Iranian Raisi pushes regional diplomacy as nuclear tensions rise | Nuclear Power News
Tehran, Iran – The administration of President Ebrahim Raisi in Iran continues its push for regional diplomacy as tensions with the West over its nuclear program continue to mount.
The conservative president came to power in August 2021 with a promise to “extend a hand of friendship and brotherhood” to other nations, with a particular focus on the region.
His officials continue to push for a ‘balanced’ foreign policy approach that leaves no stone unturned to improve relations – with the exception of Israel – but his administration has so far succeeded only in strengthening ties. with the East only.
Tehran has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity over the past year, and Raisi has devoted all of his foreign trips as president to potential allies and friends in the east – with a focus on the strengthening of economic cooperation.
The Iranian capital hosted three presidents in June alone.
Last week Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, met with Raisi and led a high-level delegation that signed several cooperation agreements.
Turkmenistan’s new 40-year-old president Serdar Berdymukhamedov also led a high-level political and economic delegation during his state visit last week at the invitation of Raisi. The two sides have signed eight political, economic and cultural cooperation agreements, according to the Iranian president’s office.
Raisi called for moving towards signing decades-long cooperation agreements with the two nations.
Iran’s only major ally in South America, US-sanctioned President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, was also in Tehran earlier this month to sign a 20-year cooperation plan, echoing a message to fight against imperialism and discuss deepening relations in trade, energy, tourism and technology.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad renewed his support for Iran’s regional positions, particularly on Palestine, during his surprise visit in May, his second since the start of the war in Syria more than a decade ago. .
Moreover, Raisi used the opportunity to strengthen ties with Qatar, which has grown considerably closer to Iran, the latter having supported him during a years-long blockade by a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. Raisi signed 14 agreements during a trip to Doha in February, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visited Tehran weeks later as the two also explored cooperation during the next FIFA World Cup.
All of these leaders also secured an audience with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, indicating the country’s seriousness in trying to deepen ties.
Iran and Oman also pledged to strengthen their relationship and signed 12 agreements in May, when Raisi paid the first state visit by an Iranian president to Muscat since the 2020 death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Next, Iran has Turkey in its sights, as a visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been under discussion since last year. But it hasn’t worked yet, among other things because of Turkey’s relations with Israel.
But Iran’s biggest pivot has been to China, the biggest buyer of its oil under US sanctions, and Russia, which may be seen as more eager to expand its ties, especially after facing sanctions. Western powers for its invasion of Ukraine.
Iran said in January that its 20-year cooperation agreement with China had entered the implementation phase, while Raisi presented Iran’s proposals to renew a 20-year agreement to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to the Kremlin the same month.
“The economic aspect”
The word “region” has always been important in Iran’s foreign policy approach, but Raisi has emphasized “geoeconomics” there, according to Mohsen Shariatinia, assistant professor of international relations at Shahid University. Beheshti from Tehran.
“The Raisi administration is pursuing two goals,” he told Al Jazeera. “Maintaining Iran’s position in the fragile balance of power in the region and linking the Iranian economy to that of its environment. The economic aspect is relatively new.
Shariatinia stressed that there cannot be much “balance” in Iran’s foreign policy approach at the moment, as power centers in Tehran are increasingly convinced that Washington lacks willingness to lift its severe sanctions.
Just last week, the United States introduced new sanctions aimed at harming a network of Iranian petrochemical producers.
That’s when talks to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which began in April 2021, continue to stall, with Tehran and Washington failing to find a way out. to reach an agreement.
Both sides continue to maintain that the other must make a concession in order to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement the United States unilaterally abandoned in 2018, embarking on a campaign of “pressure maximum” still in force today.
Meanwhile, the United States and its European allies introduced censorship at the latest board meeting of the global nuclear watchdog earlier this month to condemn Iran’s nuclear advances. Iran responded by limiting nuclear inspections and installing new centrifuges, further complicating a return to the original deal.
“Alternatives for the West”
As prospects for reinstating the nuclear deal remain bleak, finding alternatives to the West remains the main driver of Iran’s recent regional push, according to Hamidreza Azizi, a CATS fellow at the German Institute. international affairs and security.
But at the same time, he said, if Iran had better relations with the West, closer ties with most countries in the region would automatically result, with no additional effort on the part of Iran. Iran.
“The reason is that most of Iran’s neighbours, especially Arab states in the Persian Gulf, prioritize relations with the United States over cooperation with Iran,” Azizi said. at Al Jazeera.
The case may be somewhat different for Central Asian countries, some of whose leaders have recently visited Tehran, as they traditionally have closer ties with Moscow, according to Azizi.
“But still, they never wanted to be caught in the crossfire of a confrontation between Iran and the West; therefore, they are always cautious when it comes to any real cooperation with Iran – beyond agreements and political declarations.
Moreover, he said, Central Asian states cannot fund big projects with Iran when most others are often unwilling to take on that role for fear of US sanctions. And some Arab neighbors may be unwilling to engage in meaningful economic cooperation amid lingering tensions with the West.
“As such, the best Iran can take from recent high-level visits is political breathing space, in terms of signaling to the world that US pressure cannot isolate Iran in the international arena and that Tehran has other options for developing friendly relations. .”
Shariatinia, the Tehran-based university professor, said if the nuclear deal is not reinstated and tensions rise further, Raisi’s recent deals and efforts to strengthen ties in the region will be affected.
“But it depends on the agreements, what they are about and who signed them,” he said. “For example, it probably won’t impact Iran’s relations with Russia, but relations with countries like the UAE could be clearly affected.”