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Iran’s Raisi pushes regional diplomacy as nuclear tensions rise

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Tehran, Iran – The administration of President Ebrahim Raisi in Iran is constant its push for regional diplomacy as tensions with the West over its nuclear programme proceed to build up.

The conservative president got here to energy in August 2021 with the promise of “extending a hand of friendship and brotherhood” to different nations, with a particular give attention to the area.

His officers proceed to advocate for a “balanced” international coverage approach that doesn’t neglect any alternative to enhance relations – apart from Israel – however his administration has to date been principally solely profitable in strengthening ties with solely the east.

Tehran has seen a flurry of diplomatic exercise previously yr, and Raisi has devoted all his international travels as president to allies and potential associates within the east – with an emphasis on boosting financial cooperation.

The Iranian capital hosted three presidents in June alone.

Last week, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, president of Kazakhstan, met Raisi and led a high-level delegation that signed a number of cooperation agreements.

The 40-year-old new president of Turkmenistan, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, additionally led a top-tier political and financial delegation throughout his state go to final week on the invitation of Raisi. The two sides signed eight agreements on political, financial and cultural cooperation, based on the Iranian president’s workplace.

Raisi has referred to as for transferring in the direction of signing decades-long cooperation accords with each nations.

Iran’s solely main ally in South America, President Nicolas Maduro of fellow United States-sanctioned Venezuela, was additionally in Tehran earlier this month to signal a 20-year cooperation plan, echo a message of combating imperialism, and focus on furthering relations in commerce, vitality, tourism, and know-how.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad renewed his assist for Iran’s regional stances, particularly on Palestine, as he made a shock go to in May, his second because the conflict in Syria conflict started greater than a decade in the past.

Moreover, Raisi has capitalised on a chance to spice up ties with Qatar, which has grown considerably nearer to Iran because the latter backed it throughout a years-long blockade by a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. Raisi signed 14 agreements throughout a visit to Doha in February, and the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, travelled to Tehran weeks later as the 2 additionally discover cooperation throughout the upcoming soccer World Cup event.

All these leaders had been additionally granted an viewers with the Iranian supreme chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, indicating the nation’s seriousness in attempting to deepen ties.

Iran and Oman additionally pledged to strengthen relations and signed 12 agreements in May, when Raisi made the primary state go to by an Iranian president to Muscat because the 2020 passing of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Next in line, Iran has Turkey in its sights, as a go to by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in dialogue since final yr. It has but to work out, nonetheless, amongst different issues due to Turkey’s relations with Israel.

But Iran’s largest pivot has been in the direction of China, the biggest purchaser of its oil underneath US sanctions, and Russia, which can be perceived as extra desperate to develop ties particularly after going through Western sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

Iran mentioned in January that its 20-year cooperation accord with China has entered the implementation stage, whereas Raisi provided Iran’s proposals for renewing a 20-year settlement to Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout a go to to the Kremlin the identical month.

‘The economic aspect’

The phrase “region” has at all times been necessary in Iran’s international coverage approach, however Raisi has launched a serious give attention to “geoeconomics” to it, based on Mohsen Shariatinia, assistant professor of worldwide relations at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University.

“The Raisi administration pursues two goals,” he advised Al Jazeera. “To maintain Iran’s position in the fragile balance of power in the region, and to intertwine Iran’s economy with those of its surrounding environment. The economic aspect is relatively new.”

Shariatinia pointed on the market can’t be a lot “balance” in Iran’s international coverage approach in the intervening time as energy centres in Tehran are more and more of the assumption that Washington lacks the need to carry its harsh sanctions.

Just final week, the US launched new sanctions geared toward hurting a community of Iranian petrochemical producers.

This is whereas talks geared toward restoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear take care of world powers, which started in April 2021, proceed to be stalled as Tehran and Washington have did not discover a approach to an settlement.

Both sides proceed to keep up the opposite must make a concession with a view to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the accord the US unilaterally deserted in 2018, embarking on a “maximum pressure” marketing campaign nonetheless in impact in the present day.

On the opposite hand, the US and its European allies launched a censure on the newest board assembly of the worldwide nuclear watchdog earlier this month to sentence Iran’s nuclear advances. Iran responded by limiting nuclear inspections and putting in new centrifuges, additional complicating a return to the unique accord.

‘Alternatives for the West’

Since the prospects of restoring the nuclear deal stay gloomy, discovering alternate options to the West remains to be the primary driver behind Iran’s latest regional push, based on Hamidreza Azizi, a CATS fellow on the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

But on the similar time, he mentioned if Iran loved higher relations with the West, nearer ties with most nations within the area would come mechanically in consequence, with out additional effort from the Iranian aspect.

“The reason is that most of Iran’s neighbours, especially Arab states of the Persian Gulf, prioritise their relations with the United States over cooperation with Iran,” Azizi advised Al Jazeera.

The case could also be considerably completely different for Central Asian nations, a few of whose leaders have just lately visited Tehran, as they historically get pleasure from nearer ties with Moscow, based on Azizi.

“But still, they have also never wanted to be caught in the crossfire of a confrontation between Iran and the West; hence they are always cautious when it comes to any actual cooperation with Iran – beyond political agreements and statements.”

Moreover, he mentioned, Central Asian states can’t finance large initiatives with Iran whereas most others are sometimes unwilling to take up that position for fear of US sanctions. And some Arab neighbours could also be unwilling to enter into significant financial cooperation amid lingering tensions with the West.

“As such, the best Iran can get out of the recent high-ranking visits is some room for political manoeuvring, in terms of signalling to the world that US pressure cannot isolate Iran on the international stage and Tehran has other options to develop friendly relationships.”

Shariatinia, the Tehran-based college professor, mentioned if the nuclear deal just isn’t restored and tensions develop even increased, Raisi’s latest agreements and efforts to strengthen ties throughout the area might be affected.

“But it depends on the agreements, their subjects and who’s signed them,” he mentioned. “For instance, it likely won’t have an impact on Iran’s relations with Russia, but relations with countries like the UAE could be clearly impacted.”

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