Rouhani’s Iran has opened up to the world, but Trump is lying in wait

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Strategic partnerships, financial cooperation, global and regional businesses: thanks to the nuclear deal the Islamic republic escaped its isolation. Thus, while Washington is threatening to sabotage the Iran Deal, Tehran is not willing to lose the benefits of its return into the international arena. 

The Iran Deal is nowadays hanging in the balance. Under American will, the father of all the treaties that Tehran ever signed throughout its history, i.e. the 2015 agreement between the P5 + 1 countries [the members of the UN Security Council plus Germany], the EU and Iran on the suspension of the economic sanctions imposed by the EU and the UN on the IRI due to its nuclear program, is starting to falter.    

October 15th is the closing date for American president Donald Trump to certify the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the Deal. Otherwise, Washington might resort to new restrictive measures against Iran within sixty days. Should the latter be the case, the Iran Deal would only be secured on paper, but it would be seriously undermined in practice. 

Rouhani’s opening strategy: towards global and regional partners

From the outset of his second mandate, president Hassan Rouhani has showed his commitment to fill the gap between the Islamic Republic and the international community, by building bridges, strategic partnerships, and boost financial cooperation both worldwide and on a regional scale. Yet, now that Tehran is finally starting to come back on the global stage – after a longstanding isolation in the international arena and a deep financial crisis within its borders – the White House occupant plays the Great Satan and is trying his best to throw a spanner in the works of the Iranian president.

In turn, this dualistic reality becomes fertile ground for the American discourse on the sectarian disputebetween Tehran and Ryadh – Iran’s regional adversary, as well as US ally. The Shia vs Sunni acrimony is actually  a way to disguise more urgent strategic needs with the religious banner, thus a mere tool for political legitimacy. In addition to this, security has become a primary objective, particularly due to the diverse conflicts originated in the aftermath of the Arab springs. This is the bi-dimensional picture of the Middle East: on the one side, Saudi Arabia guaranteeing protection to the small Gulf Countries, and on the other side Iran “containing” the American expansionism in the region. 

Agreements and partnerships from Europe to Asia: what is at stake

According to MIT dataChina is Iran’s number one trading partner, followed by India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey. In addition to this, the EU, since the signing of the Deal, is trying to restore the situation prior to the sanctions, when it was at the first place in Tehran’s import-export sector. In fact, the Iranian market is considerably attractive for European, foremost Italian, companies. In January 2016, Rouhani returned from his journey to Rome with a 17 billion dollars investment planAs Reuters reports, the plan has entrusted Saipem with the construction of a 2000 km long gas pipeline, and Italferr with the project of the high-speed railway line Tehran-Qom-Isfahan, while it has also involved Fincantieri and Condotte d’Acqua. Likewise, in July 2017, France’s Total (in cooperation with Chinese company Cnpc) signed a 4,8 million dollars agreement for the exploitation of the gas field South Pars. Furthermore, a few days after the Hexagone sent a new supply of civil aircrafts to Iran, as provided for by the agreement between Tehran and Airbus.

As long as the Asian front is concerned, Iran has likewise expanded and consolidated its connections. In March 2016 Tehran signed an agreement with India and Afghanistan for the use of the harbour of Chabahar (Iran) as a common trade corridor, one with Beijing to establish the New Silk Road to connect Iran and China through the Yiwu-Tehran railway, and a commercial treaty with Azerbaijan for the construction of hydroelectric power stations. Moreover, Rouhani also plans to triplicate gas export to Armenia by 2019: due to the abovementioned regional context, it is paramount to pursue a policy of good neighbourliness. In this framework, last year, during his Nowruz speech (the Iranian New Year celebrated on March 21st) Rouhani reached out to his counterparts in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, he underlined common goals and called for a “peaceful coexistence.” “Nowruz symbolizes moderation, and it is the most ancient tradition of our shared history,” he stated. 

That is how Iran’s soft power machine works: Tehran thrust opens its doors to the global community, and attempts to become a bigger economic and political player. Yet, by launching the umpteenth package of economic and financial sanctions from the other side of the Atlantic ocean, Donald Trump might seriously jeopardize Rouhani’s new turnover. 



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