What is Behind Washington’s Tilt Toward Iran?

Washington is coming to the conclusion that solving regional problems would be infeasible without balancing its relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia simultaneously.

In an interview with valdaiclub.com, Kayhan Barzegar, Director of the Tehran-based Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies, said that America is recognizing the growing role of regional powers, but will not give up on its relations with traditional allies.

“Washington is coming to the conclusion that solving regional problems would be infeasible without balancing its relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia simultaneously,” Barzegar said.

“In this context, Obama reaffirmed the US security guarantees for its traditional ally on the one hand and sent this message that the US will hereafter follow a more sophisticated multilateral approach, which is more based on encouraging all the regional players to positively engage and cooperate for solving the regional issues on the other,” he added.

Barzegar believes that Obama’s policy of rapprochement with Iran is part of a strategy. “Of course, following this policy is not an accident occurring overnight. Obama only expedited this process,” Barzegar said.

“This policy is rooted in the reality that the US has some strategic constraints in handing the regional issues and that its direct political-security involvement […] increases the regional tensions and rivalry sometimes leading to sectarian politics and even extremism. The post-conflict situation in Iraq, failing situation in Afghanistan, and now the Syrian crisis, are all evident, and for this reason the US needs to adopt a more cooperative approach based on regional realities. In this context, Iran should somehow be included and encouraged,” he added.

It would be an overestimation, however, to claim that Washington is planning to make Tehran its principal ally in the Middle East, thus coming back to the pre-1979 situation.

“The Iran-US power equation has changed and Iran now pursues policies that stress independent approach and counting on its national sources of power. One should note that both sides still have their own aims, principles and traditional allies to support,” Barzegar pointed out.

Assessing the overall results of the eight years of Obama’s Middle East policy, Barzegar praised the US president for recognizing the regional changing geopolitics and power equations.

“Experience shows that politics of exclusion only provides the grounds for tension and distrust among nations and states. He changed the track and initiated the policy of inclusion, strengthening the necessity of regional cooperation in the US Middle East policy,” he said.

“Obama’s policy should somehow be followed and institutionalized in the U.S. power structure, considering the fact that the real threat to the region and the world is the growing transnational extremism and terrorism and that the international community should encourage states to cooperate in order to cope with this issue,” the Iranian scholar concluded.

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