OPINION: Iran’s new trajectory is well underway, leaving the West with considerably reduced weight in future relations, writes Shannon Ebrahim.
The tone of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in his address at the opening of the UN General Assembly indicates a clear change in the country’s foreign policy, even if its strategic direction remains the same.
Raisi made one of America’s most hostile denunciations of the UNGA, saying, “Sanctions are the new way the United States makes war on the nations of the world. Raisi also criticized US policies on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Iran’s goal appears to be to portray US power in the world as irrelevant. Iran’s tone towards the West has already hardened under Raisi, but its foreign policy team will likely be guided by a combination of realism and pragmatism.
As Iran pushes the United States to lift the sanctions and join the JCPOA, it no longer sees its salvation as dependent on the lifting of sanctions but rather on its ability to forge solid trade relations with neighbors in the region. and the economic powers of the East. The priority will be to make the sanctions ineffective rather than lifting them.
Raisi will expand the policy of “resistance economy” – a strategy to reduce Iran’s vulnerability to external sanctions. He pledged to make “economic diplomacy” a top priority with the aim of increasing Iranian exports of value-added products such as gasoline, motor oil, tar and other products in high demand. and difficult to sanction.
Raisi has repeatedly pointed out Iran’s 15 neighbors and their market of 500 million people with whom Iran should promote trade, and of which Iran currently has only a tiny share.
Raisi’s appointment of Hossein Amir Abdollahian as the new foreign minister on August 11 signaled that the direction of Iran’s foreign policy would be to look eastward. Amir-Abdollahian has long been a proponent of the Negah Beh Sharq (Looking East) foreign policy orientation, preferring a policy centered on China rather than the United States and Europe.
Amir-Abdollahian was disappointed with the West during Iran’s negotiations on the nuclear deal and saw how the Europeans would claim to support the lifting of sanctions, but in reality delay and postpone talks about it.
Raisi and his allies saw how the Rouhani administration looked to the West to solve Iran’s economic problems and achieve economic growth, but instead obtained “broken promises” and “unprecedented sanctions”.
Amir-Abdollahian expressed his position in a statement he made on Iranian state television in February this year when he said: “You have to keep in mind that we are located in Asia. Experts believe that the next decades belong to Asia and emerging powers, especially economic powers, have created this trait that we need to redefine our relationships with influential countries.
“In West Asia, we seek to institutionalize the achievements of the ‘Axis of Resistance’, and in the East, we seek to use the capacities of emerging economic powers to develop our economy and international trade.
Amir-Abdollahian became the Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs from 2011 to 2016 and adviser to the conservative speaker of parliament thereafter. He has become known as the face of the “axis of resistance”, seeking to strengthen Iran’s anti-American partners in the Middle East.
He had close ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, unlike his predecessor, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was distrusted and marginalized by the IRGC. Zarif was more at ease with the West, having graduated from prestigious American universities and spent decades representing Iran at the UN.
Amir-Abdollahian, meanwhile, became deputy foreign minister after completing his doctoral thesis on the failures of US strategy in the Middle East after 9/11.
Amir-Abdollahian has wasted no time over the past six weeks engaging constructively with key policy makers in the countries Iran seeks to squeeze even closer into its neighborhood – Pakistan, Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait and Syria. His first meeting as foreign minister was with his Pakistani counterpart visiting Iran, and both stressed the need to strengthen bilateral relations on the political and economic fronts.
They welcomed the creation of two new border posts and the forthcoming holding of a joint economic commission and a trade committee. Amir-Abdollahian stressed that Iran is ready to meet Pakistan’s energy needs, especially in terms of natural gas, electricity and industrial products.
Amir-Abdollahian played a strategic role during his first foreign visit to Iraq and met with Iraqi President Barham Salih. He reiterated Iran’s support for the independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. The two agreed on the need to expand economic ties between the two countries.
Amir-Abdollahian then traveled to Syria and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his counterpart Faisal Miqdad, praising Syria’s position as an effective member at the forefront of the resistance. Amir-Abdollahian also recently met with Qatar’s foreign minister to discuss improving trade relations.
Iran’s new trajectory is well underway, leaving the West with considerably reduced leverage in future relations.
* Shannon Ebrahim is the foreign editor of the Independent Media group.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the IOL and the independent media.