News / Middle East

    Analysts Watch Iran's Post-sanctions Relationship with Neighbors

    FILE - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, presents a draft of the country's new budget and sixth development plan to the parliament speaker in an open session of parliament, in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 17, 2016.
    FILE - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, presents a draft of the country's new budget and sixth development plan to the parliament speaker in an open session of parliament, in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 17, 2016.
    Heather Murdock

    Now that international sanctions against Iran have been lifted, the Islamic Republic's relations with its neighbors, in particular Saudi Arabia, are being closely watched.

    Saudi Arabia, the dominant Sunni country in the region, is particularly on edge as Shi'ite-led Iran prepares to rejoin the world economy, said Gulf State Analytics founder Giorgio Cafiero.

    Sanctions relief is expected to release $100 billion worth of frozen assets back into the Islamic Republic's sagging economy. The financial windfall is considered one of the premier achievements of the current reformist government.

    Iran's central bank on Tuesday said it already sees $32 billion unfrozen, and industries like oil and air travel have resumed international business.

    Over the course of the nuclear negotiations that led to sanctions relief in exchange for a scaled-back nuclear program in Iran, the kingdom has been increasingly suspicious of U.S.-Iran relations, Cafiero said. Saudi Arabia views increased cooperation between the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and Iran as a threat to U.S.-Saudi relations.

    FILE - An Iranian laborer works at a unit of South Pars Gas field in Asalouyeh Seaport, north of Persian Gulf, Iran, Nov. 19, 2015. Due to sanctions relief, Iranian industries like oil and air travel have resumed international business.
    FILE - An Iranian laborer works at a unit of South Pars Gas field in Asalouyeh Seaport, north of Persian Gulf, Iran, Nov. 19, 2015. Due to sanctions relief, Iranian industries like oil and air travel have resumed international business.

    "The Saudi leadership views the Obama administration's diplomatic overtures to Tehran as nothing short of betrayal," he said, "and as a major setback to Riyadh's geostrategic interests in the Middle East."

    Saudi Arabia's recent execution of a prominent Shi'ite cleric signals that the kingdom does not intend to take this setback lightly, according to Cafiero. The execution prompted an attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran and a subsequent severing of diplomatic ties between the two regional giants.

    "The Saudis' execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was intended to send a message not only to a domestic audience, but also to Washington," he said. "Put simply, Saudi Arabia will seek to counter Iran's expanded influence on its own terms."

    Zero sum game

    Iran and Saudi Arabia are often described as being perpetually at odds because both countries view their relationship as a zero sum game. This means they view any economic or geopolitical win from one side as an equal loss for the other.

    Iran, however, is suffering under a deep recession brought on not only by sanctions, but by corruption and poor management, according to economists, and it could be years before the average Iranian feels the benefit of sanctions relief.  

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that sanctions relief marked the beginning of a "difficult road" for his country as it re-enters the global economy.

    "Today is just the start for an innocent human who was kept chained unjustly by the hands and feet for 12 years," he said. "Sanctions are gone, but there is a long way between sanctions and development."

    Rouhani's remarks come two days after the United States imposed new sanctions against the country's ballistic missile program.

    The new sanctions may partially be an attempt to allay fears among Gulf countries, said Theodore Karasik, Gulf State Analytics' Dubai-based senior adviser. But, he added, they may not be enough to quiet the increasingly tense region.

    "This move is a nod toward the [Gulf Cooperation Council] and their concern about the Islamic Republic's capabilities in this arena," he added. "However, the sanctions are only targeting a few firms and individuals."

    Better ties with West

    In the case of the Iran nuclear deal, one of the major "wins" for Iran is increased cooperation with Western nations, evidenced not just by the deal, but by diplomatic successes that followed, according to Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council.

    FILE - U.S. Navy sailors detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran, are shown in this photo released by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency. Jan. 13, 2016.
    FILE - U.S. Navy sailors detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran, are shown in this photo released by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency. Jan. 13, 2016.

    The swift release of 10 U.S. sailors who the United States said had mistakenly entered Iranian waters and the release of several Americans from Iranian jails in a prisoner swap are both a result of the diplomatic channels opened through the nuclear agreement, he said.

    "I think it's a result of both sides deciding to use the diplomatic channel that the nuclear deal created to resolve other problems of mutual concern," Marashi said, adding, "Hopefully, this trend will continue."

    The trend, however, is fragile. Some hail the deal as one that will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in the near future and potentially rescue its economy, but it has also angered many other people.

    "Such progress achieved on diplomatic fronts is not irreversible," Cafiero said. "There are political factions in both Washington and Tehran that oppose diplomacy and prefer a confrontational relationship."

    And for those on the Iranian side who prefer confrontation, new sanctions can be held up as proof of Western treachery. Iranian leaders have already condemned the sanctions, saying they are illegitimate and will not impact the country's ballistic missile program.

    Additionally, the United States will have a new president next year, and Obama's overtures toward Iran have been highly controversial inside the country, according to Camelia Entekhabifard, an Iranian author and news commentator.

    After 35 years without formal diplomatic ties, she said, "it doesn't look like Iran and the next U.S. government have plans to normalize the relations."

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora