From Syria to the Strait of Hormuz through Yemen, relations and changing power balance in the Middle East are changing. Iran has cleverly exploited these changes and has been able to use them to achieve its goals and serve its interests, and may become a leading force in the region.
The United States diplomatically present
The United States withdrew from northern Syria militarily but remains diplomatically present. After talks with US Vice President Mike Pence. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was ready for a five-day truce in northern Syria. It is not known whether the White House sees Pence’s mission as the beginning of a new commitment or vice versa as its last move there.
What is certain is that the US reduced its commitments in such away. That it brought with it a series of reactions and changes in the formations of new alliances and centres of political power. No country in the region, like Iran, is taking advantage of this opportunity to serve its interests.
After missiles struck Aramco on September 14, Saudi Arabia and the United States accused Iran of being behind the attack. She, in turn, denied the accusations, but could not dispel the doubts of her critics. The newspaper Haaretz reported that if the government in Tehran ordered the attack, it stemmed from a sense of self-confidence.
This laxity in the Saudi-American military alliance has long emerged. If the US fleet remains calm in the Gulf, this seems to have been predicted by Tehran, which has noticed that the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as well as the war in Yemen has greatly affected sympathy for Saudi Arabia in the US Congress.
Will Iran be the biggest beneficiary of the changing power balance in the region?
There is no project for Syria
For a closer look, Iran also follows US weaknesses in Syria. The situation is clear for Tehran, which believes that the United States has no clear-cut project in Syria. Under President Barack Obama, the United States wanted to topple the Assad regime, and it wanted to defeat the terrorist organization Daesh and other jihadist groups. As a distant target, Washington was looking for a democratic Syria.
But Elbit White ignored the fact that a large number of these jihadists were in the prisons of the Assad regime. When the uprising appeared to be gaining momentum in 2011, the Syrian president opened the gates of those camps and prompted the United States to focus on fighting these jihadists.
But Iran’s behaviour was quite different. From the outset, it had a clear, achievable goal: to keep Assad in power. And setting this goal was reasonable because Assad is still in power. Russia and Iran, both in Syria, cannot be ruled out even as political actors disguised at the presidential palace in Damascus, where they have the say in making decisions that could have major implications even for Europe.
Call for dialogue
Welcoming Iran as a protective force in Syria may be the driving force behind the demonization of Israel, a campaign that Assad might rejoin. The hatred against Israel promoted by the regime in Iran emerged for decades as a viable means to close ranks.
On the basis of this military might, Iran’s behaviour with its neighbours in the region could be positive. “We want to be friends with all the countries of the region,” he told Iran’s state news agency, Shana. “Our arch-enemy is outside the Middle East.”