Iran looks Down Under for New Opportunities

By Saeid Jafari, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Upon taking office in August 2013, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani initiated a new foreign policy in sharp contrast to that of his conservative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani’s policy of detente and constructive engagement was quickly welcomed internationally. Instead of only Asian, African and Latin American countries hosting Iranian diplomats, Europe also welcomed the idea of expanding relations with Iran.

Meanwhile, within Iran, especially as far as hard-liners were concerned, this shift — including the developments it brought about — was not seen as very desirable. Factions opposed to the administration were rather enraged by Rouhani’s foreign policy and repeatedly expressed this anger and worry. Indeed, the core of their concern was that Rouhani was unnecessarily focused on relations with Europe.

Mehdi Mohammadi, a conservative analyst who was part of the team of former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and who is one of the most serious critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has argued that “Rouhani’s administration spends a lot of money in Europe trying to keep this deal alive. Rouhani goes out of his way to make the Europeans happy in order to ensure the survival of the JCPOA.”

This reading of the situation does not, however, appear to be completely accurate. In a conversation this author had with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif back in February, Zarif talked about the importance of expanding cooperation between Iran and other countries in the fields of economy and security. In order to achieve this goal, and to overcome any possible future obstacles thrown in its way by the United States, Iran needed to change and diversify the scope of its activities.

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