During the years that have passed since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the country’s national security considerations have undergone various changes. These changes have taken place in the light of the continuation and pursuit of certain large-scale characteristics of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s establishment. The country’s security considerations can be divided into three discourses: the expansion-based discourse, the maintenance-based discourse, and the growth-based discourse. Every one of these discourses includes four basic variables, namely, “goals and principles of national security,” “national power,” “threats to and vulnerabilities of national security,” and finally “national security policies.”
Arab Spring (Islamic Awakening), as well as its root causes and the speed of its growth were so sudden and rapid that most analysts and observers were taken by surprise and shock. The fact that how self-immolation of a simple vendor in Tunisia led to the rise and growth of democracy-seeking movements in the Middle East and caused domino-like collapse of governments in North Africa and the fact that none of the prominent analysts and futurology experts in the world could take the slightest guess about its emergence, are issues that need separate discussion and call for revision in analytical methods in the face of such political phenomena. On the other hand, the emergence of radical Islamist groups, which followed the deadlock in the freedom-seeking movement in Syria, in addition to the rapid growth of a group like Daesh, which was just a name along other radical groups like al-Qaeda up to a couple of years ago, and by its seizure of vast swathes of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria, in addition to its subsequent change from a militant group into a quasi-state, totally changed the regional playground. Of course, there is no doubt that this development could not have taken place without coordination with security agencies in some regional countries and the world.
However, and without any intention to ignore this approach, we can look at these developments from another standpoint, which holds water at least since 2000 onward. From that different standpoint, it would seem that Western countries, topped by the United States, have mostly tried to take advantage of these developments within framework of their interests, instead of having a role in their beginning and emergence. By looking at regional developments through this approach, we can take responsibility for part of the political game in the region and see the real influence [of Iran] in political currents and trends in the region. On this basis, our security strategy will take a regional turn.
There is no doubt that rapid growth of a militant group, which is bound by no international law, and taking control of vast parts of eastern Iraq and western Syria, whose area is about that of Britain, over the period of a few months, cannot be justified on the basis of the self-motivated and adventurist moves of a radical group. Therefore, assuming that such regional countries as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are one way or another involved in transfer of forces and providing financial support and military equipment for this group, do we have to accept that the policy of these countries, as influential powers in the region, has changed with regard to maintaining stability and balance of powers in the region? Is Saudi Arabia trying to become the gendarme of the Persian Gulf region? Is Turkey trying to revive the Ottoman Empire in the region? Is Qatar trying to turn into an influential power pole in the region on the strength of its huge financial resources? Do these developments mean that the 20th century discourse, in which Israel was the most important enemy of Arabs, has changed and rearrangement of the political map of the region led by the triangle of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey has been put on the agenda of these countries? If this is the case, what position does Iran enjoy and what role is it supposed to undertake? Should the country’s security policy be focused on maintaining the domestic security, or will Iran be also affected willingly or unwillingly by the general chaos in the region? If remaining impartial is not an option, to what extent and in what way we must take part in influencing the trend of regional developments, as a function of which, we will have to regulate our security strategy as well?
The point is that if Daesh, which has no commitment to any kind of international treaty and agreement, is the executive arm of this policy, which is being pursued by emerging powers in the region, in that case, the situation would be somehow more complicated and more complex. As it has proven so far, Daesh is focusing the greatest part of its energy on expanding its control and influence in the region. In other words, the policy of Daesh is mostly extroverted and it pays the least attention to satisfaction and welfare of citizens in areas under its control. This situation can be potentially very dangerous for Iran, because it not only provides this group with necessary motivation to encroach upon Iran's borders, but the possibility of Daesh taking such step in practice is not low at all.
As the evidence shows, Daesh has been committed to none of the international treaties and regulations in its war and basically believes itself in war with the Western hegemonic system in the world. Therefore, in view of the influence and attraction that this group has among Muslims and within various power layers in Central Asian countries, Pakistan and even Syria, it is quite possible for Daesh to try to get its hands on unconventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, chemical and microbial weapons, and if it succeeds, the result would be a total change in the group’s playground.
The way that Daesh has dealt with countries supporting and creating it, is another factor that can determine Iran’ security strategy. Is the alliance between those countries and Daesh group a temporary and short-term solution or a long-term strategy? In the former assumption, when relative stability is established in the group’s territory, challenges and conflicts will spill over toward Arab countries of the Persian Gulf in south and Turkey in north. However, in the second assumption, Daesh would be mostly playing the role of a puppet and proxy for Iran's regional rivals, which through inciting sectarian and religious motivations, could pose challenges to Iran's western borders.
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