Iran, the Islamic Ally?

Exploring the Possibilities of Iran’s Role in the Grand Alliance


By Shahrzad Bagheri

October 2007




The United States is shrinking.?We no longer exert such powerful influence over the international system.?Our allies are disappearing into the shadows. Our enemy is growing larger and stronger: China. We cannot let this happen.??/span>


A Grand Alliance


The United States must advocate for a “Grand Alliance?between the strongest democratic centers in the world, against China. With a coalition of the United States, the European Union, and the most important Asian democracies (possibly Russia, India, and Japan), we can work towards preventing China’s ascent to the top of the international order.


Notice that the Islamic world is not included in the Grand Alliance.?Why would such a large nation (the exact number of Muslims throughout the world is unknown; it has been estimated to be between 1.3 billion and 1.8 billion, depending on the source) be excluded from this global effort to halt China’s rapid growth? The architect of the “Grand Alliance?does not include the Islamic world because it is not prone to democracy.?However, I believe that the Islamic states, mainly Iran- despite the current hostile relationship- could be a very important asset for the United States in the future.?In this essay, I will explore this possibility, discuss potential obstacles, and propose some methods to facilitate this alliance.?One thing is certain, if the United States does not get hold of Iran, China certainly will.


A Short Period of Friendship


          ?During the Shah’s rule, from 1941 to 1979, America had close ties with Iran.?Western influence in Iran was at its height under the Shah’s regime.?He implemented many policies which promoted Western ideologies, which sharply contrasted with the views of the Islamic authorities.?For example, he passed a law that forbade women from wearing the veil, an important religious practice; drinking, gambling, and other such improprieties were common.?Extremely religious people throughout the country believed that Iran was being corrupted by the West.?Thus, the Iranian people grew a deep hatred for America and disdain for the Shah’s regime; he lost much support from his people.

          ?During his rule, the Shah succeeded in modernizing the nation, much of it based on the Western model.?With his recognition of Israel, the Shah lost support with the clergy of Iran.?However, many of his practices were not in accordance with American values; he persecuted thousands of political dissidents- all those who spoke out against his regime.?His regime was corrupt, and he accumulated great wealth while much of the country was struggling with poverty.?

          ?Eventually the riots and civil unrest resulted in the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and with this came the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran- a theocracy with deep feelings of mistrust and hatred for all Westerners.?This was the end of hospitality between Iran and the United States.


A Clash of Civilizations


Hostile relations have persisted between Iran and the United States since the fall of the Shah’s regime. ?/span>With the continued presence of Islamic Fundamentalists at the head of the government, the United States has found it increasingly difficult to reach any kind of peace with this state.? The two have clashed over many issues over the decades; presently, nuclear proliferation, Arab- Israeli peace, Iraq, energy security, and terrorism are the major concerns.?What makes matters worse is that the Iranian leaders, themselves, are split about some issues; there is internal fragmentation.? This leads to further conflict.?


Us versus Them


          ?For the most part, the United States has adopted a policy of isolationism to contain Iran.?This tactic only portrays our nation as “dismissive and arrogant?(Crocker).?In addition, we have coerced other nations to assist us with this approach.?For example, the United States has funded Arab allies with money and weapons to counteract Iran’s activities.?This not only makes the region more unstable but also feeds the security dilemma; if Arab nations are building their defenses, Iran will increase its protection.

          ?In addition, this approach is not the most pragmatic because Iran’s military force is not a threat as much as it’s use of “soft power?and militias throughout the region to delegitimize the “hard power?of the United States and Arab nations.?The use of military action against Iran would also worsen the situation.?

The correct course of diplomacy is active engagement.?This, however, is difficult to achieve.?There are many obstacles to overcome: political, social, and economic.?We must find a starting point for diplomacy; wealth is always a good place to facilitate discourse.


Oil and Politics


?/span>Iran is well aware of the role that oil plays in politics.?“Energy is one of the driving forces behind diplomatic relations?(Pelanda).?In Iran, oil production has decreased due to the lack of investment in energy infrastructure projects.?Thus, the increase in consumption and the decrease in output will eventually deplete all of Iran’s oil resources; this will severely affect Iran and the global market.?Iran will either decide to cut gasoline subsidies or alter its policies to attract foreign investment, in which case, China will come to Iran’s rescue.?

China is the number one oil and gas importer from Iran.?Its oil consumption grows by 7.5% per year, which is seven times faster than the United States?rate of consumption. Russia, too, who is actively working towards building its new empire, has great interest in Iranian oil, as well as Japan and Europe.?Iran believes that global interest in its oil resources will prevent the United States from acting against Iran in any way that would be a threat to the other nations?prosperity. ?/span>This confirms that the United States is losing its influence in the international system.?We must push for Iran’s reintegration into the global economy and improve our ties with Iran.?This will give room for political reform and put down the influence of hardliners who thrive in isolation.


Fostering Change


The current Iranian regime will be difficult to collaborate with, but it must be done.?Iran’s regional influence has never been greater than it is now.?Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei stated, “Today, if a referendum is held in any Islamic country, the people will vote for individuals supporting Islam and opposing the United States? (Sadjadpour, Wrong Way).?The United States must demonstrate sincerity in forming a relationship with Iran.?We have overlapping interests in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan and combating Al Qaeda. ?/span>Iran, more so than any other country in the region, has great influence on Iraq’s development.?Like the United States, Iran too wants to ensure stability, territorial integrity, and democratic elections in Iraq.?Furthermore, we have a common enemy in the Salafi extremists.?Iraq would be a good place to start building confidence between our two nations.?

However, we cannot form ties with a state that supports terrorism and violates the basic human rights of its citizens. ?/span>These issues go against everything our democracy stands for, and it would delegitimize the United States in the international system.?The current regime must be replaced or the government must make the strategic decision to change its policies.?Iran’s history decreases the probabilities of any sort of regime change in the near future; Iranians are wary of political agitation due to many years of war and revolution.?Thus, the United States must encourage the notion that “goodwill will beget goodwill?and “reaffirm that a defiant approach will gain little and cost more?(Sadjadpour, Guidelines).?


The Other Players


          ?The Islamic world will not affect the Western world as much as China, if at all.?True, the Islamic nations, mainly Iran, are our current adversaries, but if we decide to engage in military action against Iran, China will come to its defense.?China will negotiate to defend Iran in exchange for cheap oil.?Russia, too, may do the same and negotiate to provide Iran with energy supplies in exchange for geopolitical concessions.?Our close European allies are no different, and would probably surreptitiously negotiate for their own guarantees.?In the anarchic system, all must provide for their own security and ensure the solidity of their power.    

          ?India, a rising democracy, previously supported Iran in its quests for nuclear power because it, too, was actively building its nuclear abilities as well.?However, the United States negotiated to recognize India as a legitimate nuclear power in exchange for their cooperation to contain Iran (and China as well).?The United States can use both India and Iran as tools to contain China.?The pressure from this region would greatly impact China’s economic trends, hopefully bringing it to a halt.?




Last Hope


The focus of this essay was to evaluate the Iranian situation, but we cannot forget the ultimate goal: to contain China.?This may be accomplished easier if we have Iran as our ally.?However, if the United States fails at gaining Iran as a partner, we must at least penetrate Islamic territories and subject part of them to American influence.?We cannot overlook the role that other Islamic nations can play in isolating China and severing their access to oil, China’s main interest in the region.?We may solidify our legitimacy in the region if we succeed in stabilizing the Iraqi situation.?Concerning Iran, we must “maintain dialogue…and let it be known that when Tehran is ready to rethink its policies and emerge from isolation, there will be a partner in Washington ready to welcome it?(Sadjadpour, Guidelines).?Iran and the United States once had cordial relations, and there is some hope that it could happen again.?











Works Cited


Crocker, Chester A. “The Art of Peace: Bringing Democracy Back to Washington.? Foreign Affairs. July/ August 2007.


Luft, Gal. ?/span>Fueling the Dragon: China's Race into the Oil Market.?b> The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.


Pelanda, Carlo. The Grand Alliance: The global integration of democracies. Milano, Italy, 2007.


Sadjadpour, Karim. “Guidelines for Approaching Iran.?Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. June 2007.


Sadjadpour, Karim. “The Wrong Way to Contain Iran.?International Herald Tribune.

August 3, 2007.


23 Sept. 2007. Central Intelligence Agency. <>.


23 Sept. 2007. Human Rights Watch. <>.