Summary: What lies in the future of the Middle East once the specter of an nuclear-armed Iran disappears (said tobe imminent every year since 1984)? Not peace, unfortunately. Stratfor describes what to expect in the next chapter of this misgoverned region.
Aftershocks of the Iran Deal:
Why Middle Eastern Conflicts Will Escalate
Stratfor, 28 August 2015
Tehran’s competitors in the region will not sit idly by without attempting to curb the expansion of Iranian influence. This will not manifest in all-out warfare between the Middle East’s most significant powers; Iran is not the only country well versed in the use of proxies. But the conflicts that are already raging in the region will continue unabated and likely only worsen. These clashes will occur on multiple fault lines: Sunni versus Shiite, for example, plus ethnic conflicts among Turks, Iranians, Arabs, Kurds, and other groups. The Iranian nuclear deal in the short term thus means more conflict, not less.
Stratfor has long predicted that the role of regional hegemon will eventually fall to Turkey, which boasts the largest economy in the Middle East and is strategically situated at the confluence of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, on the Sea of Marmara. It is not a coincidence that what is now the Turkish commercial capital spent more than 1,500 years as the center of powerful empires, from 330 CE, when the Byzantine Empire was founded, until 1918, when the Ottoman Empire fell.
Like the United States, Turkey has some converging interests with Iran; its rivalry with its neighbor to the east is not a zero-sum competition. For one, Turkey depends on Iranian oil, which in 2014 made up 26% of Turkey’s oil imports. Lifting sanctions on Iran will offer Turkey’s commercial class, which is hungry for the potential economic returns, ample opportunity to invest.
Besides the economic links between the two powers, Tehran and Ankara also share some strategic interests. For example, both oppose the rise of an independent Kurdish state from the ashes of the Syrian civil war and the Iraqi conflict. While Tehran has at times offered military support to Kurds fending off the Islamic State in Iraq, Iran has a significant Kurdish population of its own, with estimates ranging anywhere from 6 million to 7 million people. Almost 15% of Turkey’s population is Kurdish, and Ankara has had to contend with Kurdish insurgency since 1984.