Hagel Think Tank Sees 'Post-Mullah' Iran as Ally

"Atlantic Council" sees democratization of Arab world making Iran more moderate by 2030.

Gil Ronen,

Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel

 Atlantic Council, a think tank whose chairman is Chuck Hagel, U.S. President Barack Obama's candidate for Defense Secretary, envisions a "post-mullah" Iran by 2030. Such an Iran could be a " natural partner" for the U.S., it argues.

In a position paper titled "Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World," the Atlantic Council sketches out a scenario in which the Arab Middle East becomes democratized, eventually affecting Iran as well.

"A trajectory of success for the suggested US strategy toward the Arab transformation likely will have wider reverberations," it states. "To the degree the Arab transformation unfolds to 2030, and the Middle East political landscape has evolved to the point where Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab states bear more resemblance to Turkey or Indonesia than to Yemen, they will be a powerful force of example and almost certainly will have a broader impact throughout the Islamic world." 

"It is difficult to see the Shia regime in Iran not being contained or perhaps rolled back in such a political environment," the think tank explains. "Opportunities for Iran’s Shia expansionism in the region would be extremely low. And it is difficult to envision an already globalized Iranian public not being inspired by regional examples of popular democratic governance.

Waxing optimistic, the think tank states that "For US strategy, Iran should be viewed as a potential natural partner in the region, as it was until 1979. A post-Mullah dominated government shedding Shia political ideology could easily return to being a net contributor to stability by 2030." 

While advocating a gentle mentoring approach toward the Arab world, the paper also appears to endorse applying pressure on Israel to cede territory, for its own good. "Achieving a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict would enhance US strategy and interests in the region" and "would also help Israel accommodate to the new realities," it explains.

"The emergence of populist, Islamist oriented governments in Arab transitioning states will give the Palestine issue greater resonance among an increasingly politicized and empowered Arab public.  The current Palestinian reality—division between West Bank and Gaza, a moderate secular Palestinian leadership that has been discredited by the failure of negotiations, and a weak economy dependent on Israeli facilitation—is unsustainable. 

"The US will need to persuade its Israeli ally to recognize that the changing strategic calculus in the region will require Tel Aviv to make peace with its Arab neighbors to have a secure future as a democratic, Jewish state. However, the United States would be wise to also develop a contingency strategy that takes into account a possible scenario where the Israel-Palestinian issue remains unresolved to 2030 and the impact of such a reality on the US role in the region."