Iran, Regional and Global Security Implications

Historically Iran has played a pivotal role in the region and its choices have affected the policies of states not only on a regional level but on a global scale.

iran-regional-global-securityRegional tensions are often scrutinized through the lenses of intra-system parameters, checks and balances, traumatic history, economics and the quest for power among a system’s core actors. For outsiders, including intrusive actors, tensions are more than bilateral or multilateral feuds, since they have complex consequences.

They constitute a substantive threat for spillover side effects with serious consequences on global security and global economy. Often this factor is overtly or covertly undermined by the actors regionally involved. National interests may have a global effect when the stakes bear global consequences and affect third parties’ evaluative judgments.

It is not a question of personal sympathy with but rather a question of which policy serves a specific purpose, one that covers the security needs of as many as possible. This is extremely important because states do not operate in a vacuum of conflicting interests. On the contrary, they have to defend national interests ideally in a way that does not produce zero-sum games.

To the rest of the world a system’s stability is a crucial input to global stability and the capacity of the international system to absorb regional crises under systemic anarchy and financial pressures. Non-systemic actors tend to formulate perceptions or misperceptions on the basis of their intrusive ability and cognitive bias as well as their security priorities. In effect this defines to a great extent their policies and alternative choices based nominally on rational choices that maximize gains for several sides.

In international politics conflict is an endemic feature of state interaction

Yet, it describes a non-permanent condition, since states may choose to cooperate. I stress the word “non-permanent” because states are or should behave in a rational way. That means peace and conflict are two sides of the same coin and reflect balances between relative and absolute gains.

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Historically Iran has played a pivotal role in the region and its choices have affected the policies of states not only on a regional level but on a global scale. It has been a decisive factor of formulating security perceptions in neighboring countries but also to countries far away. To put it in systemic analysis terms Iran has been a crucial input of security into a space and time dimension that goes beyond the security subsystem it belongs and operates. It is a decisive equilibrium or disequilibrium factor.

In the timeless Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero goes through a number of ordeals, just like the Greek Odysseus, punished by the Gods. Iran does not need to take further this long, perilous journey to discover the secret of eternal life. In international politics the concept of “life” may be associated to survival of states and security. It is up to its leadership to make choices that willingly produce non-zero sum games.

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George Voskopoulos is Associate Professor of European Studies, Head of the Department of International and European Studies, at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece. He received his PhD in European Studies (UK, Exeter University) in 2001. George has published books and articles (in Greek, English and Russian) in Greece, the US, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Albania, India, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, the Czech Republic and the UK. Read other articles by George.