Iranian Diplomacy | Ali Khorram: Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran for the third time. It seems that Donald Trump’s presidency in the US and his stance against Iran has led the country to consider expansion of its ties with Russia. Before these developments, many observers believed the nuclear agreement would be a new chapter for cooperation between Iran and European countries.
A question that comes to mind is whether Russia is an alternative to Europe. International relations expert Ali Khorram has discussed the question in an interview with moderate Iranian website Fararu. “The nuclear accord was a kind a reconciliation between Iran and the global community in general and the West in particular. In the years after the Revolution, cold and hostile relations dominated between Iran and the West, often called the war of embassies,” he said. Pointing out improvements in the ties under Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, Khorram noted that even during Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency, incidents such as the Mykonos had eventually tensed the ties between Iran and Europe. “Under President Khatami, Iran-Europe relations became warmer, with trade surging to $35b,” the expert reiterated. However, under President Ahmadinejad, the ties became dark again, he added.
Trump’s mistakes push Iran to Russia
“One aspect of the nuclear deal was that Iran and Europe chose to negotiate the nuclear issue but the international community expected the deal, as Americans do, to enable Iran to reconsider its ties with the world and the West. That is why the EU, previously working with the US to impose sanctions on Iran, decided to lift the sanctions voluntarily. The EU wanted to return to Iran ties under Khatami, in a level Iran would be willing to negotiate shared concerns. That explains why France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, and others could not wait to see the deal”.
Khorram went on to say the Obama administration also wanted to put Iran off table and end the hostility even if there would be no friendly relations.
Khorram said he believed Iran was never willing to improve ties with the West. “On the other hand, Trump’s presidency became an incentive for Iran to prevent expansion of ties with the West. In fact, Trump has pushed Iran toward the Orient by his own mistakes. This of course does not mean that Iran-Orient ties should not be expanded. Iran has common interests with oriental countries such as Russia and China, significant in their own right. However, if Tehran is going to look only eastward, its foreign policy will definitely lapse and collapse,” Khorram said according to quotes published by Fararu.
Positive balance needed for improved ties
Khorram then touched a revolutionary slogan, which discourages dependence on the West and the East, saying it means a negative equilibrium in dependence on either the West or the East. He then said Iran should seek positive balance to improve ties. “Countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or India look peculiarly up to the West. If they turn slightly toward oriental countries, it is going to be welcome. If a country is unidirectionally inclined toward the West, it will be ignored by oriental states, and vice versa. Therefore, the precondition for Iran’s stable foreign policy is to improve our eastern and western ties in parallel. For the same reason, Trump is a negative factor for Iran, making it difficult for the country to expand its ties with the West,” Khorram reiterated.
“The nuclear agreement is a very good means for Iran to improve ties with the Western countries. There is no obstacle in becoming closer to Russia and China. The Chinese have already saturated Iran’s automobile market while Russians have pulled Iran closer in security and military matter. However, Iran should avoid being presented in the international community as a country that looks solely eastward. There must be a balance, meaning Iran should expand its ties with France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, and Switzerland as much, so that it could make up in case ties with the East become interrupted.”
Khorram believes Iran’s ties with Russia should not be viewed as unidirectional inside the US as well, because Iran can provoke the US only if it improves ties with Europe.
“Russia will respect Iran in return when it sees the other side has every opportunity to expand ties with Europe. For instance, the delivery of S300 missile defense systems from Russia took 10 years for Iran. However, when Turkey order the same systems, it received S400 systems, more sophisticated missiles, in the span of a few months only because Russia know Turkey has a good status in the West.”
Don’t put all your eggs into Russia’s basket
Acknowledging expansion of ties and constructive cooperation with every country as a principle, Khorram said Iran should not put all its eggs in Russia’s basket. According to the expert, this will lead to a situation where France, the UK, and Germany have no regard for Iran if issues like sanctions turn up.
Ali Khorram then recalls that during Khatami’s presidential term, there were periodic negotiations between Tehran and Brussels, saying the sides exchanged views about political, economic, and military ties, where Iran used opportunities in Europe. “China and Russia do not provide the same opportunities for Iran. In terms of banking relations or international issues, Europeans are more powerful than Russia and China. Iran should not give its market univocally to the Chinese. Tehran should engage in ties with Europeans, with their more sophisticated capabilities, so that China stops exporting its expensive junk to Iran. This is also true about Russia and India.
Ties with East should not be strategic
In response to Fararu’s question on whether strategic ties with Russia is in the interest of Iran, Khorram said:
“Even if Iran seeks strategic ties with Russia and China, both countries have openly stated they are not going to establish strategic ties with Iran or any other country like Iran. They kept denying this when it was repeatedly brought up under the Ahmadinejad administration. They are still denying strategic relations today, but China’s interests require that it dominate Iran’s market. Russia’s interests require cooperation with Iran in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In fact, the use of the term strategic ties has nothing to do with our current relations with the two countries.”
In spite of Iran-Russia military cooperation in Syria, Khorram added, the two will immediately split ways when the Syrian crisis is resolved. “Or if for example Iran closes its doors to China, they will go try to recruit other allies. Therefore, Iran should propel its ties with the East and West at the same time,” he concluded.