If there is a state that benefited from contemporary Middle Eastern Chaos (from the Invasion of Iraq 2003 to so-called ‘Arab Spring’ and most importantly the Syrian War), is without a grain of doubt, is Iran. But the question now is; is Iran up for the glorious opportunities afforded (and open) to them?
Strategists appreciate the fact that one of the most important factor within strategic thinking, modelling, analysis or development is the ability to adapt flexibly to the opportunities afforded by external or internal environments and actors (i.e. chance: O in the SWOT model).
Iran, if it can move itself from the rigidities of ”religious-laden thinking”, or resistance-mentality (as a result of constant negative victim syndrome), and start acting as a great (yes you did not misread it), I repeat start acting like a great, not middle, power, by;
- refusing being ”put on the dock” by her great power equals of west and east on her nuclear programs, and continue to pursue her ambitions as a nuclear power without a hint of care what others say or threats to do,
- continue to foster close diplomatic and security alliances with close ‘special eastern friends’ of Russian and China (for a P3), and Pakistan, even Afghanistan (India as well)
- expand her naval, aerial and ground capabilities and presences across areas of influences, from middle east to east Africa,
- and finally, perhaps the most important of all, deliberately securing the opportune afforded of strengthening the ”Shia Corridor” made up of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, with Bahrain as a nurtured client (continuing to actively supporting the resistance elements within), the old Safavid regions; while expanding soft power special relations with Armenia in the North (as a counter to Azerbaijan developing relations with here arch-regional enemies).
In short, Iran problems is the inability to act like a great power as it still playing the role of not-yet-matured [vulnerable] revolution. My professional to Iran advice will be:
[a] stop reacting to others views and demands, and start creating own freedom of initiatives, action and capabilities.
[b] stop pretending, or lack the ability to make up your overt position, on whether you support, or not, local fellow Shias struggles, in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain etc. Machiavelli advised, the wrong move for a prince is the inability to make up a decision of siding with one party over another as when the end comes, the victors (if not supported) will forever be an enemy, while the defeated parties (if not wholly supported) will never forgive for the betrayal. However if position is taken, in victory much is won, and in defeat nothing is really lost.
To sum up, Iran start acting like a Great Power, and not middle powerless over-encircled power. Take what is afforded to you by chance and make it yours, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain– make these formally your spheres of interests (or client states); support them militarily, economically, informational, diplomatically and in any other ways needed. Finally, accept the declaration of Shia-Sunni Inter-Islamic War, and take a side with your fellow Shias, and whatever outcome be, you will never be a loser!
- Everyone, that every major regional powers, in today’s poly-centric world (as of ancient world order), is again hurriedly carving their own defined traditional areas of influences, and the question is why not Iran?
- If Iran keeps acting, and accepting in playing the role, of lesser power when ”bullied” by other great powers, for example accepting to  diligently and enthusiastically attending nuclear meetings (to have big powers lecture and push her around), and afterwards to be the first to cheerfully announce progress, just to be ‘slapped back’ by big bullies contradicting statements, or again  raising the hand energetically like a school child attempting to get the attention of his/her teacher (”me, me, me”), that to be included in Syria Talks, it shows weakness, and thus Iran can not create credible profile of a great power or any power to either (a) the big powers who will never have respect or real fear of her, (b) regional enemies, same as first point, and (c) even her own close allies and dependents in, and across, the region and beyond, who might, correctly, reckon Iran is weak and pathetic.
- In short, Iran needs to act independently, diligently and sternly against all, big or small, local or global, and steer direct into the eyes of the bullies and say, chap bring it!