Defense and Foreign Affairs Daily
Iran’s Centrality to the
New East-West Strategic
By Dr Assad Homayoun
May 25-27, 2005
United States has vital interests in the Middle East. The Middle
East is the center of gravity of international politics. Iran is
the center of gravity of the Middle East. None of the current
problems in the Middle East and the Islamic World can be
resolved unless there is change in Iran.
eneral Dwight D. Eisenhower was
quoted as saying in 1951 that there is no region in the world
which was geopolitically more important than the Middle East. It
was true in 1951 and is even more truly profound today. The
outcome of the War on terrorism and the efforts at preventing
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction — particularly
nuclear weapons — are key elements which will determine the
success or failure of the US policy in the Middle East. The
future security of the region is dependent on its successful
outcome, and the stability of the region and international order
is crucial to the flow of energy which is vital not only for the
US but for Europe and Japan as well.
The region was dominated by
Great Britain for nearly three centuries. The core of British
policy was to keep other foreign powers as well as local forces
from changing the balance of power or sharing in the domination.
This lasted until World War II when the US gradually and
steadily replaced Great Britain as the dominant force in the
Middle East, and continued essentially the same policy, with
Great Britain as complementary player.
The geopolitical importance of
the Middle East emanates from the fact that:
is the heartland of
Eurasia and the
repository of most of the world’s energy resources.
region is the cross-roads of the international lines of
communications and controls four of the seven choke points
of the world’s most important sea lanes: the Straits of
Hormuz, Bab Al-Mandeb, The Suez Canal and the
Turkish Straits. (To
highlight the importance of this factor. It should be noted
that about 17-million barrels of oil or 40 percent of the
world’s oil exports pass through the Straits of Hormuz every
has been and is the center of rivalry of various ethnic
groups and religions.
become fountainhead of international terrorism and the
center of the advancement and proliferation of
fundamentalist Islam, the center of an accelerating
conventional and WMD arms race and the hotbed of terrorism.
in the Middle East
Over the past 26
years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been one of the foremost
promoters of international terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.
From the beginning of the Islamic revolution, the ruling clerics
appointed themselves as the leaders of revolutionary Islam and
made its export a central factor in their foreign policy and
undermining US interest in the region. At the time, Ayatollah
Khomeini the leader of revolution, directly threatened Arab
Leaders such as President Anwar as-Sadat of Egypt, King Hussein
of Jordan and the Saudi Arabian King as lackeys of US and
infidels. Iran vigorously advande its Shi’ite brand of
fundamentalism. It was indeed against the Saudi leadership and
Saudi Arabia’s Wahabbi Sunni brand of fundamentalism. And Saudi
Arabia, to compete with revolutionary Iran, advanced its own
version of Wahabbi foundamentalism. This started an unending
cycle of unholy competition in the international arena, one
result of which was attack on the two symbols of military and
economic power in Washington, DC, and New York on September 11,
isolated from its neighbors and the Free World, Iran sought
technical assistance from the East. Pakistan helped it with
nuclear technology, the People’s Republic of China and North
Korea with long-range ballistic missile technology. Today it has
reached a stage in the domestic development of both technologies
that it is a de facto
nuclear power and has in
its arsenal, long-range missiles capable of delivering warheads,
nuclear or conventional, at targets more than 1,500 miles away.
with its history and strong cultural identity, has always been
decisive in the region and beyond. It is one of the most — if
not the most — important player, and could just as easily be a
dominant force for good as it is for evil today.
It borders 15
countries, and has historically influenced the entire region
including Central Asia culturally and economically.
it dominates the northern shores of the Persian Gulf, with
command of the Strait of Hormuz, the most important chokepoint
in the globe.
It is within
easy striking distance of about 50 percent of the world’s
oilfields: those in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain,
and the UAE.
Iran itself has
enormous proven energy reserves: 12 percent of the world’s oil
and 20 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves. Today we
know that oil revenue and its supply are important political and
It also is a
bridge between two very important energy zones of Central Asia
and the Persian Gulf.
Iran not only
actively engaged in terrorism and fundamentalism as fundamental
weapons of state, but in all aspects of nuclear research and
weapons development. With these tools of irregular and strategic
warfare, coupled with its substantial and educated population,
its pivotal geographic location, and its energy resources, Iran
is the leading country in the Middle East. According to Oil
and Gas Journal
Iran holds the
second-largest reserves of petroleum in the world, so at the
very least, any assessment of Iran’s geopolitical importance
must take into account its rôle in global energy.
More than this,
Iran is a nation-state and civilization of ancient identity and
cohesiveness, the fundamental tenets of which found their way
into the core of Western civilization over the past three
It is critical,
then, to realize that Iran is a power which — although it has
been isolated somewhat, and rendered less capable than its
resources, history and people could make it — is in every
respect a major factor in global politics. The fact that a great
and geostrategically pivotal state has been hijacked by
fanatical pseudo-ideologues does not mean that it should be
disregarded or under-estimated.
Iran, with its
economic and geo-strategic wealth in the hands of an
undemocratic, irresponsible theocracy, represents a formidable
problem for global stability and a serious threat to world
order. That is why Iran must change from theocracy to secular
Democracy to contribute to peace and stability of the region and
the world’s equilibrium.
believe that it is imperative for Iranians and the international
community to help them to get rid of this limited number of
rabid ruling clerics before creating a catastrophe which would
be detrimental to world peace as well as unity and integrity of
Republic of Iran almost brought over three centuries of Western
domination of the Persian Gulf to an end by opening its doors to
the People’s Republic of China. It has signed extensive
commercial, military and strategic agreements with the PRC.
After the second inauguration of US President George W. Bush,
Chinese Prime Minister Li Zhaoxing flew to Tehran to sign a
$100-billion oil and gas deal between China’ state owned oil
company, Sinopec, and the Iranian Oil Ministry. The Chinese need
for oil is increasing every year. Presently China imports
two-million barrels of oil every day. In less than two decades
China must import more than 10-million barrels daily. That is
why China is paying unprecedented attention to the Persian Gulf
and cultivating its ties more aggressively with the Persian Gulf
states. Despite US sanctions, Chinese companies continue to
export military technology for Iran’s development of an
intermediate-range ballistic missile program.
China is also
has completed its new naval port in Gwadar, on the Pakistan-Iran
border in the Pakistani area of Baluchistan, adjacent to the
Strait of Hormuz. This is at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman and
creates the opportunity for a Chinese-Iranian stranglehold for
the sea lanes of the area. The alliance between Iran and China
could have a decisive impact on the balance of power,
particularly in the future rivalry between China and the US. It
can be said that second cold war has already started between
China and US in this region.
expediency or rivalry, Saudi Arabia is also cultivating closer
relations with the PRC. China has sold the CSS-2S intermediate
range ballistic missiles to the Saudis. Recently the Saudis have
been negotiating the purchased of the CSS-6S, a more advanced
ballistic missile system with longer range. This is happening
because of the US’ involvement and engagement in Iraq and
Afghanistan after 9/11.
international community and most of the Iranian people had hoped
that the politics and the policies of Islamic Republic would
mature and moderate with time. But the direction the clerics
have taken 26 years after the revolution is to the contrary.
Their policies and actions have made them a major threat to the
future stability and security of the Middle East.
inevitable that Iran will become a fully-fledged and
comprehensive military nuclear power. According to many
accounts, it has reached the point-of-no-return, even though it
might not test a nuclear weapon in the near future.
community can do little except to try to keep the lines of
communications open. There are neither the means nor the will to
tackle this question head on.
It is important
to note that Iran now has a sophisticated National Command
Authority for the conduct of strategic warfare. Defense &
Foreign Affairs Daily reported on September 27, 2004:
Iran has …
demonstrated a substantial upgrading of its strategic weapons,
doctrine and national command authority capabilities, which have
profound implications for the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
While reports in the open media about “new” Iranian missiles
systems having the range to reach London were both incorrect and
missed the point, it was clear that the live-fire test of a
Shahab-3D intermediate-range ballistic missile on September
18, 2004, during Exercise Ashura-5 reflected a totally
new Iranian capability and intent. …
the 12th major military exercise by Iran in 18 months, began on
September 12, 2004, in the western provinces of Hamedan,
Kurdistan and Zanjan, and involved some 12 infantry and
mechanized divisions, and included the first operational test of
Iran’s T-72 tanks. The exercise was commanded by the Islamic
Revolutionary Guards Corps, responsible for Iran's missile and
nuclear weapons programs, and also included the Basij
force. IRGC commander Gen. Yahya Rahim-Safavi said
would include the firing
of surface-to-surface missiles and anti-aircraft batteries. The
commander did not identify the missiles but said they would be
used for what he termed deep-strike warfare.
have indicated the strength of the nuclear, missile, and
strategic policy coordination between Iran and North Korea, a
coordination which, because of the interrelationships, must also
What must be
done is to push for a political change in Iran by promoting
democracy and democratic institutions. Today, the Islamic
Republic is a major supporter of terrorism, is the main enemy of
the US and Israel, and is emerging as a major ally — perhaps the
pivotal ally — of the PRC. A democratic Iran will definitely
have the tendency to be pro-Western, progressive, and a
stabilizing factor for the entire region.
Organization was founded about 25 years ago by a group of
Iranian ex-patriots in the US and Western Europe. It is well
known in Iran among the intellectuals and the politically
active, young and old. From the beginning we have had a very
clear view of Iranian politics. We have always maintained that
the ruling clerics seem to be inherently evil and are the
enemies of the Iranian people. Domestically, they have managed
to ruin the economy, lower the standard of living, increase
poverty and unemployment to astronomical levels. Torture and
corruption are the hallmarks of the regime. Internationally,
they have marginalized Iran and isolated it from the world. They
have been and are a major destabilizing factor in the region.
seriously addressing the issue of the Islamic Administration
ruling Iran, it would be very difficult — I dare say almost
impossible — to find a sustainable long-term resolution for many
of the problems and situations in the Middle East today. Iran
plays a direct or indirect rôle in the conflicts in Iraq,
Afghanistan, the Arab-Israeli conflict, in the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction, in the export of fundamentalist and
radical Islam, and in the financial, logistical, training,
planning, and moral support for international terrorism.
The solution in
our view is neither diplomacy, as being tried by the EU, nor
armed attack, which was reported as one of the options being
contemplated by the US and Israel. The only solution in our view
is to rely on the people of Iran themselves. The population of
Iran is more than 70-million, 52-million of whom is under the
age of 25 years. Dire economic conditions have made the youth
increasingly restless, insecure and unhappy. Jobless rates are
estimated to be upwards of 30 percent and there are no plans in
the works to stabilize the conditions. I believe that given
leadership, the youth will rise and create a human tsunami
which will sweep the corrupt clerical establishment from power
and return them to their mosques once and for all.
The President of
the United States has repeatedly confirmed his commitment to the
freedom of the Iranian people. World public opinion is also
against the Islamists now in power, and in favor of the Iranian
people. At this time it is vitally important for an Iranian
leadership to emerge so that the Iranian people can rise to
regain their inherent rights.
noted, the acme of skill is to achieve victory without conflict.
And the transformation of Iran from being a disruptive factor on
the world stage, to being a positive, moderate, and economically
powerful player will require “the acme of skill”.
Foundation is in a unique position to provide a sound ground for
the concerted and unified effort which is necessary for
emergence of the leadership needed to help bring about the
transformation of Iran. It is respected and accepted by many. It
has the vision, background, experience, knowledge, with
untainted record and also contacts — both inside and outside
Iran — which will enable it to play a decisive rôle.
Dr Assad Homayoun is
President of the Azadegan Foundation, an organization which
promotes democratic and national values for Iran. He is also
Senior Research Fellow at the International Strategic
Studies Association (ISSA), and writes extensively on
strategic and Middle Eastern issues.