Irina Fedorova: "Iranians are ready to tighten their belts and oppose external pressure"
After September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities, for which Huthis Yemeni rebels took responsibility, situation in the region has significantly escalated. Washington and Riyadh accused Iran of involvement in the attacks, and the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, launched military operation in northern Yemen. Irina Fedorova, senior researcher at the Center for Study of Near and Middle East Countries of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, discussed consequences of increased pressure on Iran.
- What do you think brought new round of confrontation to the region?
- Conflict in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia has been going on for many years. And we're not talking about just religious contradictions between Sunnis and Shiites. Each of these countries believes that it is its religious beliefs that are the only correct ones and reflect what Prophet Muhammad said. Conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is caused by religious contradictions, but right now their main problems are political. Both of them support different forces in the Middle East region. In Syria, Saudi Arabia supports some groups, while Iran supports President Bashar al-Assad. This is a fight for influence in the Near and Middle East, a fight to ensure that either Tehran or Riyadh are considered leaders of the Islamic world.
- Will Iran able to withstand new US sanctions?
- Iranians are a very ideological nation. The more pressure you put on them, the more tensions are building up in relations with Tehran, the more Iran is ready to tighten its belt and oppose external pressure. Iranians are very proud people, and the more you pressure them, the stronger they oppose sanctions. Even in the United States, many understand that its pressure on Iran hasn't paid off. Iran is not ready to give up and sit at the negotiating table if you speak with it from the position of strength.
- Why did leaders of three European countries still accuse Iran of attacks against Saudi Arabia?
- Great Britain, Germany and France caved in under pressure from the United States, and this shows that relations with Washington are a priority in their policies and their economies. Iran, even in terms of trade, cannot be compared to the US. The approximate trade turnover between Iran and all European countries doesn't exceed $12 billion, and trade turnover of these countries with the United States has already reached trillions of dollars. That's why the US is more important to them.
- Is it possible that Iran was involved in the drones attack?
- Iran wouldn't benefit from that. It doesn't need additional escalation. Tehran should preserve nuclear deal at all cost. But European countries have already accused Iran of attacking Saudi facilities, and [French President Emmanuel] Macron warned that it's necessary to sit down at the negotiation table to discuss Iran’s ballistic missile program and Near and Middle East policy. This shows that Iran is under additional pressure.
- In that case, who benefits from escalation?
- Oil exporting countries. And it hurts oil importing countries, because prices have risen a lot. I won't discuss conspiracy theories and think about who could have provoked these attacks, but the fact that everyone will use them in their interests is objective.
- How will today's meeting of Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly affect current situation?
- As representatives of guarantor countries of the Astana format, they discussed holding the first meeting of the Constitutional Committee on Syria in Geneva. Most recently, presidents of the three countries met in Sochi. They discussed how the Syrian Constitutional Committee will work, which areas will become a priority.