More than five months have passed since President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi took office. The new Iranian government has been quite dynamic in pursuing its foreign policy agenda. However, will the government’s active diplomacy deliver any tangible results to improve people’s livelihoods and improve the economy?
Abbas Moqtadaei, a member of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, is affirmative. Moqtadaei, who represents Isfahan in the legislative chamber, believes Raeisi’s government is determined to deepen ties with neighboring countries and the East in order to secure national interests.
How do you rate the government’s performance in foreign policy? Do you defend it?
The government has been active both at home and abroad, pursuing a dynamic diplomacy in foreign policy during a time period of five months. The high number of diplomatic trips in and out of Tehran well proves this claim. The government’s approach was to assign priority to neighboring countries and put a “Look to the East” policy on the agenda. This foreign policy, announced by Mr. Raeisi during the election campaign, is now enforced and was adopted in order to diversify Iran’s foreign policy portfolio in response to the Europeans’ failure to live up to their commitments during the term of the previous Iranian government.
In reality, the Europeans suffered more in the long run from the policy they carried out toward Iran. For years, Iran created opportunities for them so that both sides would benefit from bilateral relations. However, the Europeans were more interested in undermining Iran and securing their own interests. A clear example of this was their approach to the JCPOA, in which they sided with the United States, the party that violated the nuclear deal. The Europeans went back on their promises regarding the JCPOA, and that is what historians will record.
Do you mean that Iran's experience in foreign policy in the past, particularly with regard to the Europeans’ treatment of Iran, has had an impact on determining the new government’s foreign policy?
Given the Europeans’s approach to Iran in the previous government, the new Iranian government initiated a new process, of course, with the insistence of the Iranian people and elites, to shift from Europe to Asia which appears to have been more beneficial for the country.
China and Russia are looking for reliable partners in the region. Iran has emerged as a rising power in West Asia and has been able to expand its sphere of influence by cooperating with its neighbors and reducing the presence of foreign forces in the region. Such Iranian capabilities, though ignored by the Europeans, can hardly go unnoticed in Beijing and Moscow. They sold Iran’s power short. As a result, we see that Europe’s political, cultural and economic presence in the region is fading as its relations with Iran diminish. Iran has not closed the gates of cooperation to Europe, but based on past experience, it has diversified its foreign policy portfolio and seeks to meet its needs through an Asia-oriented diplomacy and strengthening relations with its neighbors.
Are Iran’s neighbors capable of fulfilling Iran’s needs?
The new government has not limited the avenues that can serve Iran’s interests to one area. The neighboring countries have priority in this regard because they have many cultural, historical, political and economic elements in common with Iran that facilitate relations.
Neighbors such as Turkey and Iraq, along with other regional nations, and countries like China and India could be good markets for Iranian products. At the same time, we can meet some of our needs from these countries. The Iranian Parliament, by insisting on a neighbor-centered diplomacy, and the government, by focusing on a resistance economy, and not merely relying on Europe, can pave the way for economic leaps and greater diplomatic relations.
During the president’s recent visit to Russia, certain media outlets tried to highlight some marginal issues, ignoring the achievements of the trip. Do you think such efforts and controversies will negatively impact the government’s policies?
Certainly not. Marginal issues can never push main issues aside. We advise European politicians and their affiliated media in the region to think twice and grab the opportunities. Iran offered many opportunities to the Europeans, but they missed them. Europe needs energy. European countries need regional security in order to have an economic presence in the region. Who better than Iran can satisfy their needs? The Europeans have now come to the understanding that they suffered from not having relations with Iran. The same rule also applies for the future.
It is in the best interest of the Europeans to have relations with Iran. Some local media also tried to undermine the government’s efforts for empowering Iran by highlighting self-made marginal issues. But they should know that marginal issues cannot overshadow core issues.
What matters to the people is that this diplomacy would bring economic benefits to the country and solve their livelihood problems. Do you think this will happen?
Certainly, active diplomacy and political relations will result in stronger economic and trade ties. The government seeks to secure national interests through such political interactions. In fact, our cooperation with other countries is not a one-way relationship, through which only one side benefits. Any country that respects Iran’s independence can be a party to political and economic relations. When ties are established, common interests will be created and secured through bilateral cooperation. That is why the new government is working to strengthen cooperation with China and Russia. Basically, our criticism and complaint against the Europeans is that they pursued one-sided interests and neglected our demands and, of course, paid for their negligence.