(Persia Digest) – A former Iranian diplomat believes: “’The Look to the East’ policy is not a way out for Iran's current situation. It will, no less, entangle the country in a non-competitive market with harmful, unprofitable transactions.”

As Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 JCPOA nuclear accord in May, and the return of secondary sanctions against Iran, ‘The look to the East’ policy has been revived on Iran’s political scene once again. A total mistrust of the United States and a relative mistrust of Europe has prompted some Iranian officials to look to the East, including Russia, China and India, as a way forward in the current situation. Can the strategy of looking to the East help Iran to overcome its present difficulties?

Former Iranian diplomat and expert in international affairs, Fereydoun Majlessi, told Persia Digest (PD) in an interview: “The ‘Look to the East’ is a policy from the détente era when West Germany did not deem the Western world sufficient to expand its global ties and shifted to the Eastern bloc and the Soviet Union. The leaders of this country believed that multilateral foreign relations will help their independence and progress; and this is exactly what happened.”

He continued: “The look to the East policy was not tantamount to being distanced from civilization, industry, and developments in the West. The East, which has risen to its feet from a deep sleep today, has adopted all these from the West. China, for instance, embraced Western arts, sciences, and industries to set foot on the path of development. The Soviet government was also part of the West. It was brought down to its knees by communism and is now trying to get back on its feet again with the help of Western technology and industry."

This expert on international affairs emphasized: “The look to the East strategy, therefore, is meaningless for Iran. It will make us a captive of our own shortfalls with the East only to remain confined to this market. We will have to purchase any goods at any price, whilst we must be free to choose any markets that provide better goods at more competitive prices.”

Majlessi stated: “We may designate Russia as a dealer to buy our goods 30 percent cheaper and sell to us 30 percent more expensive. Turkey and the UAE have done the same for years. Russia has a bright future, but no industries for now. Its borders are not open to Iran and Iranians. China and India also force us to sell our oil to them at low prices and use the money to import their goods. We do not have to be in such a relationship.”

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"The look to the East” strategy under review

He commented on the scope of the definition of "East" being attributed to any country trying to get out of colonial domination, saying: “Such statements are mere slogans to circumvent the problem. We only have one issue with the world, and that is the destruction of Israel. If the EU is showing leniency in the JCPOA today, it is because it does not wish to show itself as an obedient follower of the United States. This is why they have opened a barter account with Iran.”

Majlessi went on to say: “Overall, the look to the East policy will culminate in a damaged economy. On this path, Iran will remain a fourth world country. As such, looking to the East is not a policy. Having a policy means to see what issues we have with the world. To play the lackey to the West and America is not our issue. It is not to write war slogans on our defense equipment, the implementation of which requires a diplomatic understanding. Even Iraq embraces Iranian pilgrims today and is seeking its own interests by competing with us in the oil sector.”

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