Iran and International Organizations in 2017

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Behzad Khoshandam
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert in International Issues

International organizations played a remarkable role in the enforcement and implementation of Iran's foreign policy in 2017. “Collective security,” “international cooperation, “not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries,” and “the right to self-determination” were major ideas, which constituted the most important grounds for interactions between Iran and international organizations in 2017. On this basis, remarkable interactions took place between Iran and such international organizations as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Eurasian Economic Union, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2017. On the opposite, the general approach taken by some other international bodies, including the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League, was mostly unconstructive and affected by Saudi Arabia’s approach to stoke tensions with Iran.

The approach taken by the United Nations to Iran in 2017 was heavily affected by the doubtful approach adopted by the US President Donald Trump to such issues as the United Nations; implementation of Iran's nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); management of global crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen; and the important topic of the ongoing crisis between Arab states and Israel.

In the meantime, the role played by the UN secretary general as a modifier with regard to Iran's commitment to the JCPOA and implementation of this international agreement was very important. Of course, following the reaction shown to a US-drafted resolution by the United Nations Security Council in December 2017, the United States did its best to block the implementation of the JCPOA, but the final outcome of the Security Council’s session indicated that there was international support for the JCPOA. This outcome was also confirmed by other West-dominated international organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Group of Seven (G7), and the G20 at various junctures during 2017.

The United States also tried throughout 2017 to obstruct Iran's cooperation with the IAEA, but reports released by Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA, which confirmed Iran's compliance with its commitments as per the JCPOA, practically defused Trump's attempts.

Through all these developments, cooperation between Iran and the European Union was more positive and more promising throughout 2017. Despite increasing hostility of the United States toward Iran, the European Union leaned more toward Iran in 2017 and tried to deepen its Eastern cooperation policy in order to achieve more security in regions adjacent to Europe, especially in the Middle East. Holding several rounds of the human rights dialogue between Iran and the European Union was a good example of such developments.

Iran's cooperation with the OPEC oil output freeze agreement, which had started a year ago, helped OPEC member countries to experience a relatively stable market in 2017. From this viewpoint, the year 2017 could be considered as a fruitful year for Iran's relations with the OPEC without many ups and downs. The Eurasian Economic Union was another organization, which Iran tried to get closer to during 2017, as the country endeavored to boost its Eastern cooperation policy. This union, along with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Economic Cooperation Organization, should be considered as new grounds for Iran's international interactions during the third millennium. Although Iran's full membership at the SCO did not take place in 2017, cooperation among Iran, China and Russia within this organization has become more stable.

On another front, relations between Iran and Arab organizations in its peripheral region was marked with remarkable fluctuations in 2017. The (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League were major centers stoking crisis against Iran in 2017. Of particular importance was the role played by Saudi Arabia through its anti-Iran approaches within these two organizations in 2017. Anti-Iran positions taken by the Arab League were manifest in a host of insulting remarks and threats posed to Iran by member countries of this organization. On the other hand, although the crisis in Qatar’s relations with other GCC members caused cracks in the process of convergence among Arab states in the Persian Gulf, it could not restrict the scope of anti-Iran measures taken by this council. The failure of a summit meeting of the GCC, which took long hours, in November 2017, can be considered as a turning point in history of the council’s activities.

Despite these developments, the issue of Palestine, as the major concern of the Islamic world, served as a catalyst to get the viewpoints of Iran and Islamic Arab countries closer together in 2017. A meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in December 2017 and common positions taken by Iran and Arab countries in this regard, which were reflected in the meeting’s final statement, were positive indications of promising potentialities that exist for cooperation between Iran and Arab states.

Iran's approach to international organizations in 2017 was focused on the special task that has been entrusted to these organizations for protecting international peace and security and making sure about compliance of international actors with their commitments. During 2017, Iran considered international and regional organizations as a security opportunity to achieve multilateral international goals. The acme of such efforts and approaches by Iran was evident in the country’s attitude toward the United Nations and its most important organ, the Security Council, as well as the European Union, the SCO, the OPEC, and the ECO. Of course, there were differences between Iran and Arab organizations dominated by Saudi Arabia, such as the Arab League and the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council. However, at the end of the day, it seems that the policy of maximum interaction and minimum confrontation is still one of the most important agendas of Iran's foreign policy, which will last beyond 2018 as the country continues to work with important international and regional organizations.


*More by Behzad Khoshandam:
*Iran and the Middle East in 2017:
*Iran's Foreign Policy in 2017 :
*Two Years after the Iran Deal and the Choice of Reconciliatory Strategic Necessity:



*Photo Credit: Vienna

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