Imperial Greatness

Iran has a grand strategy to make its place in the Middle East. It is using various
strategies to expand its remit in the region.

By Maj. Gen. Inam Ul Haque (Retd) | March 2020

The Middle East has always been in the news for understandable reasons being a battleground among Arabs, Iranians, Europeans, American and Israelis. It comprises the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia), the Anatolian Headland (Turkey) and the Iranian Plateau (Iran). These regions converge on the Syria-Iraq territory, historically the “Fertile Crescent” that is inherently unstable. The Saudis lack the ability to cover the entire Middle East. Turkey is working to reclaim the ‘Turkish Middle East’. Iran only has a clearly articulated strategic vision and ambition, rooted in its history, geography and revolution. The US,as a result, stays interested.

A nation’s Grand Strategy is the “purposeful employment” of all elements of national power in a given and foreseeable regional and international environment. Traditionally - though arguably - its focus remains on the military effects of national policy; however, it has an overlapping interface with foreign, media, economic and internal policies. Its modernist understanding implies firm political ownership and military support.

The constituents of the US grand strategy include defending the homeland, maintaining global balance of power, investing in democracy, good governance and human rights, pursuit of rogue actors, defending liberalism and countering the global jihadist threat. The 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) document outlines four areas of NSS, namely protection of the American people, homeland and way of life; promoting American prosperity; preserving peace through strength; and advancing American influence. For the Middle East, NSS focuses – besides other threats - on Iranian expansion and influence; Iranian military threat, especially its intelligence capabilities, ballistic missiles and cyber potential; and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology. The US response emphasizes regional alliances, supporting reform, retaining necessary military presence, enhancing allies’ capabilities in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency and effective missile defence.

Despite the cited impressive theoretical framework, today America has no real grand strategy. It only has a patchwork of doctrines and operational strategies, legacies from the Cold War; incompatible with US national goals, national power and the changing nature of global threats and opportunities. None of the emerging challenges like global warming, cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and energy security can be fought using the military.

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The writer covers global affairs and political sociology. He can be reached at tayyarinam His twitter handle is @20_inam

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