(Persia Digest) – Former Head of Asia and Oceania desk at the Foreign Ministry of Iran believes: “In the circumstances where Iran is faced with sanctions and other difficulties created by the US, it must pursue a ‘Look to the East’ strategy with Russia and China.”

With the US withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear deal and the reimposition of secondary sanctions against Iran, the “Look to the East” strategy has been reconsidered by some Iranian officials. But, Russia has announced that it will offset shortages of Iranian oil on the market and China has said it will barter 60 percent of Iranian oil. Can the “Look to the East” strategy, therefore, secure Iran’s interests?

Former Head of Asia and Oceania desk at the Foreign Ministry of Iran, Ebrahim Rahimpour, told Persia Digest (PD) in an interview: “Each country pursues strategies in the international environment based on the system that governs it to achieve its goals. This is also influenced by geography, the size of the economy, culture, and religion. As such, Iran’s main foreign policy slogan following the victory of the 1979 revolution was ‘Neither East Nor West’, implying non-alliance and independence.”

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He added: “With such a policy, the IR of Iran must choose strategies that will ensure maximum interests for the country. Under the circumstances faced by Iran in the world, the best strategy would be good neighborly relations; the look to the East is not a geographical look.”

He reiterated: “Presently, Iran’s conflict is with the person of Trump and those close to him. Based on this, Saudi Arabia has no place in the look to the East strategy. Thus, it is natural for Iran to pursue a path where members are not aligned with the President of the United States.”

Rahimpour pointed out the requirements of implementing the strategy of looking at the East, saying: “If the other parties conclude that Iran wants this relationship according to its needs of the day, they will work with Tehran according to the same standards and will not pursue a long-term strategy. During the previous sanctions, for instance, China worked with Iran. But they hesitated to do so following the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement which expanded ties between Iran and the West. This will undoubtedly affect China’s outlook in a negative way and this can manifest in the new round of sanctions.”

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He went on to comment on China’s conditions for the payment of Iranian oil revenues and Russia’s decision to offset shortages of Iranian oil on the market, saying: “Iran is not at liberty to work with any country. Iran must work with China and Russia. In this case, other issues are of no importance. Iran is going through a crisis and must conduct business with any country who is willing to give it the most help.”

Ebrahim Rahimpour has also held the position of Director General of the Western Europe Desk at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ambassadorial posts in Dublin, India, and Austria.

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