Friday, August 25, 2006

new report by CHATHAM house on IRAN as regional power in Middle East



A Middle East Programme report

Edited by Robert Lowe and Claire Spencer

Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) is an independent body which promotes

the rigorous study of international questions and does not express opinions of its own. The opinions

expressed in this publication are the responsibility of the authors.

© The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2006.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by

any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or any informations storage

or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Please direct all

enquiries to the publishers.

ISBN: 1 86203 174 6

ISBN-13: 978 1 86203 174 6

Cover design and typesetting by Matt Link

Map by Francesca Broadbent

Printed by Kallkwik

Cover photographs

Clockwise from top left:

An Iranian cleric stands in front of a picture of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock and Hizbullah fighters

during a meeting in support of Hizbullah at the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, outside Tehran, 26 July

2006. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranians celebrate after Iran beat Bahrain 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying match at the Azadi Stadium

in Tehran on 8 June 2005, ensuring their qualifiction for the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany. (AP

Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

A reactor building at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. Iran and Russia signed a nuclear fuel

agreement on 5 June 2005, paving the way for Iran to get its first reactor up and running. (Vahid


Shanghai Cooperation Organization guests, from left to right, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Pakistan

President Pervez Musharraf, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai pose at the Shanghai International

Convention Centre, China, 15 June 2006. President Ahmadinejad invited China, Russia and other

Central and South Asian nations to convene a special meeting in Iran to boost energy cooperation.

(Elizabeth Dalziel/AP/EMPICS)

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in talks with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud

al-Faisal, Tehran, 12 June 2006. (STR/AP/EMPICS)

The presidents of Iraq and Iran, Jalal Talabani and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at a press conference, in

Tehran, 21 November 2005. President Talabani spent 3 days in Iran discussing bilateral and regional

issues. (Fidan Serkan/ABACA/EMPICS)


Contributors 4

Executive Summary 5

Introduction 6

Iran 8

Iraq 18

Syria 21

Lebanon 24

Israel 29

Jordan 32

Egypt 34

The Gulf Cooperation Council States 36

Turkey 38

Russia and the Former Soviet States 40

Afghanistan, Pakistan and India 44

China and Japan 48

Appendix: Map of Iran and its Region 50


Rime Allaf, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House

Ali Ansari, Reader in Modern History, University of St Andrews and Associate Fellow, Middle

East Programme, Chatham House

Maha Azzam, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House

Olivia Bosch, Senior Research Fellow, International Security Programme, Chatham House

Laura Cooper, Administrator, Middle East Programme, Chatham House

Fadi Hakura, Founder, Conkura Consulting and Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme,

Chatham House

Christopher Hood, Director, Cardiff Japanese Studies Centre, University of Cardiff and Associate

Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House

Ayesha Khan, Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge and Associate Fellow,

Asia Programme, Chatham House

Robert Lowe, Manager, Middle East Programme, Chatham House

Yiyi Lu, Associate Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House

Valerie Marcel, Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Development Programme,

Chatham House

Yossi Mekelberg, Lecturer in International Relations and Politics of Development, Webster

Graduate Centre, Regents College and Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham


James Nixey, Manager, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Gareth Price, Head, Asia Programme, Chatham House

Farzana Shaikh, Associate, Centre of South Asia Studies, University of Cambridge and Associate

Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House

Nadim Shehadi, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House

Gareth Stansfield, Associate Professor in Middle East Politics, University of Exeter and Associate

Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House

Claire Spencer, Head, Middle East Programme, Chatham House

The Middle East Programme at Chatham House undertakes research and analysis on the politics

and international relations of the Middle East and North Africa. The programme also provides a

forum for the discussion of Middle East affairs by hosting conferences, seminars and meetings

with visiting speakers. For further information or to join the Middle East Programme meeting

mailing list please email Robert Lowe.


Robert Lowe, Manager, Middle East Programme

Tel: +44 (0)20 7957 5737



Executive Summary

The Middle East is bedevilled by crises. The war between Hizbullah and Israel, the conflict between

Israelis and Palestinians, the instability in Iraq and the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme create

a climate of deep unease. Iran is involved in all these crises, to a greater or lesser degree, and its

regional role is significant and growing.

In applying pressure on Iran to cease support for Hizbullah, to refrain from hostility towards Israel,

to resist meddling in Iraq and to abandon any thoughts of nuclear military capability, the United

States hopes for the cooperation of Iran’s regional neighbours. However, Iran has successfully

cultivated relations with its neighbours, even those Arab and Sunni states which fear its influence,

and is in a position of considerable strength.

Iran is simply too important – for political, economic, cultural, religious and military reasons – to be

treated lightly by any state in the Middle East or indeed Asia. The wars and continued weaknesses in

Afghanistan and Iraq have further strengthened Iran, their most powerful immediate neighbour,

which maintains significant involvement in its ‘near-abroad’. The US-driven agenda for confronting

Iran is severely compromised by the confident ease with which Iran sits in its region.

Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology has recently dominated its relations with the Western powers,

but not those with its regional neighbours. Understanding the dynamics of Iran’s relations with its

neighbours helps explain why Iran feels able to resist Western pressure. While the US and Europeans

slowly grind the nuclear issue through the mills of the IAEA and UN Security Council, Iran continues

to prevaricate, feeling confident of victory as conditions turn ever more in its favour.

Iran’s domestic power structure is complex and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is only one of a number of

players. His dramatic millenarian rhetoric attracts headlines, but the broader governing polity does

share his robust conviction that Iran is the linchpin of a wide region and can maintain firm

independent positions.

Iran views Iraq as its own backyard and has now superseded the US as the most influential power

there; this affords it a key role in Iraq’s future. Iran is also a prominent presence in its other war-torn

neighbour with close social ties, Afghanistan. The Sunni Arab states of Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf

are wary of Iran yet feel compelled by its strength to maintain largely cordial relations while Iran

embarrasses their Western-leaning governments through its stance against the US.

Syria and Iran enjoy an especially close relationship, as most clearly seen in their alliance against the

US and Israel, and support for Hizbullah. Iran’s relationship with Lebanon is long and intricate and

the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah in July-August 2006 may be partly seen in the context of

the broader struggle between Iran and the US/Israel. Israel certainly views Iran as its greatest threat

and the tension between the two has increased.

The relationship between Iran and Turkey pivots between friendship and rivalry but Turkey favours

good relations and the avoidance of further regional instability. Russia is a significant economic

partner to Iran, is heavily involved in its nuclear programme, and tends to take the role of mediator

at the international level.

The recent rapprochement between Iran and Pakistan remains ambiguous while Iran and India have

notably improved ties, mostly on the basis of Indian energy needs. Energy security and economic ties

also dominate Iran’s relations with China and Japan.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

BI-Monthly Analysis Of Regional Integration (BIMANORI)#1: 21/8/06



“Watching the world, watching our Regions”


 Number  1—21 August, 2006


The RegionsWatch BIMANORI News features selected news, with links to further information about regional integration efforts worldwide. It is emailed free-of-charge to subscribers twice a month. Comments and suggestions are welcome to You can find these summaries posted simultaneously on



  1. Legislative instruments / conventions / protocols
    •  comesa must go: mboweni
    • asean charter to be completed at its 40th anniversary: indonesian fm
    • sadc meet to discuss bloc’s investment protocol
  2. Forums—social and otherwise
    • ecowas youth forum delegates lament inaccessibility to funds
  3. Trends
    • An alternative to a failed mercosur
    • geopolitical diary: a new iranian pole?
    • the uncertain fate of mercosur
    • sadc progresses
    • caricom vote seals top oas post for chile
    • brazil, portugal foster cooperation mercosur-eu
    • eac forces in joint military exercises
    • vietnam snubs unfair ec tariffs
  4. Communication strategies
    • eac unknown in east africa
    • tripoli hosts meeting of cen-sad communication officials
    • asem still lacks visibility after 10 years
  5. Regional institutions
    • sadc parley in the offing
    • wama paves way to monetary union
    • nigeria to spend 12% of 2007 budget on health



Dear RegionsWatcher,


Nature abhors a vacuum, and so when regional organisations go making ostensibly grandiose claims that they will create a single currency, seek economic convergence, or establish an army, it is easy to speculate that these are not articulated outside a context.


In this first-ever edition of RegionsWatch’s BIMANORI, we bring you, in keeping with the tag of “Making Regions Accountable”, a whole, different perspective of the filter through which to examine regional integration efforts.


 Bimanori” (Bi-monthly Analysis on Regional Integration), seeks to focus on news on five particular aspects of regional integration:


  • Legislative instruments / conventions / protocols
  • Forums—social and otherwise
  • Trends
  • Communication strategies
  • Regional institutions


All these five, in some way or another, lend themselves to a degree of accountability. You can read more about it on the RegionsWatch blog:


For the sake of reference, you can find the excerpts for the articles below in each edition. In addition, we will attempt to bring you a context upon which a lot of the trends and developments are predicated. It is RegionsWatch’s earnest belief that by looking at contexts, one begins to provide a rationale as to the trajectory of the regional integration agreements.


In this case, there are three important contexts. The first is the debacle of the collapse of the WTO agreement in July; the second is the regional crisis of Lebanon and Israel, which has, thankfully, seen a “cessation of hostilities” by the UN—despite what many may have perceived to be its characteristic pussy-footing. Finally, there is, especially now that his country is a full-fledged member of MERCOSUR, the context of the apparent growth of leftist ideology as expressed by Venezuela’s Chavez in Latin America.


Understanding Regional Integration…

I think it’s fair to say that regional integration is often rendered to a level of abstraction that it is quite understandable why citizens, as in the East African Community case, have no idea what it stands for, but a bunch of regional ministers meeting every now and then.


So when Libya’s Qaddafih organises a meeting of CEN-SAD communications officials, you begin to feel that CEN-SAD recognises there is a communication problem about how the organisation projects itself. In fact, the officials also met to discuss the modernisation of the technical communication facilities, as well as tariff systems among member states.


It’s important to understand that it is one thing to have an ineffective communications policy even when you are doing good work, and quite another to have one for the sake of having one. When one reads how ASEM, (Asia-Europe Meeting) still after ten years, is considered irrelevant, or how the Organisation of American States (OAS) is being seen as “an increasingly irrelevant institution”, you begin to wonder whether it is not better to focus on transforming the regional institution instead of lamenting over how it never became part of the consciousness of those citizens to whom it was supposed to mean something.


…and pruning it

Truth be told, it is RegionsWatch’s view that considering the gamut and proliferation of regional partnerships, it might be better to streamline processes within existing and well-established regional organisations, such as ASEAN; MERCOSUR; ECOWAS; SADC; COMESA; Andean Community; etc and look at how to fast-track particular processes on, say, a regional economic currency. In addition to this gargantuan effort could be the discarding, or possible disbanding, of other regional arrangements that are merely predicated on economic development, or a mere consideration to subsume them into these well-established ones.


One understands that this is a view that would not be palatable to those keen to dispense free-trade medication, but it is definitely something that is very much food for thought. The absence of an alternative like this would only create, especially in the context of the failed talks of the WTO, a free-for-all by the QUAD (comprising the same usual suspects of Canada, the EU; US and Japan) and otherwise, for bilateral deals increasingly done on the sly, and predicated almost exclusively on economic development.


Jabbing the Hegemon Hard

Speaking of which, when CARICOM showed two fingers to the US over its selection of the Socialist Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, it was doing more than taking a gentle swipe at the US; it was also underscoring the importance of the OAS removing itself from the growing perception of irrelevance, and moving it towards what the article calls “a political approach”, rather than one solely based on economic development—as is the approach former aspirants Francisco Flores, former president of El Salvador; and Mexico’s foreign minister Luis Ernesto Derbez [who was in the infamous WTO green room in Cancun!! Work out the mathematics!], respectively, would have adopted.


Other than the economics, however, what is clear is that when it comes to regional integration projects, a lot of work needs to be done to move the regional entities forward. Be it in terms of creating a charter for it (as is the case of ASEAN as it looks forward to celebrating forty years of its existence); be it by way of an investment protocol for SADC; or a redefinition of a clear and present putative nuclear power as a regional hard-man, such as Iran, in the Middle East.


It is therefore sad to see what, in effect, is a vilification of some countries in the Latin American region, such as Venezuela—simply because Chavez has been uttering some leftist ideology that does not seem to gel with the proponents of free trade. That he has been publicly aligning himself with Cuba’s Castro has done little to help his image.


Then again, he is far from the only one to mix with Castro. CARICOM recently threw its support behind Castro, warning “ill-wishers not to “create problems for the Cuban people at this time.”” Things are definitely happening in the region; and it’s easy to speculate that the big US Of A might not be too keen on these developments and trends.


Political Spaces, Tectonic Shifts

If we take a look at the trends and developments that this newsletter alone has thrown up, we can begin to see an interesting set of tectonic shifts that might run counter to the convention of ‘practising’ regional integration.


First of all, with COMESA being asked to disband by none other than SADC, is an interesting development that is worth watching. Worth watching because South Africa is the putative hegemon in the Southern African region, and when it barks, its smaller neighbours usually listen, on account of its economic clout.


If we forget for a second the fact that a lot of band-wagoning happens when conflicts like these surface—and usually in favour of the “big guy” (South Africa)—we can already see that it was going to be inevitable that a lot of the neighbouring countries would prefer allying themselves with the de facto hegemon, as expressed by the decision of some to tie their currencies to the weightier South African rand, than ally themselves to the ostensibly-ailing COMESA.


Already, it’s not looking good, with COMESA having lost Mozambique and Tanzania to SADC. With SADC heavyweights talking about a SADC central bank, a currency (modelled on the EU), and now a SADC Parliament (though on paper since 1996) that will play catch-up to the ECOWAS Parliament and East African Assembly already in existence, it’s not hard to predict the trajectory of this most internecine of political inter-regional conflicts.


This calls into question whether negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are going to foster such inter-regional conflicts over which country ought to be considered the hegemon to the degree that, say, ECOWAS will begin to ask questions about the relevance of UEMOA or the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). That referred to above could be a sign of things to come. What’s more, it might go to underscore the degree to which the EU, as a quintessential economic actor, has managed, to some extent, to foster a divide-and-rule strategy over the Africa Union’s Africa Economic Community that is supposed to underpin the regional entities already-established on the continent.


Speaking of conflicts, at the time of writing, there has been an effective “cessation of hostilities” between Israel and Hezbollah—thanks to the UN resolution passed last week in New York.


Seeing as nature just loves a vacuum, one country that has already made headline-news is keen to promote itself as the new regional entity in the Middle East: Iran. The article below maintains that “Tehran has openly begun to challenge the geopolitical balance of power in the Middle East.”


The article suggests that Iran is well-aware of the weakness of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in dealing with issues “threatening the region”. Furthermore, it has facilitated a rapprochement with Egypt—considered the “mover and shaker” of League of Arab States (LAS)—, and is therefore keen to exploit the vacuum by creating a regional organisation that would comprise the country itself, Iraq, Syria; and Lebanon.


This new development has sent the Saudis scattering like rats in the woodpile to try to steer Turkey away from Iran, which has already-established good relations over Iraq.






Questions Remain

Chavez has talked about MERCOSUR forming an army, and creating energy pacts within the grouping; as well as buying out national debt so as to form strategic alliances.


There are claims that MERCOSUR is unnecessarily politicising itself, especially with Chavez’s articulations that are considered as ‘ranting’. There are also queries over Paraguay and Uruguay—two of the founding members of the grouping. Paraguay is supposed to be uncomfortable with Chavez, but wants to stay for what it can get—which could be, in exchange for a US military base, a preferential trading agreement with the USA. As for Uruguay, it is supposed to be re-thinking its membership of MERCOSUR. This leaves the space for Chile.


One article, by Sam Logan for the Swiss-based ISN Security Watch, entitled An Alternative to a Failed MercoSur{sic}, is really about how Chile is the “free trade agreement expert” . This expertise, it is suggested, could make it the quintessential alternative to MERCOSUR, on account of its Pavlovian attitude and strategy on FTAs. This line of argument serves to underscore the ideology underpinning the article.


In the final analysis, it is in RegionsWatch’s view not ‘absurd’ as claimed by one commentator, for MERCOSUR to have an army—because it is not practised “even in the EU”! The West African grouping of ECOWAS during the Liberian conflict of the 1990s established ECOMOG (ECOWAS Monitoring Group) initially on an ad-hoc basis. It was set up to respond to a sub-regional imperative of conflict resolution for the Liberian conflict. It is now being subsumed under the much-talked about African Economic Community (AEC) as part of the established regional grouping’s (of ECOWAS, SADC, IGAD) standby force.


That there are two good articles castigating MERCOSUR suggests very strongly that something monstrous is afoot. Especially with Venezuela in the MERCOSUR house, it is clear that it is making some uncomfortable watching and monitoring for free-trade proponents – of which there are many! Watch out for some more MERCOSUR bashing over the next couple of weeks and months.


Finally, as regards ASEM, with ASEAN and APEC there, is there really a need for ASEM?


Happy Watching!



Making Regions Accountable



  1. comesa must go: mboweni



The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has been called upon to disband to give way to the emergence of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) monetary union, with South African Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni lambasting the continent’s biggest trading bloc for being an obstacle to the attainment of a common currency in SADC





  1. asean charter to be completed at Its 40th anniversary: indonesian fm


The ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Charter is expected to be completed and ratified at the 40th anniversary of ASEAN on August 8, 2007, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirajuda said.



  1. sadc meet to discuss bloc’s investment protocol


Finance Ministers from the Southern African development Community (SADC) next week meet in Maseru, Lesotho, to discuss the regional grouping’s Finance and Investment protocol, with a view to harmonising fiscal polices among member states.

The Summit, which runs for two days beginning August 17, will also see Tanzania taking over the chairmanship of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security.


  1. ecowas youth forum delegates lament inaccessibility to funds




Youth delegates participating in the ongoing Second Edition of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) Youth Forum have lamented difficulty in accessing funds to support youth entrepreneurship.



  1. An alternative to a failed mercosur


In a region where loud voices of integration shout over a reality of failed trade policies, Chile’s alternative to access to the Pacific may be a viable solution.



  1. geopolitical diary: a new iranian pole?



The Iranians have taken their desire to emerge as the regional hegemon to the next level. Emboldened by the direction of the Lebanese crisis, and backed by its Arab (mostly Shiite) allies, Tehran has openly begun to challenge the geopolitical balance of power in the Middle East.



  1. the uncertain fate of mercosur



Several days ago, Córdoba, Argentina, was the stage for a meeting of presidents of MERCOSUR countries, a gathering that stood out for its markedly leftist tinge. This was mostly because several other regional leaders were invited, but only two attended: Evo Morales, who was recently elected president in Bolivia, and veteran dictator Fidel Castro, who has governed Cuba since January 1, 1959.



  1. sadc progresses



Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao of SADC said at a press briefing in Gaborone yesterday that some of the achievement gained during Mogaes tenure include European Unions reaffirmed commitment to support SADC and its headquarters project



  1. caricom vote seals top oas post for chile



In a defeat for the White House, the socialist interior minister of Chile appeared to clinch the top OAS post with strong backing from Caribbean nations.





  1. brazil, portugal foster cooperation mercosur-eu

from :


Brasilia, 10 (Prensa Latina) Brazil requested Portugal to support an agreement between the Southern Common Market and European Union.

The issue topped the agenda of the meeting between Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, at the Planalto Palace (executive headquarters) in Brasilia on Thursday.



  1. eac forces in joint military exercises



East African Community (EAC) defence forces will carry out a joint disaster management exercise in Jinja, Uganda, from September 20 to 30, this year



  1. vietnam snubs unfair ec tariffs



Hanoi, Aug 10 (Prensa Latina) Vietnam called "unacceptable transgression of international free trade laws" the European Commission ten percent tariff raise on leather shoe imports from Vietnam.

The protectionist measure is a harsh blow to Vietnam s leather shoe industry that will cause a 14-16 percent plus accumulative rate by September when added to the four percent tax it has paid since April.



  1. eac unknown in east africa



MANY people in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania do not know about the East African Community (EAC).



  1. tripoli hosts meeting of cen-sad communication officials



Tripoli, Libya, 07/20 - Officials in charge of communication of the Community of Sahelian-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) convened here Tuesday to discuss the modernisation of the technical communication facilities and tariff systems among member states.



  1. asem still lacks visibility after 10 years



KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 (Bernama) -- Ten years after the launching of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Bangkok in 1996 amid much optimism, substantive cooperation between both regions leaves much to be desired and tangible achievements lacking ahead of the sixth summit in Helsinki this September.



  1. sadc parley in the offing



The Southern African Development Community (SADC) will soon have a Parliament, Shoshong MP Duke Lefhoko told a press conference on Friday



  1. wama paves way to monetary union



The process of integrating the economies and currencies of West African States is in full gear, as the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA), set up in 1992 to facilitate this process, has embarked on a vigorous sensitization campaign by organising seminars in all the fifteen ECOWAS member countries on a regular basis



  1. nigeria to spend 12% of 2007 budget on health



Abuja, Nigeria 07/29 - Nigeria is to allocate 12% of its 2007 budget to the health sector, President Olusegun Obasanjo has told West African Health Ministers meeting here.

Opening the ministerial meeting Thursday, he reaffirmed his administration`s determination to continue to treat health as "a national priority along with education, food and nutrition."






The RegionsWatch BIMANORI is a fortnightly newsletter issued by RegionsWatch News Service. Its purpose is to circulate selected information on regional integration, efforts, trends and developments worldwide, through the filter of regional integration initiatives and developments that facilitate accountability.


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