The Iran nuclear deal signals a major shift in the geopolitics of the Middle East. Integral to the equation is oil, economics, terror – and US hegemony.
The Bush administration had initiated a long-term covert strategy to undermine Iranian influence in the Middle East and Central Asia, combined with overt pressure through diplomatic initiatives and economic sanctions.
Under Obama, this strategy accelerated, largely in concert with other Gulf powers like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, who have long sought to roll-back Iranian influence.
Yet even as the strategy accelerated, unlike its predecessors which openly declared their warmongering hostility to Iran, the Obama administration had used the pressure to forge an unprecedented deal with the country.
Averting regional war
The reasons for the shift are, of course, pragmatic. For years, US intelligence agencies have told the White House that there is simply no evidence Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb.
And the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly certified that uranium is not being enriched to levels necessary for weaponisation, nor is it being diverted to a secret weapons programme.
Meanwhile, senior US military officials have long warned that the sort of US-Iran military confrontation which frothing neoconservatives have been pining for would likely fail and destabilise the entire region.
What about an Israel-Iran confrontation? A classified Pentagon war simulation held in 2012 found that an Israeli attack on Iran would also lead to a wider regional war.
Unlike the neocons, for the military pragmatists in successive US administrations, war with Iran could never be a preferred option.
The added bonus is that Iran might notch down its involvement in Iraq and Syria.
Earlier this year, the US assured its allies at the Camp David summit that under the nuclear deal, Iran’s growing geopolitical influence in the region would be curtailed. Simultaneously, the US gave Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and others the green light to accelerate support to the Islamist militants of their choice in Syria.
George Friedman, founder and CEO of private US intelligence firm Stratfor – which operates closely with the Pentagon and State Department – forecasted the US-Iran détente four years ago.
His prescient assessment of its strategic rationale is worth noting. Friedman explained that by reaching “a temporary understanding with Iran,” the US would give itself room to withdraw while playing off Iran against the Sunni regimes, limiting Iran’s “direct controls” in the region, “while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage”.
“This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it,” wrote Friedman.
Ultimately, though, the US is betting on the rise of Turkey – hence the latter’s pivotal role in the new anti-IS rebel training strategy, despite Turkey’s military and financial sponsorship of IS. More