CSAG STRATEGY PAPER
By: LTC Andrea ZANINI, ITA A, Action Officer, CSAG CCJ5
6 October 2022
In Iran, the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi continues its strive for regional diplomacy, as tensions with the West over its nuclear program continue to build up. The conservative president came to power in August 2021 with a promise of “extending a hand of friendship and brotherhood” to other nations in the Middle East. His officials continue to advocate for a balanced foreign policy approach, that does not neglect any opportunity to improve relations – except with Israel – but so far, his administration has been mostly successful in strengthening ties only with the East.
When the negotiations between Iran and the US in Doha ended on 29 June 2022, without breaking a four-month stalemate in nuclear talks, Iran and its Western interlocutors articulated very divergent views on the prospects for a revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On 5 July 2022, in a telephone call with his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Abdollahian noted his positive assessment of talks and underlined that Iran was determined to continue the negotiations “till a good, strong and lasting agreement is reached”. He added that “if the US is realistic, an agreement will be achievable”.
Refuting claims by the US Special representative for Iran, Robert Malley, that Iran has been making “new demands”, Abdollahian stated that one of the main issues was “effective guarantees” from the US side of “economic benefits” from the deal. When EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, in his capacity as the chairman of the JCPOA joint-commission, proposed a new text to ensure the sustainability of the deal, Abdollahian once again stated that Iran “welcomes continuation of diplomacy”.
- The current Iranian strategy seems to be driven by de-linking regional diplomacy from nuclear diplomacy.
- After the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Iran has sought to deepen relations with Russia and China.
- President Raisi’s administration has focused on its neighborhood policy to render US economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation of Iran ineffective. Tehran also wants to mitigate the development of a strategic coalition against the country by its Gulf neighbors and Israel.
- Amidst the disruption of international trade and transport routes caused by the Russian–Ukrainian war and Western sanctions against Russia, Iran has seen a sudden rise in its importance as a transit and transport hub connecting China and Central Asia with Europe, and Russia with India, along the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
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The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.