By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. war on terror accelerated Iran's regional influence: researcher

February 11, 2022 - 21:8

TEHRAN - A research associate at the India Study Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) says that the U.S. has accelerated Iran’s influence in the region.

“I feel that the U.S. War on Terror (WOT) further accelerated Iran's influence in the region,” Dost Muhammad Barrech tells the Tehran Times.

Barrech adds, “The history and geography of Iran manifest that it has remained a region's main power.” 

He also said the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 and Saddam Hussein in 2003 favored Iran.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you see Iran's position and importance in West Asia after the 1979 Islamic revolution?

A: Iran, no doubt, has remained the world's oldest civilization and Persian Empire for centuries, currently, is a major Islamic country and the second most populous state in the Middle East (West Asia). Iran's importance in the Middle East (West Asia) particularly in the post-1979 Islamic revolution era cannot be underestimated. 

“I reckon international politics is dominated by realpolitik.”The history and geography of Iran manifests that it has remained a region's main power. I feel that the U.S. War on Terror (WOT) further accelerated Iran's influence in the region. The invasion of Iraq by the U.S. in 2003 resulted in removing Saddam Hussein’s government. The transformation of the power to the Shia majority to say the least bolstered the Iran position in Iraq. The toppling of the Taliban regime by the U.S. in the post 9/11 era also went in Iran's favor as the latter did not have cordial ties with the Taliban. I believe that China–Iran 25-year economic cooperation deal signed on March 27, 2021, will further enhance Iran’s importance in the region. China is fully cognizant of the Iranian importance in the Middle East (West Asia), thus, will have 100 projects in the deal and will be investing in Iranian telecommunications, healthcare, banking, ports, railways, and information technology. The deal also deepens the military cooperation, training exercises, and intelligence sharing between both states.

Q: How can Islamic states like Iran and Pakistan help the unification of the Islamic world?

A: I reckon international politics is dominated by realpolitik. We need to see how modern statehood emerged. The prevailing statehood system emerged in the Treaty of Westphalia signed in 1648 after the culmination of the Thirty Years’ War between Protestants and Catholics. Treaty of Westphalia reminds the statecrafts not to embroil religion in politics. However, Pakistan and Iran have ethnic, cultural, and historical ties, tapping the untapped potentials will prove more effective and beneficial for both states. I believe China–Iran deal will further bolster the ties of Islamabad and Iran. Tehran has a great deal of potential to export 3,000 MW of electricity to Islamabad at low rates. Iran's presence under the Chinese umbrella will strengthen the security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The deal increases Pakistan’s geo-strategic significance; the country in near future would be a supply route of Iranian oil and gas to China. Iran, as far as the deal is concerned, is willing to grant massive concessions to China in oil and gas. Offering Chinese concessional offer of Iran to Pakistan will reduce the latter’s oil dependency on other countries. Gawadar and Chahbahar under the Chinese tutelage can work as sister ports. Pakistan can provide easy access to Turkey and Iran under CPEC in the functioning of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD). Realistically speaking, both Tehran and Islamabad in the Chinese bloc should exploit existing geo-political and geo-economic dividends. 

Q: As you know Iran has an old history and legacy in Pakistan. For example, Farsi once was a formal language in Indian subcontinent. How can Iran revive or consolidate its common ties with Pakistan?

A: It is an established fact that the “future belongs to the past”. Parts of Pakistan like Balochistan were under Persian influence in multiple time frames from the 16th century to the 20th century. These parts were like peripheries for Persia. Apart from cultural and lingual attachments in the past, there was a geographical connection as well. For instance, the Iranians who migrated from Persia settled in the Indian subcontinent, especially the Zoroastrians and Persian Jews from the 15th to 19th century, played a pivotal role in the economic development of the Indo- Pak economy. 

The British always considered Persia as an extremely important neighbor for its colonial existence. The Anglo-Persian relations from the 18th to 19th century are a clear manifestation of their powerful relationship. British policymakers never missed any chance to boost up their diplomatic and trade relationship with the Persians. I suggest to both Pakistan and Iran that the way China is reviving its Silk Road via Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), they should emulate China’s model in reviving and consolidating their common ties. 

Q: Why do Western powers and their media outlets make every effort to depict Iran as a destabilizing player in the region?

A: It is a fait accompli that interest has no replacement in international politics. When there was the convergence of interests between the Western powers and Iran in the pre-1979 Islamic revolution, Tehran at that time remained the apple of the Western power's eye. The Iranian 1979 Islamic revolution, by and large, altered the complexion of the geopolitics in the region. Iran a strategic ally of the West turned out to be a destabilizing player. It is pertinent to quote Napoleon Bonaparte here who says that “there are only two forces that unite men - fear and interest”. In prevailing circumstances, the Western powers see Iran with fear nor do they have interest in the former resulting in the depiction of Iran as a destabilizing player.

Q: Don’t you predict that Asian powers like China form a coalition with regional players like Iran and Pakistan to confront U.S. influence?

A: Honestly speaking, predicting the future to me is an uphill task. However, international politics in the current arena has constantly been witnessing two blocs underpinned by the U.S. and China. The U.S. is trying to promote its own values through reinforcing the Quad known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. China, meanwhile, is committed to promoting its “alliance” attributed to countering the Quad. Beijing seeks to form a Quad-type system named the “trans-Himalayan Quad” grouping consisting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal. Beijing’s 'Himalayan Quad' is believed to have been balancing out New Delhi’s outreach in the region. 

I assume Iran is well placed in China’s 'Himalayan Quad' against the backdrop of the former's geo-political and geo-economic interests with the latter.  In the meanwhile, the controversy of the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics by the U.S. and its allies showcasing a deep rift between the U.S. and China splitting the world ostensibly into two blocs. The U.S. and Western countries including India have already unleashed an ideational war against China maligning China’s image by rubbishing its BRI, an authoritarian regime, a debt trap policy under BRI, human rights violation in China, and labor exploitation in African states. I reckon Pakistan cannot keep all its eggs either in the U.S. or China, putting all eggs in any of the country’s baskets will prove counterproductive. Maintaining a balanced approach in the U.S.-China great power competition will serve the national interests of Pakistan.  

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