The second is the variously intransigent Persian nationalist identity, the main characteristic of which is its antagonistic relationship with the Arabs and its other neighbours. It has an inflated imperialist tendency, and this identity converges with the religious one in terms of expansion and extension of its regional influence.
The third Iranian identity arises from and revolves around the concept of the nation state. This identity functions and exists according to the laws of nation states intent on looking out for their own interests and strategies; it therefore depends on political pragmatism. It offers the best hope of achieving regional co-operation founded upon common interests.
These three identities are entangled in a complex and dynamic relationship, competing in some areas and converging in others, but not necessarily in sync on all policies or at all times. There is a constant tension between the identity of the nation state and the other two identities. Moreover, each of these ʹIran-sʹ has an active element in the political and military hierarchy. Overseas, these ʹIran-sʹ function according to what seems to be a division of labour in foreign policy, regionally and internationally, but not necessarily in an organised and controlled fashion.
The importance of mutual relations between nation states
From an Arab perspective, the desire should be to deal with Iran as a nation state and with internal parties who espouse this ʹIranʹ, at the expense of an expansionist and imperialist Iran, be it religious or Persian. The development and consolidation of Iran as a nation state and its taking root in the face of the other identities is a basic requirement for the extension of regional co-operation.
Iran’s two other identities, the religious and the imperialist, do not know what they really want, aside from big slogans and a sense of glory and superiority over others. On the other hand, Iran as a nation state is more rational and more aware of what it wants in terms of security, stability, economics and development.
We can translate the latter through regional co-operation and by Iran playing an active role in the region, without seeking undue influence and hegemony. Such goals are legitimate, and it happens that the Arab states and the GCC have the same goals themselves.
The same can be said about the designation and identity of the Gulf states and there is no ambiguity here. In contrast to Iran, these states define themselves and their political identity as based clearly and strictly on the nation state concept. There is neither an expansionist ideology nor a religious or nationalist one. Jihadist and non-Jihadist Salafist movements operate against Arab nation states most of the time and more often than not they attack them.