Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 00:51 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 00:51 | SYDNEY

Iran: Will jaw-jaw forestall war-war?


Rodger Shanahan


15 April 2008 11:33

The Australian’s account of 'secret' US/Iranian nuclear talks is a bit more dramatic than The Independent’s original story given the low-key nature of the second-track discussions. What it does highlight, however, is the multi-layered dialogue occurring between Iranian government and non-government officials and a variety of actors, at the same time as the US seeks to use sanctions to force Iran to provide the necessary transparency in its nuclear program and reduce its support to Shi’a militias in Iraq.

Iran has been very active in trying to court its regional Arab neighbours at the same time the US has tried to establish an anti-Iran Gulf bloc. Both actors have strengths and weaknesses — the US’s enormous military assets provide security for the Gulf states’ energy supplies but its decision to invade Iraq was never supported by the Gulf states and remains an unstated black mark. Iran on the other hand, is a geographic reality for all the Gulf states, even though fears abound that it is seeking regional hegemony through the use of Shi’a co-religionists.

Now a third front in Iran’s diplomatic strategy to avoid political isolation has emerged. Last month Iran formally lodged an application to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Linking China, Russia and the ex-Soviet Central Asian states (Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia are observers) the SCO has indicated that its moratorium on accepting new full members is likely to stay. Regardless, Iran’s application highlights its strategy of using its current and potential future commercial links with Russia and China to counterbalance US efforts to isolate it. Whether it is through individual second-track, regional bilateral or wider multilateral fora, Iran continues to seek dialogue with a variety of actors as a means to forestall efforts to isolate it internationally. Time will tell how successful this strategy will be.