A World for All
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Kayhan Barzegar

Head of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of the Islamic Azad University. He is also Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS) in Tehran.

After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the world has been moving to a new order. Apart from the military and territorial battles, this war has shaken the world on political fronts. One of the characteristics of the new order is the status of rising regional powers, which along with great powers have got an opportunity to play their own independent role, commensurate with their national power. Regional powers seek to adjust their own national interests according to the changing geopolitical environment. In this respect, we have entered the era of “A World for All.”

Three geopolitical developments have strengthened the concept of “A World for All.”

Firstly, it is the weakening of the Western influence in the broader Middle East due to the withdrawal of the U.S. military forces, which has left the field of politics and security to regional powers for the first time after the Second World War. The absence of great powers has simultaneously provided the ground for both cooperation and rivalry between regional actors. Prudent enough, these actors, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, have tended to cooperate with one another in order to ensure their geopolitical interests. Concurrently they have diversified their relations with both the non-Western and Western worlds. One evidence of that is a shift in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy towards strengthening regional cooperation, particularly resuming political relations with Iran in March 2023.  

Secondly, the war in Ukraine has polarized global politics and brought the concept of the non-Western world into the political and economic dimensions of international relations. The new geopolitical dynamics in the aftermath of the ongoing war in Ukraine have given a great opportunity for rising regional powers, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India, Brazil, South Africa, and others, to give up their traditional inactive role in dealing with global issues and assume an independent and balanced position, commensurate with their national power. On the one hand, they oppose the war in Ukraine, understandably seeking equal application of international law to all nations. On the other hand, they are not eager to see the triumph of the West and its military bloc NATO in this conflict, as they feel that the West has already gone too far in handling global issues in its own favor. 

Thirdly, it is China’s increased role in regional and global geopolitical rivalries. Indeed, China has seized the opportunity created by the two above-mentioned geopolitical developments and actively engaged in world politics. Although China does not approve of the war in Ukraine, there is no doubt that it will use all of its possibilities to prevent the West from winning this war, because the weakening of Russia would destabilize world politics to China’s detriment. The new geopolitical developments have offered China an opportunity to propose its own Global Security Initiative, focusing on political and geopolitical instruments designed to create a new balance in global politics, with the active participation of the non-Western world and regional powers. By mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia to resume political relations and simultaneously enhancing its own relations with them, China has emerged as an adroit international player in Middle Eastern affairs.

In this respect, we are currently facing two worlds―the Western world and the non-Western one―that are locked in technological and geopolitical competition and cooperation with each other.

In this encounter, the Western bloc (the U.S. and three major European powers) and the Eastern bloc (Russia and China) seek to win over regional powers in order to enhance their own global status. Interestingly, the Western bloc, acting in the Cold-War-era logic, seeks to build up  military-political coalitions in order to preserve its traditional dominance over the regional and global trends. In contrast, the Eastern bloc is forging development and economic coalitions in order to weaken the West’s most significant instruments of global dominance, such as international sanctions and financial mechanisms (dominance of the U.S. dollar in trade).

Indeed, the transition to a new world order is the result of growing political, economic, and military capabilities of emerging regional and global non-Western powers, on the one hand, and of the West’s faults in managing existing pressing global issues, on the other. The access of rising powers to independent technologies and deterrent capabilities, combined with their geographical location, has given them relative superiority, enabling them to create new regional supply chains, utilizing their geopolitical advantages for laying new trade routes and ensuring wealth and security in their regions. For instance, the integration of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) between Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and India, with China’s East-West Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a geo-strategic and developmental project bypassing the Western world. By controlling and enhancing this new regional supply chain, this axis is able to link the landlocked northern Eurasian territories with open southern regions in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean regions, as well as with the Eastern and Western Mediterranean in the Levant and North Africa. To this end, it seems that the traditional geographical assumptions of IR theory, such as the “heartland” (a pivot area), that is “whoever controls Eurasia, will control the world,” is regaining attention in the world and we are back to geopolitics.   

Concurrently, the West’s faults in handling pressing international and regional issues have considerably weakened its bloc. At present, the prevalent conceptual and substantive discussion at most international conferences focuses on how to deal with de-globalization or de-Westernization. The West is trying to push the idea that Western liberal  democracy can adjust itself to any new geopolitical change and preserve its global superiority. For instance, by raising the issue of decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s, the West was able to homogenize the world in its favor. The dominant view at that time was that national forces engendered by national and public uprisings in colonies would turn towards the West. Thus, the West was able to resolve existing discrepancies between Marxism and Communism in its own favor. The West successfully managed to benefit from the Soviet Union’s economic and political deficiencies in governance and eventually won the Cold War. Dominating in technology and ideology, the West thus became the world’s sole superpower.  

Western globalization did not give prosperity and security to all nations equally. As a result, nationalism and the tendency towards self-reliance grew in the non-Western world.

Active use by the West, primarily the U.S., of such tools as military power and sanctions, double standards in managing international affairs, and, most importantly, the intentional rejection of the non-Western world’s striving for multilateralism provoked political revolt in the non-Western world against the West.

Nuclear and human rights discrimination against Iranians and Palestinians in favor of Israel are only two examples confirming this policy of double standards. The imposition of sanctions against Russia after the start of its military operation in Ukraine, without any consultation with the non-Western world, has endangered international food and energy security. 

The new order should ensure balanced political and economic relations in an equal “world for all.” This is not necessarily an anti-Western order; rather the non-Western world is seeking to build balanced relations with the West in order to equalize its economic and developmental relations at the regional and global levels. The non-Western world is now seeking a share in producing security and wealth in the world. As great powers are locked in a conflict, regional powers get a chance to have their say and play their own role in global and regional politics, and concurrently organize their cooperation and interactions in a meaningful manner. Under such circumstances, Western and Eastern powers need to develop cooperation with regional powers in order to raise their global status. They need to direct their political and conceptual philosophy of world governance towards building “A World for All.”  

The Vision of a Multipolar World
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With the worldview crisis in Russia’s relations with the West entering a hot phase after the beginning of the Special military operation in February 2022, the future of the world order and principles of international relations is again among the issues making media headlines around the world and featuring widely in discussions held by political pundits. Let’s take a look at it through the prism of foreign policy planning.