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Iran as a Regional Hegemon

Iran as a Regional Hegemon
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   Angers 1 Austen John Angers Elizabeth Nyman POLS 425 6 May 2014 Iran as the Middle East’s Hegemon  Throughout the centuries, there have existed certain states and empires that dominate their realms. Power and prosperity can lead a single state to gaining an immense amount of influence over others. If a state possesses this kind of importance and power, it might be referred to as a hegemon. A hegemon is a state that is powerful enough to influence events throughout a region or throughout the world. Several periods in history have been dominated by certain superior states that rose up above the rest. Powers like the British Empire gained a great deal of wealth and influence in the aftermath of the decline of France. Throughout the 20 th  century, American wealth and power had grown to the point where the United States can safely be considered the current hegemon. States also compete for regional hegemony, as is the current situation in the Middle East. Many states in the area possess varying levels of power and economic might, but only a few lead the rest. Hegemony in the Middle East must be obtained through dominating all other rival powers, and this is no easy task. One Middle Eastern state that stands out from the pack, and has made a serious case for its regional hegemony is Iran. Iran  possesses the population, economic strength, and relative stability to achieve hegemony. In this  paper, I will argue that Iran is the current regional hegemon in the Middle East. I will also discuss other potential hegemons in the area and why they have failed to reach hegemon status. Iran, or the Islamic Republic of Iran as it is officially named, is the site of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Various iterations and versions of the Persian Empire dominated the   Angers 2 area for ages. There is even evidence that ancient kingdoms were centered on the site for several centuries prior to the dawn of Islam. The earliest accounts of an ancient civilization in Iran point to the first Persian Empire, which existed starting in 550 BCE (“ Iran profile ”).   As a result of  being the center of several strong and powerful empires, the Iranian Plateau has been continuously inhabited for ages. The product of years of settlement, along with several mid to large size cities, is modern-day Iran being a center of population and culture. According to a 2014 estimate by the CIA, The population of Iran stands at slightly over 80 million citizens (“Iran”). Other civilizations that have been continuously inhabited throughout the centuries have also progressed to being population centers. Ancient civilizations like China and Egypt are today home to some of the most populated parts of the world. Many of these states or regions have  produced potential hegemons as well.  Now that we have discussed part of the reason why Iran is the population center that it is today, it is important to investigate if and why population should be important to a hegemon. Population size, relative to all other rival states, is necessary for a state to reach hegemon status. A large population can lead to a stronger sense of nationalism that would result in support for the efforts of the state. Population can benefit the state in other areas, such as a providing the state with a large workforce, and military. Economic and military strength are other prerequisites for hegemonic status, and aspects of a state that can increase its influence overall. As a result,  population affects all relevant areas of a state’s presence in its region and in the world. Certain states that have attempted to achieve the role of a regional hegemon have failed to do partially as a result of a lack of relative population size. There have also been states that took advantage of other strong aspects of the state besides population, due to a lack of demographic superiority. In the 1990s, cracks along the ethnic and racial lines of Yugoslavia led to the dissolution of the state   Angers 3 into several smaller nations. This led to struggles for power and influence between certain states in the area, Serbia being one in particular. Serbia gained influence over its neighboring states not through overwhelming numbers, but through organization. “The Serbian hegemony owed itself not to economic or demographic reasons. It was based on social- cultural factors” (Norbu 834).  Each potential hegemon or power has its own resources and characteristics that make it strong and influential. The next characteristic in the criteria demanded by a potential hegemon is relative, if not obviously superior, economic strength. Like a large population, a healthy and strong economy  provides the state with a myriad of useful benefits. By controlling and nurturing a robust economy that dwarfs that of its neighbors and rivals, a state gains the upper hand in several areas. If the economy is stronger than others in the region, then the state can use this to influence trade and the economic structure of the region. Iran possesses an economy that is relatively healthy when compared to other economies in the Middle East. Not only is it more stable and sound, it is also quantifiably larger than other national economies in the area. The CIA estimates that in 2013 , Iran’s national economic output was more than $ 987 billio n (“ Country Comparison”). This places Iran’s economy in the top 20 national economies in the world by output. It is one of only a few states outside of what is traditionally considered to be the industrialized world to have an economy of its size. Much has been analyzed and discussed in relation to Iran’s economic position in the world in the last few years and decades. As stated before, Iran is a state that is usually not considered to be part of the first world or industrialized world by scholars and writers. Regardless of this position as somewhat of an outsider in the economic and political landscape, Iran has grown its economy to be one of the largest in the world. Alongside its strength, it is also   Angers 4 necessary to discuss why Iran’s economy is oft en times viewed with suspicious or cautious eyes. Much concern and debate has occurred related to the recent actions of the Iranian government, namely the suspicion that the state has been pursuing a nuclear weapon. As a result of this, many countries incl uding the United States have created damaging sanctions that hurt Iran’s economy. According to the United States Department of State, “In response to Iran’s continued illicit nuclear activities, the United States and other countries have imposed unprecedented sanctions to censure Iran and prevent its further progress in prohibited nuclear activities ” (“Iran Sanctions”). International condemnation has resulted in sanctions that ban trade with Iran; ban the importing of Iranian goods, and other damaging effects. These sanctions are designed to demand the attention of the Iranian government, so that it will take notice of the concerns of the international community. They have been somewhat of a success, with Iran noticing the damage to its economy and recognizing that it will not meet its potential for growth without addressing the sanctions. This has caused the Iranian public to look towards solutions for the sanctions. There is also a sense of frustration amongst the public over the current stagnation of the national economy and incomes. Iranians have looked to their government to help lift the sanctions and calm their economic worries. “Iran’s increasingly impoverished middle class  voted in huge numbers last summer for President Hassan Rouhani, who promised to reignite growth by restoring ties with the rest of the w orld” (Erdbrink). Rouhani campaigned as a reformer and a moderate, and as someone who planned to reverse the years of mismanagement of the economy. As Iran’s head of state, Rouhani sought to see what progress could me made to relieve the sanctions placed on Iran. Economic reforms and discussions with the international community have both been part of the new president’s plan to revive the Iranian economy. In April 2014, The International   Angers 5 Monetary Fund estimated that the Iranian national economy would begin to recover in 2014  because of the Islamic Republic’s structural monetary reforms  and deals to lift the sanctions (“ Iran economy stabilizing, to boom after nuclear deal: IMF ”). These reforms and deals seek to  provide Iran with a much- needed economic boost. They would also further solidify Iran’s important position as one of the largest economies in the world and in the Middle East. The last part in the criteria for a regional hegemon that I have created, and which Iran also meets, is relative stability. If a state has a strong government when compared to its neighbors, it can more easily exert its dominance. States that have experienced civil war or failed revolutions leave themselves vulnerable to influence from for stable, strong states. In a region, there might be a number of failed or weak states, and opportunity that could be taken advantage of by stable states. In the Middle East of today, there are several states where a scenario like this is possible and even probable. Iran is in a unique position not only because of its strength and relative stability, but also because of the incompetent governments of its neighbors. Nearby states like Syria have been consumed and severely crippled by civil war and continued fighting. This gives Iran a chance to exert its dominance and to influence a state that is in dire need of assistance. Iran also neighbors two of the best examples of failed states in the world, Iraq and Afghanistan. Instability and military intervention by foreign powers has weakened whatever threat the two states posed to Iranian hegemony. “Tehran has been the principal beneficiary of the American policy of regime change, as it removed two of Iran’s  arch enemies and tied down American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan” ( Rahigh-Aghsan and Jakobsen 560). Saddam Hussein, the expansionist dictator of Iraq tried to annex the small, sovereign state of Kuwait in the early 1990s. The ideology of Saddam-era Iraq was that Kuwait was never truly its own state,


May 28, 2018


May 28, 2018
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