Iran needs to convince its neighbors that it has renounced interfering in their affairs if there is to be a rapprochement between it and the Arab world, Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran Program and a senior fellow of the Frontier Europe Initiative at the Middle East Institute, said at a talk on Tuesday hosted by Chatham House and attended by Arab News.
The talk, titled “Iran’s political rivalries and their foreign policy implications,” broached a broad range of topics, from the internecine nature of domestic affairs, to Iran’s use of proxies in the Arab world and its future relations with Afghanistan.
Vatanka, author of the book “The Battle of the Ayatollahs in Iran,” said Tehran has justified to its citizens its strategy of using proxies abroad as ensuring that conflict never again reaches Iranian soil, but this has made its neighbors increasingly wary of its intentions.
“That has put a lot of Iran’s neighbors on watch; they worry what Iran could do … You (Tehran) need to go and reassure your neighbors that you aren’t interested any longer … in bringing down the ruling elite in neighboring states. That would go a long way in creating confidence in the Arab world, particularly the Gulf states.”
Vatanka highlighted the historic rivalry between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and its former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as an example of how domestic jostling had come to shape wider policy.
Vatanka said this domestic positioning could be seen in Iran’s use of proxies in an “opportunistic” foreign policy, but it is also a sign of the betrayal of the needs of the Iranian people in favor of the regime’s needs.
“So often we see the national interest … sacrificed for the interests of small, powerful factions in Tehran,” he added.
“Let me give you an example. When he said Iran shouldn’t buy vaccines produced in America and Britain, at a time when the country is facing a fifth wave of (COVID-19) infections, 100,000-plus dead, a major health crisis going on, Khamenei was playing politics with it.
“That doesn’t make sense as a pure foreign policy question. That only makes sense when you look at it from a power politics point of view. That’s exactly what happens most of the time: National interest is sacrificed.”
Source » arabnews