New European policy on Iran discussed in Berlin

New European policy on Iran discussed in Berlin

It has been two months since the lifting of international sanctions against Iran. Numerous EU economic delegations hurried to Tehran in the hope of preferences and large orders. But the country remains a 'dark horse' for Europe. Politicians and experts continue to wonder what to expect from Iran after the nuclear deal. Will it open itself politically for Europe, will it be an ally of the West in the region and should one bet on Tehran instead of the traditional partnership with problematic Riyadh? And finally, how to deal with Israel, before which Germany has a special historical responsibility? Another podium discussion at the German Society for Foreign Policy was devoted to these and many other issues related to the new format of relations with Iran.

The success of the conditional faction of 'reformers' in Iran in the recent elections to the advisory council was one of the topics of discussion. The chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, said that after the success of the 'reformers' at the parliamentary elections and elections to the advisory council we should not feed excessive expectations about a possible 'opening' of Iran to the West. "I share the opinion that what happened was rather a penalty card for the hardliners, than a big breakthrough for the 'reformers', which could be regarded as a prerequisite for a meaningful reversal of Iran to the West," an experienced diplomat believes. "We must maintain low expectations about the fact that Iran will begin to open to the West or fundamentally reconsider its policy towards the West, otherwise we will just be disappointed," Wolfgang Ischinger noted. According to him, a significant part of the young population of Iran, which is not politically active, is committed to greater transparency, which would certainly manifest itself if extensive high-grade elections were to be held in Iran. However, the country's leadership understands this, and the participation of this part of the population in the political process is hampered.

The expert positively assessed the fact of the lifting of sanctions, as it opens up many new prospects, including for Iranian civil society, which has been extremely weakened over the last decade. On the other hand, Iran, as well as a number of other countries in the region, faced very strong socio-economic problems, including due to the collapsed world energy prices. "A large number of people in Iran live below the poverty line, according to some estimates it is 40% of the population. If we look at the economic policy of President Rouhani, then there's a bit of optimism about the fact that he will be able to solve these problems," the analyst noted. He reminded that the budget of the previous year [according to the Iranian calendar, it has ended on March 19] is characterized by two main factors: on the one hand, a reduction in social spending, but on the other hand, already high costs on support of the power unit have increased. "Such an economic policy does not correspond to a resolution of Iran's economic problems or reduction of the autocratic element's role in the Iranian leadership. The new budget provides for greater privatization, but it is a very big question whether the government will be able to implement it," Fatulla-Neyad believes.

The participants of the discussion, one of whom was the foreign policy speaker of the 'Green' faction in the Bundestag, Omid Nouripour, are united in the opinion that the univocal bid on Tehran as a regional ally in return for the traditional partnership with Riyadh would be a wrong step. The main objective of the West in these circumstances is to build the dialogue between Tehran and Riyadh, and to stabilize the situation, characterized by the confrontation between the two hegemonic powers in the Middle East. It is necessary to reduce the tension caused by fears of Saudi Arabia and its allies due Iran's return to the world stage.

Criticism of Europe was also expressed during the exchange of views, which pursuing its policy towards Iran, completely isolated human rights issues and almost waived its declared 'value policy' in the dialogue with Tehran. "I think Tehran noticed that when a certain country is becoming 'a partner' of the West, there is no criticism in relation to human rights. This is evident in the Western policy towards Ankara or Cairo, in respect of which there is almost no criticism, although the human rights situation has only worsened there in the last two years," Fatulla-Neyad said, recalling that Iran remains the world leader in the number of executions per capita. "Tehran records similar double standards in the West's approach. And here complaints should be addressed already at the Western countries. While there is such a dual morality in the Western foreign policy, autocratic systems will use the situation for repressions against unwanted  regimes," the expert believes.

The chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, in his turn, did not agree with the West's charges of 'dual morality'. "This reproach is not justified. It is necessary to make a real political difference between the representation of one's own values [no doubt, we should always and everywhere clearly demonstrate and represent our own values] and operational policy. So, if we will beat our fists on the table at the talks in Tehran and require the observance of human rights in Iran from the helpless Iranian Minister of foreign Affairs [and will what he do with the hardliners in the Iranian leadership], then it will only serve our self-satisfaction, but no more," the diplomat noted. "If someone thinks that one can influence the human rights situation in the country through aggressive speeches at joint press conferences with Iran, he is mistaken. Of course, we should negotiate also with repressive, authoritarian and dictatorial modes – if it would possible to speak only with friends, 'good' and democratic governments in international politics, then we could have paradise. Diplomacy is a dialogue with opponents, representing positions totally different from ours," the chairman of the Munich Security Conference concluded.