Middle EastNews

Opinion: Understanding The Failure Of Nuclear Talks With Iran

The exclusion of regional voices and ideas has prevented the sort of outside the (Western) box thinking needed to peacefully resolve the region’s complicated and multi-faceted geo-political issues.

The exclusion of regional voices and ideas has prevented the sort of outside the (Western) box thinking needed to peacefully resolve the region’s complicated and multi-faceted geo-political issues.

Negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program highlight, yet again, a glaring weakness in the current international system. Aside from China and Russia, these talks did not involve the direct participation of any regional players. Instead, Germany and the EU were the only direct participants outside of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The disproportionate representation of Western interests to the exclusion of those within the region proves once more that the struggle to overcome the legacies of imperialism are far from over. They also best explain why these talks failed.

When it comes to Iran’s nuclear arsenal, those with the most to gain or lose are those in its immediate vicinity. But representatives from countries in Iran’s neighborhood like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey were not invited though each obviously had a far greater stake in the outcome than Germany or the EU. There can be little hope of solving a problem when the parties with the greatest interest in doing so do not talk to each other.

The reasons for this lack of inclusivity are many and specific to each country. Israel and Iran refuse to deal with each other directly. The Saudis and Emiratis prefer local go-betweens or quiet discussions out of public view while Pakistan and Turkey were not deemed relevant to the issues at hand.

In other words, the limited participation of regional players was the result of both internal domestic considerations and the influence and perspectives of Western powers that have long marginalized local powers. The reasons may vary, but the effect is the same: the inherently flawed and ineffective Western-dominated system continues.

The Western nations and Russia often take advantage of the power vacuum resulting from the unstable political systems and elementary school attitudes prevalent throughout the region to further their own interests. While, for reasons too numerous and nuanced to adequately address here, the region’s weak and ineffective leaders do not have the power or desire to object.

Many also cynically refuse to negotiate with Iran precisely because of their reliance on their Western benefactors. The outcome: failure, instability, stockpiled munitions, and steadily escalating violence.

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Iran’s friendship with China and Russia has led to similar posturing on its part, but to a far lesser degree. The simple reality is that its allies have proven incapable of protecting it from the biting sanctions and clandestine attacks imposed by the West and Israel.

Iran has hidden its desperation to resolve these issues to maintain its leverage during negotiations, but even with the ascendence of its hardliners, it knows its interests are best served by a negotiated settlement.

The excessive reliance on Western perspectives and arms has prevented the adoption of the most obvious and pragmatic way to end the impasse: to extend Pakistan’s nuclear umbrella to Iran. Brother to both Persian and Arabs and irrelevant to Israelis, Pakistan is perhaps the only country capable of bridging the region’s many divides. What more productive use could there be for its vaunted “Islamic bomb” than to diffuse regional tensions?

It has always been in the strategic interests of both nations to form a military alliance. Doing so would greatly improve their geo-strategic positions while making the nuclear issue moot. Its warm relations with both Iran and the Arab world could have easily led to what some might call a “win-win.” Alternatively, both Turkey and Pakistan could act as guarantors between the Arabs, Israel, and Iran to finally settle their feud.

But these ideas are considered laughable by most in the West and their local allies, who are no doubt emboldened by their shiny new American weapons. Unfortunately, the international system it created makes such ideas highly implausible.

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The exclusion of regional voices and ideas has prevented the sort of outside the (Western) box thinking needed to peacefully resolve the region’s complicated and multi-faceted geo-political issues.

Instead of bringing local powers together to resolve their differences peacefully, America has resorted to its favorite playbook. It is flooding the region with weapons as it helps build a military coalition of Israelis and Arabs that makes dialogue an afterthought.

In doing so, it continues to play a destructive and destabilizing role in the region even as the scars from its bloody rampages in Iraq and Afghanistan are still healing.

For decades, it has been the region’s number one arms dealer and military power. Now that it is distracted in Europe and the Pacific, it is doubling down on its strategy of arming its friends to the teeth while downplaying the legitimate concerns of its adversaries created by its massive weapons exports and aggressive military posture.

Under the guise of ensuring “stability,” it was mid-wife to a new right-wing apartheid state and armed as many absolute Arab monarchs and despots as it could find. It is laying the foundations for more war and chaos while it gaslights the world about its concerns for human rights and democracy.

And so, the problem remains unresolved, continuing to rot and fester. It will only worsen until the entire region is engulfed in violence. While those who fostered and enabled these conditions will shake their heads comfortably from afar, wondering what went wrong.

The only way to avoid this fate is by convincing the nations of the region that dialogue and cooperation is in their best interests. But doing so is impossible so long as the West continues to crowd out those voices that should matter most.

This article was originally published on this author’s blog, found here, and republished on TMV with the author’s permission.