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Iran Weighs ‘Active Neutrality’ in Ukraine

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kayhan Barzegar

As a consequence of the crisis in Ukraine, dubbed rightly as a geostrategic rivalry between Russia (East) and the West (America) for defining their regional and global role and influence, the traditional debate of looking to the East or the West has once again become an issue in Iran’s intellectual and policy circle, and this has provoked the question of what actually should be Iran’s policy in dealing with such a crisis.

The crisis itself is not an urgent foreign policy matter for Iran. Because Iran doesn’t have joint borders with Ukraine, the issue doesn’t have a regional nature; rather, it is a great powers rivalry and the volumes of economic exchanges between the two countries are not that great. But since the two main sides of the crisis, namely Russia and the West (America), are directly involved with the two urgent foreign policy matters of Iran, i.e., the nuclear negotiations and the Syrian crisis, the issue becomes significant for Iran.

Russia is in a way Iran’s partner and international ally in the Iran-P5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany) nuclear negotiations and the main supporter of Iran in the Syria crisis. At the same time, Iran is on the path of détente and confidence-building with the West, and especially with the European Union, to lift the international economic sanctions against Iran. In such circumstances, how should Iran behave?

One perspective inside the country believes that Iran should naturally take the side of its friend, Russia. This of course doesn’t mean that Iran approves of Russia’s sending troops to Crimea. Rather, the main argument here is that Iran has common interests with Russia in containing the extension of Western influence in the region. Accordingly, the current increased relations between the two countries are based on a strategic logic and on preserving the states’ security and interests, as well as expanding regional cooperation. Meanwhile, any signs from Iran’s side showing that the country is orienting toward the West might persuade the Russians to change the current position in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran, which is to reach to a comprehensive deal. In other words, it is not in Iran’s interests that Russia perceive that improved Iran-West relations in any matter, i.e., the Ukrainian crisis, will be at the expense of Russia.

Continue Here: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/03/iran-ukraine-active-neutrality-syria.html

*Kayhan Barzegar is the director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran and a former research fellow at Harvard University. He also chairs the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Islamic Azad University in Tehran.

Source: Al Monitor
http://www.al-monitor.com/

More By Kayhan Barzegar:

*Nuclear Terrorism: An Iranian Perspective: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Nuclear-Terrorism-An-Iranian-Perspective.htm

*Political Consensus is Key to Syria Peace Conference: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Political-Consensus-is-Key-to-Syria-Peace-Conference.htm

*What if Iran-P5+1 Disagreed on the Geneva Deal?: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/What-if-Iran-P5-1-Disagreed-on-the-Geneva-Deal-.htm

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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