Iran starts moderating
While the democratization of Egypt remains stalled by the military crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Syrian crisis shrinks from the spotlight as world powers embrace solutions that serve their purposes, forces of moderation are actually working in the Middle East. Recently elected Iranian President Hasan Rowhani announced his country has converted 40 percent of its 20 percent-enriched uranium into nuclear reactor fuel on Thursday, September, 12th, 2013 while Rowhani seems to have taken his cue from Syria and enlisted Russian President Putin to help facilitate the building of a working relationship with the West. Taking into consideration the reality that Iran was the most significant threat to regional stability and the interests of the International Community before the Arab Spring, this trend of moderation truly helps the region.
Just as the Arab Spring revolutions were sparked by the suicide of one man, the moderation of Iran could help stabilize the region in the long-run. If Middle Eastern countries can move beyond violence, which largely comes from a handful of governments as well as terrorists, and start addressing the grievances of their Peoples, the region can start rebuilding and addressing the interests of the Peoples. Ironically, Iran could prove to be a source of hope and leadership, if President Rowhani can continue to shift his government away from provocative, destabilizing policies. Once the new leader starts to develop relationship with the world, the next test is whether he can enact reforms that will address the grievances of his People, instead of crushing opposition as we saw in 2009.
Meanwhile, it appears Russia has decided to take on a more proactive role in global affairs through the use of soft power. In doing so, the former superpower may well succeed in expanding its sphere of influence through nonmilitary means, just as America did. Although the US often looks to our European allies and other partners like Japan for assistance in our dealing with uncooperative states, Russia may well be best positioned to help resolve some of our ongoing conflicts. While the United States has been forced to isolate “rogue” states, Russia, as well as China, has been able to use America’s absence to forge deeper relationships. In essence, Russia and China are positioned to be America’s good cop where we have had to be the bad cop, which only makes sense as Russia has been America’s bad cop since the beginning of the Cold War when it comes to countries in our sphere of influence.
Certainly, Russia, as well as China, has its own internal issues that the US cannot support and there is likely to be conflict over how the Russian-American team resolves conflicts, but this could be the start of a beautiful friendship. That said, there are serious issues with the solution to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. For example, Russia continually degrades the credibility of American intelligence while the current solution does nothing to address the interests of Syrian opposition forces, i.e. the reason there is a war. Russia has, however, already convinced the Assad regime, which is in a state of duress, to recognize its chemical weapons are a means to its undoing, so Russia may well be able to pressure Assad to embrace moderation and limit his attacks to opposition forces. On the flip side, the US should now work to develop a convincing alternate, which can keep Syria stabilized, to the Assad regime, so that Russia might support a seize-fire agreement that the opposition forces can also accept.
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