(Persia Digest) – Former Iranian Ambassador to Russia believes: “A country’s national interests determine its strategies. This includes relations with both the East and West. But, regardless of the “Look to the East” strategy, Iran must have good ties with its neighbors for its security interests.”

With the US President’s decision to bring back secondary sanctions against Iran and reduce its oil exports to zero, the “Look to the East” strategy is being contemplated once again by some Iranian officials. Can this be in Iran’s national interest?

Former Iranian Ambassador to Russia, Nematollah Izadi, told Persia Digest in an interview: “The interests of Iran are not merely provided by one policy. Under the circumstances, Iran’s policy must be multifaceted and proportionate to our capacities; some of these are economic, and some are cultural and political. Basically, such a division and “Look to the East” strategy in our foreign policy took shape under Ahmadinejad’s cabinet; this is not a good strategy.”

He reiterated: “When we talk about a look to the East, we must elucidate who the “East” is? If we consider its geographic dimensions, where will this place Russia? Where do China and Japan fit together in such a strategy? If we consider the ideological dimensions, this issue no longer applies. Therefore, Iran’s foreign policy must be based on its national interests.”

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The former Iranian Ambassador to Russia pointed to the various layers of Iranian national interests, saying: “The most important one of these is our security interests which may be exposed to threat by neighboring countries to some extent. Therefore, Iran’s most important strategy must be good relations with neighbors. Russia is one of our neighbors.”

He continued: “One of the most important aspects of our foreign policy must be de-escalation and good relations with our neighbors. Even if Iran has the best relations with China, but not with Saudi Arabia, it will still be exposed to threats. As such, it is Iran’s interests that define whether we should look to the East, the West, or neighbors such as Turkey.”

In answer to the question of whether Iran-Russia relations can be defined as strategic, Izadi said: “In the conventional sense of the word, relations between these two countries do not fit this definition. Basically, Iran's relations with no country is defined in this format. Strategic relations mean two countries are so close in their vital interests that they are ready to endanger their interests for one another. As such, what strategic relations do we have with Russia? If we are to list the controversial points between Iran and Russia, they may be more than the consistent points. The best description for Tehran-Moscow ties is good neighborly relations around which the two can work together.”

He added: “A Russian panel of experts told me when it became clear for Putin that Iran was unable to make its relations good with the West, he decided to establish better ties with Tehran. I asked does this mean if relations between Iran and the West improve, the Russians will interfere with that? As history has shown, both Russia and China as military and economic powers, pursue their own national interests in the middle of Iran-US relations."

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