Iran: Future lies in economy

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Rizwan Ghani

BY informing UN about its uranium enrichment plans, Tehran has tried to pressurisze remaining signatories of Iran nuclear deal to come up with guarantees that the deal’s benefits will be in place after US withdrawal. Iran could enrich uranium under the agreement without producing centrifuges. The European powers and the UN have so far not come up with any definitive plan on the issue. Iran wants to improve its economy but enrichment route will be counterproductive and catastrophic. Given the complexity of the situation, Tehran should focus on peaceful options with the signatories to secure its economic interests. Based on the recent developments in international politics, there are new openings in Asian and European politics that could favorably help Iran situation. By aligning its policies with the other countries in the region, Tehran can have more chances of success. Europe should take possible steps to facilitate Iran including protecting its oil exports, access to international banking system, passing legislation to protect companies doing business with Iran from US sanctions. The EU has promised favorable conditions for Iran but it needs to give concrete guarantees. Tehran needs to work with Europe to get these benefits. Europe has its own set of challenges in terms of US protectionism. With growing media campaign against Euro and the EU, their leaderships cannot undermine their economic interests with America’s much bigger market. The imposition of steel and aluminum tariff is one facet of Trump’s Iran foreign policy. Political situation in Italy and Spain is not helping Europe and the EU. So are Brexit, nationalism, austerity, immigration and cutting down of social safety networks.
But the recent developments in Indo-US relations bring positive news for Asia and Iran in the region. India is opening up in the region. In his major foreign policy statement in Singapore, Modi refused to support US Asia-Pacific policy which Trump tried to sell as US’s shared vision of an open and secure Indo-Pacific Region which is known as Asia-Pacific region . Mattis, who also spoke at the same event called it priority theatre as part of broader US security strategy. The Indo-US alliance is no more there. Modi referred to Indo-Pacific Region as natural geographic region. He described India’s good relations with US, Russia and China in equal measure. It undermines Washington’s policy of countering world’s two revisionist powers: Russia and China. India has also rejected Australia’s invitation as part of Quadrilateral grouping to participate in maritime exercises in the region along with America and Japan as not to militarise the Quad while it has accepted military exercises with the countries of the SCO.
Under the Indo-China relationship reset, Modi is likely to maintain closer relationship with China. Beijing applauded Modi’s positive remarks made by Indian PM about China-India relations in Singapore as continuation of Wuhan Summit spirit referring to his informal meeting with Xi in April. In his address he noted importance of strong and stable relations between two nations for global peace and progress. Since his Wuhan meeting Modi has softened his position on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, growing Chinese clout in its neighborhood, Maldives and Nepal. If Modi’s means what he said in his Singapore address then it pivots Asia in a stronger win-win position. Unlike America’s National Defense Strategy released in January based on military alliances, China is offering trade, economic and infrastructure development alliances. The change in Modi’s policies as compared to last year’s show that he is adopting pro-India (India to buy S-400 Russian missiles despite stark US warning and legitimate concerns by neighboring states) and pro-Asia policies and rejecting protectionist, nationalist and anti-immigrant policies in the West including America.
In terms of Iran, Modi has said that India will continue energy deals with Iran (and Venezuela) in defiance of American sanctions. China and Russia have also promised to support Iran. If Tehran remains patient, respects the Nuclear deal and upholds international laws including non-interference in other countries, Iran will be the winner in the long run. What America needs to understand is that there is shift in national priorities in Asia and Europe. Countries are rush to improving economies, creating jobs, combating poverty through cooperation, trade alliances, infrastructure developments and financial cooperation. There is no appetite for wars, military alliances, nationalism or protectionism. The earlier Trump understands it the better. With India joining China and Russia, and the EU already supporting Iran, it would be stupid on part of Tehran to undermine the consensus on Iran nuclear deal. In fact Iran should work hard to save the deal through hard diplomacy and win the trade deals with these countries whose leaders have publicly promised to do business with Iran. The EU will also join in due course of time. Finally, if Modi walks the talk, the shift in India policy will be a great boost for the region in terms of peace, prosperity and infrastructure development and it will be a great shift from West backed wars in ME and region. Logically, it should help bring end to war and occupation of Afghanistan also.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.