Iran has been suffering economically for decades because of the sanctions imposed on it by the international community. Because of these sanctions on Iran, the Arab Persian-Gulf countries have remained the world’s largest oil exporting countries without facing any challenges. However, the nuclear deal that was signed between Iran and the six world powers has signalled the forthcoming of an “upside-down” change in the geopolitical environment of the West Asian region.
According to the deal, Iran will give up 97 percent of its enriched uranium. Since the spent or used nuclear fuel is used in making nuclear weapons, Iran will have to ship out all spent nuclear fuel. Iran will have to forego its plutonium plant at Arak. Iran has also agreed to the intrusive inspections inside the country’s nuclear plants.
Even after all these arrangements, the fear of Iran achieving a nuclear weapon remains intact. Because: (i) Iran will be allowed to keep a small nuclear programme; (ii) Iran will be able to pursue uranium enrichment (limited scale) at its facility at Natanz; (iii) the nuclear research (except the use of fissile material) at Fordow will be allowed to be continued; and (iv) prior permission has to be taken from particular Iranian authority to inspect the military sites, and such a prior notice may cause Iran to hide the evidence of any nuclear weapon-making-project that Iran might be pursuing secretly.
Increase in Iran’s regional influence in West Asia
Iran does not have any economic strength at the moment, yet its (Iranian) Revolutionary Guards alongwith its regional terror machine, Hezbollah, have been operating inside Syria and Iraq, and pro-Iranian tyrant Bashar-al-Assad’s government is still holding onto power and massacring the Syrians in war-torn Syria with Iran’s backing. If an economically weak Iran has the ability to cause destruction to half of the West Asian region, what would happen when it achieves the economic strength like Arab Persian-Gulf states? This concern is rattling Gulf policy makers.
Moreover, once Iran starts to gain some economic strength, it would push to consolidate and expand its already established influence in Lebanese societies and shower Hezbollah with finance in order to facilitate increase of Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon and in the region.
Iran has been already creating tensions inside some gulf countries with Shia majority population under Sunni monarchs. Withdrawal of sanctions on Iran would boost the backing of such Shia communities inside the monarchies, making the internal setup of these countries more instable.
If an economically weak Iran can back an armed group (Houthis) to take over the control of the capital of an independent state (Sana of Yemen), Iran would not fall short of facilitating more of such daring moves across the region once Iran becomes economically solvent.
All these factors would be the likely impact of the withdrawal of sanctions on Iran, bringing a change in the balance of politics in the region.
Increase in arms purchase in the region
Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, has been concerned for a long time that Iran is likely to achieve a nuclear weapon soon. The recent Iran Nuclear Deal has only helped to increase such fear, and the Gulf states will now rush to the U.S.’s arms selling companies in order to boost their defense capabilities further against their regional fear factor ‘Iran’.
Beginning of a nuke race
The Iran Nuclear Deal has already been translated by Saudi Arabia to be a window opened for Iran to pursue peacefully its nuclear-weapon-making project. Such a translation signals the beginning of the nuke race. In anticipation of Iran achieving a nuclear weapon soon and in reaction to the deal, Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, are most likely to proceed to build up their nuclear weapon capability.
Danger for the Southern Asia
A large number of Shias lives in Pakistan. Around 20 percent of the population in Pakistan is believed to be Shia. Such an irony of Pakistan extends to the fact that Iran is its next-door neighbour. At the same time, world’s second largest Shia population lives in India. Iranian intellectuals are unlikely to fall short of using these factors to the advantage of Iran once Iran becomes economically capable enough to do so. However, an Iranian influence in the Southern Asia could be very dangerous for the region’s development and stability.
The nuclear deal with Iran that allows it to enrich uranium and lacks ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections is extremely dangerous. Indeed the Iran’s likelihood of achieving a nuclear weapon has increased by many times with this deal, making the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, become more cautious in their defence mechanism.
Bahauddin Foizee is an international affairs analyst, and writes on Middle Eastern, greater Asia-Pacific & European geopolitics. Also a campaigner for environmental and social awareness, Bahauddin Foizee occasionally writes on environment and refugee issues.