American foreign policy in the Middle East failed to achieve what it had hoped to do after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime: it did not create a strong U.S.-Iraq alliance and it did not weaken Iran’s resolve in pursuing its “suspicious” nuclear program.
Students of political science are aware how the liberal school of thought argues that intertwined commercial and trade relations between countries can create peace by fomenting dependency. Their union of sorts is thus based on mutual necessities and interest.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent shivers down Gulf Arabian spines when he visited the island of Abu Moussa, a territory that the United Arab Emirates claims as its own.
Analysts were left wondering why Ahmadinejad would visit the island now.
The liberal school of thought can offer some answers.
Despite Iran’s occupation of the islands, Iranian trade relations with the UAE were very good before the U.N. sanctions against the Islamic republic were imposed in November 2010. The trade volume between the two decreased from $10 billion to $5 billion due to restrictions imposed by UAE banks on Iranian traders and businessmen residing in the Emirates.
Without any commercial interests left to foster with the UAE, Iran notched up its Abu Moussa visit by saying it would submit a law to parliament proposing a new province with the disputed island as its capital.
Some critics say Ahmadinejad’s visit was an attempt to divert attention from Iran’s domestic problems and an opportunity to glorify Persian patriotism.
However, it also showed that Iran still has some political cards in its hands ─ and thus, power.
The trip to Abu Moussa demonstrated how Iran could unleash unrest and anxiety within the Gulf States who called for an urgent meeting soon after Ahmadinejad’s visit.
Iran, highly dependent on the production and export of crude oil to finance its government, is still capable of exporting its black gold ─ despite U.S., U.N. and EU sanctions.
Iran also has a great support hailing from the mighty China and Russia, and on Tuesday, India said that it had imported 14 million tons of Iranian oil
Iran’s upcoming nuclear talks in Baghdad also demonstrate its power.
After the Abu Moussa visit, Iran’s first vice president Mohammed Ridha Rihaimi surprised many when he said that if Tehran and Baghdad were to create an alliance, they would “form a great international power.”
Who could have imagined Iraq would become Iran’s great ally?
Rihaimi pointed at the two countries’ “special relations” and how both were facing “international conspiracies due to their beliefs and goals” during Iraqi Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki’s recent visit to Tehran.
U.S. foreign policy in the region has ─ perhaps inadvertently ─ helped its foes such as Iran to grow bolder and create alliances with Iraq, a country that should have been America’s best friend.
Maybe I should murmur the conspiracy theory that is widely believed in the region: that the U.S. needs its boogeyman in the Middle East to keep escalating fears, to preserve its bases in the Gulf and to continue selling its weapons like it did when it sold $60 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2010. What a great bailout from ugly financial crisis.
(Dina al-Shibeeb, a staff writer at Al Arabyia, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)