Iran’s positive role in the Middle East

Contrary to warmongers’ arguments, the forces of diplomacy and political solutions with Iran are now stronger.

Opinion Iran Moderate
Wars often become inevitable when diplomacy and the art of resolving conflicts fail, writes Kuttab [Getty]

Unhappy with the Iran nuclear agreement, the United States Republican Party and Israel are focusing the bulk of their opposition on two fronts.

For them, the agreement fails to totally eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat. They also believe that the lifting of sanctions might potentially cause further havoc in the Middle East.

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While many scientists, former diplomats and members of the intelligence community in the US and Israel have spoken publicly about the technical parts of the deal, few have tackled the unproven claims that an emboldened Iran is creating further troubles in an already burning region.

Opponents rattle that Iran is the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world, and that the influx of billions of dollars into its coffers will somehow encourage Iranians to expand their influence at the expense of the moderate Arab regimes around them.

The events and actions of Tehran and the reactions in the region ever since the signing of the agreement in Vienna last July point in the opposite direction.

A look at the Syrian, Yemeni and Palestinian conflicts all point to the fact that the agreement has been playing a positive, rather than a negative, role.

Changing dynamics

In the Syrian conflict, where the Iranians and Russians have supported Bashar al-Assad ever since the popular revolt began, Iran succeeded in brokering a 48-hour ceasefire in three important cities on August 12, a day before a visit by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the Syrian capital.

In fact, the ceasefire, part of an effort by Tehran to help resolve the Syrian civil war, was extended for a further two days.

In Yemen, popular forces loyal to the country’s legitimate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi have been making impressive gains mostly in the south of the country.

Contrary to opponents of the deal who claim that it will inflame the region, the developments make sure that a post-deal Iran is playing a much more moderating role than before.


But the much talked about alliance between the Houthis and Iran – who were expected to move in support of their co-religious Yemenis – has never surfaced.

No strong evidence shows that Tehran is aiding the anti-Hadi forces. On the contrary, the Iranians have been supportive of the UN led peace talks in Geneva and are not viewed as serving much of a role in that crisis.

On the Palestinian front, a senior Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader visiting Tehran said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to visit Iran in the coming two months.

The visit followed a much publicised detachment between Tehran and Hamas, and a move by Hamas to get closer to Saudi Arabia.

These developments in the aftermath of the nuclear deal signal that Iran is a force of moderation – rather than extremism – in the Middle East.

A more confident Iran that does not feel an existential threat from the US should no longer be seen as the troublemaker in region.

While all the above might not be conclusive proof that Iran has further moderated its position since the signing of the nuclear deal, it goes to show that it is certainly hard to prove that Iran will become more radical, as opponents to the deal claim. 

Unified response

Another reason for a relative ease at some conflict hot spots in the region since the agreement is the fact that local fighters are finally seeing a unified international will. The 48-hour ceasefire in Syria with the Iranian initiative was a starting point.

While the agreement in the Vienna deal does not deal with any of the other ongoing issues in the Middle East, the unification of the international community for finding a diplomatic solution to this particularly difficult nuclear issue sends a powerful message to the region at large.

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Civil wars are often perpetuated as a result of direct or indirect regional and international interventions. So long as the world community is divided, this division is often reflected on the ground in places like Syria, Yemen and Libya.

However, when the same fighters see their sponsors and the sponsors of their enemies establishing dialogue channels and signing treaties, they quickly realise that they cannot depend on their patrons forever.

The Iran deal is an important watershed in global efforts for peace. It shows that the international community is genuinely opposed to nuclear proliferation, signalling that diplomacy still has a place in solving world conflicts.

Wars often become inevitable when diplomacy and the art of resolving conflicts fail.


Those who oppose the Iran deal need only to look at the immediate results in the region to realise that the deal has already contributed to an easing of tensions and a spike in diplomatic activities.

Contrary to opponents of the deal, who claim that it will inflame the region, the developments make sure that a post-deal Iran is playing a much more moderating role than before.

There is no ironclad guarantee that this deal with Iran, which will eventually lift sanctions, will suddenly turn the Islamic Republic into a multi-party democracy that respects human rights and grants all sorts of freedoms.

But contrary to warmongers’ arguments, since the July agreement in Vienna, the forces of diplomacy and political solutions are now stronger than the proponents of violence and war.

If this trend continues, the international community can be convinced that the Iran deal has had a moderating influence on the Middle East.

Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Palestinian journalist, is a former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.