“The Iranian plan of the Great Middle East”

Ali Hajizade

Editor’s column


Many experts and even people far from politics are familiar with so-called “The Great Middle East Plan” (sometimes called a conception or initiative). In this article, I’m not going to write about this plan because much has been already written and said. And the maps that have been replicated are familiar to the general public.

I want to look at this plan from a different angle. Journalists, analytics and experts almost always write and talk about the US or EU plans for the Middle East. What about regional Powers? Don’t they have their own plans for the region?

For example, the way Turkish politics in the region is changing, getting activated and then reduced, leads me to a conclusion that Turkish Government doesn’t have a unified concept and its actions are situation-dependent, but not all countries in the region are in a similar situation.

If we consider and examine Iran’s activities in the region, we may conclude that this country has its own “Great Middle East Plan” and unlike the Western political circles Iranians don’t create hype over it, they implement it systematically.

Certainly, Iran’s plan or, let’s say, “The Great Middle East map in Iranian edition” will not bring anything good to the region.

I’m going to assume what Tehran seeks to see the Great Middle East look like.

So, what would happen if “The Great Middle East” map was drawn up in Tehran?

First of all, Israel, whose destruction has become an “idée fixe” for Iran, likely, is not on that region’s map.

Perhaps, destruction of Israel and Saudi Arabia’s weakening are the cornerstone of Iran’s vision of “The New Great Middle East”.

Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain would be under the full control of Iran, formally preserving their independence. At the same time, in Bahrain, it would not be without overthrowing of Al-Khalifa Family (They are Sunni by religion). The withdrawal of Russia’s armed forces would be necessary, as a result of agreements with Iran or Russia’s intra-State issues.

Turkey, governed by populist Government, ideally, would be weakened by intra-State issues or, at least, focused on its disputes with Europe and would completely leave the region.

Without the support of the USA and Saudi Arabia, the independence of states like Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Oman would also become nominal and they would have to share their wealth with “New Persian Empire”.

 By the way, in this case Qatar can preserve its independence only through the American base, conflict with Saudi Arabia and navigating between Iran and Arab neighbors. If there is no American base and strong Saudi Arabia, Iran, without hesitation will include Qatar in their area of interest. Considering that Iran holds several islands that belong to UAE under the occupation, it is easy to imagine how Iran will address territorial issues with the Gulf countries, in case of their dependence. The main enemy and antagonist of Iran in the Gulf, of course, is Saudi Arabia. Since the establishment of the State every year there are projections that Saudi Arabia is about to come apart. But we see that it doesn’t happen.

Saudi Arabia has an important place in the Iranian expansionist agenda. Saudi Arabia has also formed an alliance with other Gulf monarchies, which, certainly, makes it harder for Iran to invade these rich countries.

Certainly, an ideal scenario for Iran is disappearing of Saudi Arabia’s region as it exists, from the map of the world. And in the process, Iran would willingly grab the oil-rich territory of Saudi Arabia on the Gulf.

Another issue that is of concern to Iran is the future of the cities that are sacred for Muslims – Mecca and Medina. Tehran is unhappy with the fact that the cities are governed by Al-Saud dynasty. I guess we would see a new State on “The Great Middle East” map situated in the west of Saudi Arabia, which would run Mecca, Medina and extremely important economic centre – Jeddah.

If Saudi Arabia is weakened and its borders are changed, Iran will lose interest in Yemen and the ongoing civil war there. In this regard Iran could stop their support for Houthis. Because, at this moment, the main objective of this support is to plunge Saudi Arabia into war, and to create, and develop a hotbed of instability at the Kingdom’s border.

Without financial support from Saudi Arabia, Egypt could soon lose their interest in the region. Cairo may also focus on cooperation with a new “boss” of the region, but this cooperation would be very limited, because Iran doesn’t need any competitors or partners.

If Tehran can directly or indirectly take control of natural resources (oil and gas) of the countries in the region, it will make Tehran an energy superpower, which can dictate energy prices to the whole world. No matter how much it is said about the end of the oil era, oil will still be in high demand for, at least, 10 years.

In such a situation, of course, we would have to forget about the prosperity of such countries as Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and UAE. Dubai may easily lose its status as a business and financial hub of the region.

But it doesn’t mean that only Arab countries are of interest to Iran, of course, there is a place for its northern neighbors in “The Iranian Great Middle East”. Until Armenia is under Russian control, Iran hardly will show its interest in this country. Regarding Azerbaijan, it is a completely different situation. It is worth noting that Azerbaijan is the second most Shia-populated country after Iran. At the same time Azerbaijan is a secular country. There are more Azerbaijanis in the northern provinces of Iran (Southern Azerbaijan) than in Azerbaijan itself. There are also separatist and nationalistic sentiments in those provinces. Thus, even the existence of an independent Azerbaijan at Iran’s border is considered as a threat to the integrity of the State. Most notably, a part of Iran’s ruling elite headed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khameini are Azerbaijani.

From the early years of Azerbaijan’s independence Iranian Intelligence Services have been working relentlessly within the country. Their main task is to create team sites, to disseminate the sympathy for Iran and its regime to the Azerbaijani worshipers. Probably, there is no place for Azerbaijan in “The Iranian Great Middle East” as a maximum. As a minimum Iran would like to have Azerbaijan weakened, isolated State.

Of course, all these scenarios may seem a certain surrealistic picture. They are based on direct and indirect facts of Iran’s activity in the region. In case Iran acquires a nuclear weapon and USA withdraws from the region, this scenario may come true.

Such a scenario, certainly, will bring only misery to the peoples of the region and will set the region many years behind.

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