Since the 1979 revolution, there has been a lack of any regional or international efforts to rein in Iran as it continues its attempts to export the revolution using proxies in various countries, exploiting fragile political and security environments there.
Iran’s hopes for regional hegemony, however, have been dashed many times. The country has failed to fully exploit sectarian fault lines and foment unrest in the region.
In recent decades, US-led efforts to counter Iranian aggression have not adequately dissuaded Iran from continuing to implement policies that threaten the Middle East’s security. US foreign policy in this context has also not taken any serious steps to protect the world’s energy supply chains, security or economic sustainability.
Today, we are witnessing the terrible consequences of this, with a greater Iranian presence and influence in regional conflicts — in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
The US has taken great pains to thwart the Iranian regime’s actions through economic pressure. However, the policy of containment through showing goodwill and conditional negotiations, announced by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2006, did not compel Iran to respect international law.
The reason for this failure is a lack of seriousness on the part of the international community and the absence of a unified position that could strengthen that of the US vis-à-vis the Iranian regime. European, Russian and Chinese policies toward Iran seem to be based on economics. It is due to this approach that the international community has yet to succeed in checking Iran’s interventionist and expansionist policies in the Middle East.
In a recent interview, US President-elect Joe Biden expressed his intention to return to negotiations with Iran — this time with the participation of other regional players.
However, the future Biden administration must be aware that the Iranian regime’s strategy is based on taking advantage of the various trajectories of such negotiations that have regional and international implications. For example, Iran will avoid negotiating its missile program because this is what grants it military superiority over other countries in the region. Iran will also avoid discussing Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
Negotiations with Iran will only succeed when all international powers are unified in their efforts, which the US alone can lead. Security negotiations will not succeed unless all issues are presented at the negotiating table.
At the IISS Manama Dialogue, some experts agreed that the issue of Iran should be reviewed as one package that includes the nuclear agreement; its missile program; the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; the Iranian presence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon; and its role in spreading sectarian tensions in other regional countries and inciting conflict, terrorism and devastation all the way to Africa. In fact, Al-Qaeda also found a safe haven for its leaders in Tehran, from where they reportedly plan attacks on Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and other countries.
On the other hand, the countries neighboring Iran and the region must adopt initiatives that enable them to confront Iran’s expansionist agenda.
Arab countries must also develop their security and defense capabilities to face any potential challenges and move forward in enhancing the role of the Arab League in this regard. It is necessary to expose the vicious regional strategy of the Iranian regime so that the world becomes aware of the truth about the Iranian project, which aims for regional domination and supremacy. However, the functional theory of international integration must be adopted when mobilizing for any security initiative. Iranian efforts to exploit sectarianism must be confronted with strong regional initiatives to preserve identity and common social and intellectual values.
This can only be attained through an Arab and regional strategy with comprehensive actions that will stand against Iranian threats in every field.
Finally, Iran will not give up its nuclear activities as long as the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei is in power in a country whose head of state, President Hassan Rouhani, has only very limited authority.
• Dr. Abdulrahman Alolian is the dean of the College of Communication and Media at the University of Jeddah.