Middle Eastern cultures are defined by trade. The practice of bartering continues to be so deeply entrenched in the lives of many Middle Easterners that it shapes their very culture as well as the way they think. When it comes to government and diplomacy, the shrewdness of leaders from the likes of Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq are very much on display.
True to their merchant nature, the Iranians fiercely negotiated the Iranian Nuclear Deal while the US struggled throughout the Iraq War to bargain with Iraq over subsidizing Iraq’s own national security. Although oil-rich Saudi Arabia has been far more liberal with spending and Turkey had devoted itself to building its alliances with NATO members, their aptitude for bartering has also pushed them to pursue counterproductive policies.
In essence, business deals are about maximizing one’s interests while minimizing one’s costs. When a negotiator is able to make a perfect deal, however, it tends to come at the expense of others. As every business owner should fully comprehend, reputation determines the longevity and success of any company. A seller than leaves his customers feeling cheated will eventually lose all of his customers.
A deal that caters to the interests of one, yet thoroughly neglects the interests of all others to the point they cannot, or will not, honor an agreement, is a deal that is sure to be broken.
Technicalities and permissive double-dealing may say Iran is able to do things like test ballistic missiles, but testing the limits of US tolerance and the failure to honor the spirit of the Deal will ensure the Iranian Nuclear Deal collapses.
Many of the problems in the Middle East stem from self-serving, unresponsive governments that undermine each other and their own Peoples by supporting self-destructive policies. As a prime example, state support for terrorist organizations has been a major factor in the creation of threats like al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
OPEC governments for decades have been forced to deal with each other and reach a consensus to serve their broader economic interests, which is becoming true in regards to regional security, but they were also making “side deals” in their support of extremists to perpetuate historic grudges. This kind of “double dealing” did not undermine their OPEC negotiations in the past; however, the consequences now threaten the security and stability of the entire region while the stress of dealing with numerous self-inflicted crises is further enflaming the divisions between nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Meanwhile, violence and instability followed the Arab Spring Revolutions, because governments refused to sacrifice some of their interests to address the interests of their own people. Instead, they opted for violent crackdowns. Just as Iran chose brutal oppression in the 2009 Green Revolution, the Saudis chose to beat down protesters during their Arab Spring Revolution. The heavy-handed approach to dissent may have been effective for these two nations, but the Syrian Civil War demonstrates what will happen when these practices ultimately fail.
Saudi Arabia moved to be somewhat more responsive by affording its People greater representation through “localized democratic institutions,” but cuts to subsidies and a lack of private industry jobs will pressure people to revolt. For Iran, a failure to move forward with reforms and increased political representation will only force dissenters to pursue their interests through destabilizing unrest.
The unfortunate truth is that Iran is dealing with conflicting divisions. Ultimately, the US and the rest of the International Community will have to respond to provocative actions, such as Iran shooting missiles at US vessels; however, the cost of sanctions will likely be the undermining of moderates like President Hassan Rouhani, especially if they are imposed before upcoming elections.
From the perspective of officials like Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the obvious solution is to “double deal” by allowing Rouhani to negotiate with the West and defend the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s undermining behavior by citing technicalities, yet Western interests will only be served if Khamenei chooses to fully support Rouhani efforts and ends the counterproductive policies of his own military. For this reason, it is best to delay the implementation of the Iranian Nuclear Deal until the direction Iran will take is clarified.
Furthermore, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his legislative pursuit of greater presidential powers is trying to legitimize his suppression of his own People’s interests. In other words, he is abusing the legislative process to validate his efforts to circumvent the Representatives of the Turkish People, particularly when it comes to the persecuted minority that is the Kurds, and disarm dissent.
Through a second round of elections, Erdoğan has already attempted to legitimize the suppression of the Kurds and other dissenting factions. In his double dealings with the US, Russia, Middle East allies, and extremists, Erdoğan, as well as his family and associates, have tried to maximize their interests in terms of power and profit. In doing so, Erdoğan has undermined Turkish democracy, regional security, and the economic interests of his own People while alienating his international partners.
Moreover, the current issues faced by countries like Turkey are the result of leadership trying to get too good of a deal for themselves at the expense of others.
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