The Determinants and Evolution of Iran’s Foreign Policy toward the Gulf States in the Context of Iran Nuclear Negotiations

Published recently by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, The Determinants and Evolution of Iran’s Foreign Policy toward the Gulf States in the Context of Iran Nuclear Negotiations, by Aisha Khaled Abdulrahman Al-Saad, explores the determinants of Iran's foreign policy towards its GCC neighboring countries. She considers the dimensions of internal and external, as well as identity and nationality policies. Al-Saad aims to identify the strategic importance of Iran's nuclear program, the agreement with the major powers in 2015, and its impact on Iran's foreign policy. She then addresses possible future scenarios and implications of Iran's foreign policy towards the GCC region, upon the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.

Nuclear Foreign Policy

The book (152 pp.) consists of an introduction and six chapters. The first chapter addresses the roots of Iran’s nuclear program, its nuclear renaissance and the local and international attitudes that convinced Iran to pursue a nuclear policy. The chapter then provides a critical analysis of Iran's nuclear strategy before looking at the nuclear agreement and its implications on the foreign policy. According to Al-Saad, the repercussions of this agreement are still unclear, particularly on the GCC countries. She notes that the exclusion of the GCC countries from the nuclear negotiations has triggered the GCC’s great concerns about Iran’s expansion in the region.

Her second chapter explores the changes in Iran's foreign policy towards the GCC in two contexts. The first is the development of Iran’s nuclear plans (2003-2015). The second is the shift in Iran’s internal politics, and the implications of these changes on Iran's foreign policy toward the GCC countries.

Threat Perceptions

Al-Saad’s third chapter focuses on developments of Iran’s nuclear issue during Hassan Rouhani’s presidency. Specifically it demonstrates how the nuclear deal has since had implications for Iranian foreign policy towards the GCC countries through seeking recognition of its potential regional power and taking advantage of the geopolitical gains that stemmed from the deal.

Chapter four explores the mutual threat perceptions in the Arab-Persian region, and factors that may have contributed to shaping and refining them. It investigates the root cause of the mutual distrust, Iran’s increased foreign political security level, and the regional balance of powers. The GCC’s reliance on external protection fuels Iran’s fears about its threatened prominence in the region.

The Aftermath of the Nuclear Deal

In the fifth chapter, Al-Saad presents interviews with experts on Iranian affairs and foreign policy -shortly after the conclusion of negotiations leading to the Iranian nuclear deal- to predict future prospects in the post-nuclear deal. The participants considered the nuclear agreement a historic turning point in the region. Most however did not see the agreement lasting more than a year

The author concludes by reviewing Iran and the GCC relations and Iran's Gulf policy after the nuclear deal, as well as the withdrawal of US President Donald Trump from it. She lastly explores the post-nuclear repercussions; Iran is facing hostile GCC states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and behind them are strong and ready allies, such as the Trump administration. She believes that even if Qatar and Kuwait seem to maintain a neutral position toward tensions, “they will not support any Iranian aggression or escalation towards the region.” Moreover, Iran's position in Syria is risky as Israel and the US seek to end its presence there, and Russia seems to tolerate only a minimal Iranian role. Meanwhile the sanctions demonstrate that Iran is no longer in a position to escalate or intervene on multiple fronts in the Gulf region or in its vicinity.

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