The Geopolitical Role of Middle Eastern and North African Countries in Regional Security (Case Study: Iran and the Arabs)

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Associate Professor of Political Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 Master of Political Geography, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran


Throughout history, the often presence of "power" and "wealth" alongside "ideology" and "competition" has led to the formation of hostile relations between countries. Among the regions of the world, the Middle East and North Africa have more complicated relationships to achieve security due to the presence of countries with special characteristics. In this situation, if wrong strategies are adopted by the powers in this region, the result will be unsolvable. As we approach the third decade of the twenty-first century, headlines from the Middle East are dramatic and worrisome, often characterized by upheaval and change. The MENA are sensitive areas of security and energy in the world, which have witnessed many tensions and conflicts. Some contemporary examples of this are Palestinian occupation, Iran–Iraq War, invasion of Kuwait, the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Arab Spring, and the emergence of Islamist groups like Taliban and ISIL. Middle Eastern and North Africa countries have very complex relationships with each other. In order to secure their interests and security, each of the countries in the region seeks political and security cooperation with other countries. On the other hand, countries with higher geopolitical weights will be more influential. Therefore, in order to reveal the reciprocal and constructive relationship between the countries of the region on the one hand and security on the other, the concepts of "region" and "security" must be opened. Finally, this paper evaluates the interaction between the security of the Arab countries and Iran, one of the most influential poles in the region, which has led to major changes in the geopolitical relations of the region. In so doing, it looks at the security situation in the region in light of these developments, trying to find out what historical, social, and economic factors explain these similarities and the differences.
The descriptive-analytical research method and the reliability of the research were evaluated through quasi-Delphi's questionnaire, while the reliability of its assessment tool was measured via Cronbach's alpha test. The situation of security discourses in Iran and Arab countries in the region was assessed with three values: solidarity (1), negative solidarity (1), and non-solidarity (0). Ten countries got selected through the questionnaire and the numerical weighting of the Likert scale (between 0 and 5) was performed, resulting in the coefficients of "geopolitical weight in the region" and "communication with Iran". To measure the reliability of the statistical test questionnaire with Spearman-Brown's prediction of 0.75, Cronbach's alpha coefficient of 0.72 (acceptable) was achieved. All findings were analyzed with Excel, then to convert to a concept model in the form of a diagram by iThoughtsX and Ps 2018 software programs. Statistical population included experts and students, giving a sample community of 10 professors and 20 students for "Convenience Sampling" method with a questionnaire (engaging 5 professors and 10 students) and "non-structured interview" (involving the remaining 5 professors and 10 Students).
Results and Discussion
Since 1979, Iran has reduced poverty, expanding its middle class and literacy rates, which has boosted its power. Iran, as a growing power, and Saudi Arabia may remain two powerful and influential states in the region that are grappling with instability. However, they are at odds with each other on a variety of issues. Recent developments in the Middle East are a manifestation of the "conflict" pattern. As another pole, Saudi Arabia alone cannot play a geopolitical role due to its low geopolitical weight, compared to Iran. Given the combination of communication and geopolitical weight, this description correctly shows that there is a weak connection between the two influential poles of the region, namely Iran and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, it should be noted that according to Buzan's theory, poles in the Middle East and North Africa determine the direction of the region. This means defining the region's borderlines by two conflicting powers. In this regard, Iran can take into account its geopolitical weight and national strength and recognize its true position in order to have a realistic assessment of the existing threats and opportunities.
Unfortunately, pieces of evidence show that the region's political systems do not work for collective security. The geopolitical limitation of the region can be seen in lack of sufficient attention to the "position" and "role" of Iran by the Arab countries of the region. In other words, the countries of the region are aware of the influential geopolitical role of Iran, but are weak in terms of their relationship with this role. The key to achieving this security in the region is realization of convergence and the growth of the positive correlation coefficient with Iran in both groups of countries with "negative" and "cross-sectional" interactions which paves the way for convergence and access to regional security in the Middle East and North Africa security complexes. If this happens, it will lead to a further convergence with Europe and the international community. The results show that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco are in the same group. Also, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria are present in a cross-sectional communication group. At one time, these countries were pro-Iranian and at other times pro-Saudi. Generally, they follow the "principle of national interests" and the "principle of ideology". Finally, there are counties like Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, which in most cases have aligned themselves with Iran's goals.


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Volume 53, Issue 1
April 2021
Pages 265-282
  • Receive Date: 26 April 2020
  • Revise Date: 19 October 2020
  • Accept Date: 19 October 2020
  • First Publish Date: 19 October 2020