equipment from Germany after forging the landmark nuclear agreement with world powers.”
Angelo Codevilla, in his book Character of Nations, wrote about a multi-polar world instead of the current post–World War II order if the west appeased Iran. Codevilla saw a future where America no longer polices the world that is advocated by Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a piece for the Wall Street Journal titled, “The United States Must Be The World Policemen.” Even Gen. Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has openly opined about needing to invade the Iranians, because the nuclear deal with them only made them more—not less—hostile towards peace-loving nations.
Sanction relief from the agreement gave the Iranians finances and economic growth they never would have gotten. Even the socialist French thought the deal would embolden the Iranians to cause additional trouble. The need to have peace at all cost while denying human nature, ideology and the history of the Iranian regime will lead to additional belligerence from the Islamist regime. While certain segments of Islam are peaceful and even poetic in their nature, that has never been the approach of the Iranians.
Now that oil prices are recovering from the 2014 crash, that progress will benefit the Iranians on the world stage—and particularly the Middle East. This has led Western governments to believe terrorism is the new norm.
The wild card is the Saudis. Now that Afghanistan is in play by the Iranians and Saudis, and oil prices aren’t reaching $100 a barrel this year or next, what will the Saudis try to accomplish moving forward? It’s publicly known that they are changing their economy so that it is no longer based solely on fossil fuel, but what the Saudis will do as the Iranians become stronger is turn to Israel for assistance. In a “unprecedented interview,” with the Saudi newspaper Elaph, Israeli military chief Gen. Gadi Eisenkot described Iran as “the biggest threat to the region, and Israel would be prepared to share intelligence with ‘moderate’ Arab states like Saudi Arabia in order to deal with Iran.”
This was a very public rebuke and confrontational tone coming from Iran’s two biggest enemies: Israel and Saudi Arabia. Now that there is a détente between the Egyptians, Saudis and Israelis over the transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to the Saudis by the Egyptians, collaboration to “deal with” Tehran becomes a three-country strategic balance of power against the Iranians. The reciprocity the P5+1 thought would be gained by Iran has achieved the exact opposite of its intended effect. Instead, it will make Iran more difficult to deal with in the coming new year and possibly for years to come.
Todd Royal is an author and consultant specializing in global threat assessment, energy development and policy for oil, gas and renewables based in Los Angeles, California.
Image: Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards march during a military parade in Tehran, September 22, 2007. Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Photo