By Hassan Ahmadian, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
It has been five years since the Arab Spring began roiling the Middle East and North Africa. During this time, conflict pitting Saudi Arabia and Qatar against Iran and its regional allies in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq reached unprecedented levels of disaster. To deal with the situation, Iran has welcomed the idea of a dialogue with its Arab neighbors, as proposed by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during the September UN General Assembly meeting.
Indeed, during a regional tour after Iran concluded the nuclear agreement with six world powers in July, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the same proposal, in addition to cooperating on counterterrorism as well as nuclear and security-related issues. Since Qatar was among the stops on Zarif’s tour, Iran’s welcoming of the Qatari proposal was to be expected. Why, however, does Iran at this particular point want to engage with the other countries confronting it?
The power and economic structure of a country helps determine its priorities in foreign policy. For instance, Iran’s exclusion from the oil market directed its foreign policy toward prioritizing finding a solution to the issue of its nuclear program. Had the nuclear-related sanctions continued to tie Iran’s hands, Tehran’s regional rivals would have tried to chop them off altogether.
This has been a key factor driving Iran’s priorities following the nuclear deal. The current priority for Zarif and his colleagues is to reduce regional tensions and decrease the strategic impact of troubling dynamics potentially affecting Iran. The formula for achieving these goals is simple yet complicated: dialogue and confidence building with Arab states.