A New Era in the Middle East

TEHRAN/BERLIN | | iran

TEHRAN/BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin is rushing to renew economic ties with Iran and to engage in reshaping the Middle East by dispatching its minister of the economy to Tehran. The nuclear agreement, signed last Tuesday with Tehran, offers German companies the opportunity to normalize their trade with Iran, which was once among the most lucrative in the Middle East, but had sharply declined due to sanctions. Exports in the double-digit billions are expected. Meanwhile experts are calling for realigning power relations in the Persian Gulf under western leadership to establish a balance of power between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This would prevent the hegemony of either and offer the West favorable opportunities to influence developments in the region. Comprehensive German arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the weakening of Iranian positions, particularly in Syria, would form the basis of this desired balance of power. According to experts, the EU could play a leading role in reshaping the region, if resistance in the US Congress, at the last moment, does not block the nuclear deal.

With Riyadh against Tehran

Germany's Minister of the Economy, Sigmar Gabriel (SPD), arrived in Tehran on Sunday, becoming the first top Western politician to visit Iran since the signing of the nuclear agreement last Tuesday. It also marks the first concrete step toward the desired reshaping of the Middle East, based essentially on a fragile balance of power between Iran and Saudi Arabia - not unlike the Middle East balance of power between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, which had prevented the hegemony of either to the advantage of Western hegemony. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003, obliterated that balance of power, offering Iran the possibility of becoming the dominant power at the Persian Gulf, with a prospect of resisting Western hegemony. In the years after 2003, the West sought, in vain, to establish a pro-Western regime in Tehran, while systematically rearming Saudi Arabia and other Gulf dictatorships to form a new counterbalance to Iran. This was also accomplished thanks essentially to comprehensive German arms supplies to Riyadh - which still continue.[1]

Proxy Wars

The most recent wars in the Middle East have particularly contributed to the establishment of a precarious balance of power between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Syrian government, which can be considered to be on Iran's side in the conflict between Tehran and Riyadh, has been dramatically weakened and is threatened with a putsch - by primarily Salafist jihadist militias, maintained and equipped with high-grade weaponry by Saudi Arabia and others.[2] Riyadh has gone to war against Yemen, to return to power its overthrown crony, Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi and thereby, forcing the Huthi rebels to side with Tehran.[3] In Lebanon, a vicious proxy conflict, simmering just below the threshold of an open civil war, is also an aspect of the Middle East hegemonic struggle. The regional powers are locked "in a conflict that neither side can win," writes an expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank,[4] - a highly advantageous situation for the West. Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia can impose itself as the undisputed predominant power in this strategically highly significant resources-rich region at the Persian Gulf. This keeps the door open for western influence in the region.

A New Security Architecture

Strategists consider that this situation offers great opportunities for the EU - not least of all, because, since some time, the USA has been increasingly concentrating its forces on its power struggle with China. Once the nuclear agreement with Iran has been finalized, the door will be open to the EU, to enter cooperation with Tehran "to pursue its interests," above all, in terms of a possible "energy partnership," according to an ECFR "Policy Brief." This cooperation is possible because Iran has not consistently or exclusively opposed western objectives.[5] This is a true, in spite of the fact that, during the years of the open confrontation policy toward Tehran, usually the opposite has been alleged by the majority of western media. Now, a change of course may prove unavoidable. As the ECFR proposes, "the largest EU countries" and Brussels, should now "endorse an ambitious initiative on regional security," to promote together with Iran and Saudi Arabia the formation of "a security architecture" in which "all regional actors may participate."[6] The necessary alignment between Riyadh and Tehran could possibly be organized as measures to establish peace in Syria or Yemen - in other words, in countries where western hegemonic policy, for years, has been fomenting conflict and war.

Multi-Billion-Euro Businesses

In this situation, German Minister of the Economy, Gabriel, is surging forward with his current visit to Tehran, where Germany can proceed, where it had systemically laid the groundwork initiated back in December 2013. At that time, immediately following the first nuclear agreement with Iran, the German Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of the Economy - supported by the German Near and Middle East Association (NUMOV) - contacted interested business circles, to reinvigorate German-Iranian trade, which in 2013 had shriveled to a mere 1.8 Billion Euros in exports.[7] Other measures followed - with success. In 2014, German exports to Iran were already back again at 2.4 billion Euros. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[8]) Germany has not yet been able to obtain direct access to Iran's enormous mineral deposits - Iran has the world's second largest natural gas and fourth largest oil deposits. Tehran is in the process of finalizing oil contracts with Shell (Great Britain/ the Netherlands), Eni (Italy) and Glencore (Switzerland). Nevertheless, German companies are counting on major assignments in the modernization of the oil industry, as well as in the chemical, automotive and energy sectors. "That country, with its young, well educated middle class is seeking membership in the global community - politically as well as economically," says the President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Ulrich Grillo. The BDI considers an "intermediate export volume of over ten billion Euros to be realistic."[9]

Ahead of the USA

The Minister of the Economy is rushing to help German companies regain lost ground. Business with Iran receded during the period of economic sanctions, particularly in relationship to companies from China or South Korea. A rapid advance also offers the opportunity of stealing a march on the US rivals, which cannot yet become engaged in Iran, because the US Congress still holds onto the sanctions policy. Any eventual economic edge Germany and the EU might obtain, could prove helpful, in the context of the US East Asian pivot,[10] in assuring exclusive influence for Berlin in Tehran and a leading role in reshaping the Middle East. The haste displayed by Minister Gabriel with his trip shows that the German government is serious about taking on an independent hegemonic Middle East policy.

Please read also: Make It or Break It.

[1] See Gulf Stability, Hegemonic Conflict at the Gulf (II) and Ein Stabilitätsfaktor.
[2] See Vom Nutzen des Jihad (I) and The Jihad's Usefulness (II).
[3] See In Flammen and In Flames (II).
[4] Mark Leonard: In Iran today the Great Satan is no longer the United States: it's Saudi Arabia. www.newstatesman.com 16.07.2015.
[5], [6] Ellie Geranmayeh: Engaging with Iran: A European Agenda. ECFR Policy Brief, July 2015.
[7] See Der neue Botschafter in Berlin.
[8] See Die Handlungsfreiheit des Westens.
[9] Deutsche Wirtschaft begrüßt Einigung mit dem Iran. www.bdi.eu 14.07.2015.
[10] See Das pazifische Jahrhundert.