“Tehran will welcome Cairo”

“Tehran will welcome Cairo”

United World International continues its series of interviews on the effects of the BRICS enlargement. This time, we spoke to Hamedreza Gholamzadeh. Gholamzadeh is deputy mayor of the metropolitan municipality of Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s capital. Thus, he is speaking from a country that will join BRICS from 2024 on.

Formerly a leading journalist in the Mehr News Agency, Gholamzadeh is today responsible for the international relations of the Tehran municipality.

Thank you for taking the time, Dr. Gulamzadeh. You are responsible for international relations at the Tehran Municipality. How did the population in Iran and specifically in Tehran receive the news that Iran has become a member of the BRICS? How was that perceived?

You know, after the change of the administration when President Raisi came to office, the developments in foreign policy was something significant. Traditionally, we can say the that the reformist camp is more interested in foreign relations, of foreign policy. President Rouhani was very focused on JCPOA and the negotiations with the West. They were more proficient in working with the world and international relations.

But what happened actually and practically on the ground after President Raisi came to office was that foreign policy became very active, not like the past, only in relation to the West and to the United States and only to the JCPOA and the nuclear talks, but actually more diverse.

The whole foreign policy became more diversified by this current government, beginning with the Shanghai Summit and then Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Most recently was the BRICS. Before that we had the rapprochement Actually with Saudi Arabia and the improvement of relations with many neighboring countries.

People were welcoming such achievements. However, there are still some concerns whether these incorporations, these memberships or these negotiations and the diplomacy of the Islamic Republic has with other countries would be practically fulfilled in their own lives.

So they are still waiting for those impacts. But anyway, they are welcoming it and considering it as an achievement and success in foreign policy of Iran to be closer to other countries and especially the shift toward the East.

You spoke about these concerns. Let me ask you, what does Iran expect from this membership practically?

Especially BRICS is more focused on economy. The most important thing for Iran is to improve its economic situation and its trade with other countries.  This membership is about trade, export, and imports, and also transferring money and the currency you use when trading with other countries.

So that’s the same concerns that we have been hearing from the BRICS member as well, to de-dollarize their trade and detaching themselves from the dominance of dollar as a global currency. Other countries are working on that as well.

So Iran wants to seek to nullify actually the sanctions that have been illegally and brutally inflicted on it for many years. It wants to work with other countries, especially in these areas.

But there is another political aspect to that. We know that the world is moving toward a new order, and this new order needs new alliances, new corporations. The future is being shaped now on such cooperation. And that is the same thing that we have here, again, about BRICS members. Since G7 has seven members, we need to increase the number of our members to have more cooperation and a wider network of countries.

These are the main expectations that Iran is pursuing for membership in those organizations like SCO or BRICS.

Iran then would principally and basically welcome the joining of more members even into BRICS. For instance, Venezuela is at the door, would the country’s membership be welcomed by Iran?

Sure. Venezuela, is one of the most important examples. Venezuela has also been for a long sanctioned by the United States, brutally, and the Venezuelans have experienced and suffered from the coups that were led by the Americans, and they are suffering that.

I was in Venezuela in Caracas years ago when the last coup by Juan Guaido was occurring. I saw how a foreign coup damages the country and hinders its development.

Then, Iran as a sanctioned country worked with Venezuela as another sanctioned country, the same experience we had for example between Iran and Russia and many other countries. And we developed a new model for cooperation.

As we are both sanctioned, there is no further sanctions to be imposed on us, so we can work with each other. And with working with each other, let’s call it the club of sanctioned countries, this network can nullify the sanctions and the typical traditional ways of coercive power that the Western countries have been imposing on the others for many decades.

So the situation is changing now with such cooperations. So Iran and Venezuela work together, you are well aware of the background and the history of that and how successful it was actually to help both countries to satisfy many needs that they had, and then it developed to further levels.

If the US were, at some point in time, a hegemony, a superpower, they are not at all anymore. It is possible to work despite the means of the Americans. So that is the part of the new world order: There is no superpower and all countries can work together.

That’s the same story between China and Russia, for Iran, Venezuela. This is the new dynamic in global politics. And so, yes, Iran is welcoming working with more and more countries and more and more organizations and more and more alliances to form and shape a new form of cooperation, to open new grounds for cooperation and working with other countries, not only in terms of economy, but also in terms of politics, military issues, security, and all the things that countries need for their governance and a better service to the countries.

Coming back to the reformist camp: Can we say that there is a consensus between the two sides on this issue of joining the BRICS and continuing the BRICS cooperation, deepening it with the countries?

When it comes to foreign policy, not just in Iran, but all countries usually consider their national interests as something non-partisan.

There are some differences in the way to interpret that. For example, right now we hear from the reformist camp that they are questioning whether to join SCO or BRICS or such organizations would lead to revival of the JCPOA or not.

But that camp is not condemning or criticizing such joining to organizations. They approve that. It is just that their main agenda in foreign policy is the JCPOA and the nuclear talks. They’re not thinking anything else.

The current government, which can we call a principalist government in terms of domestic politics, considers that in addition to the JCPOA and the nuclear talks, we can have other areas to cooperate and work with the world and diversify the foreign policy.

So it’s kind of the multi-polarization of Iranian foreign policy. Do you expect any changes or actually more change in West Asian politics due to Iran’s membership in BRICS? We see, we have seen their rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, there are some talks about, Chinese proposal for the Palestinian question. What do you think will happen, will something change even further in West Asia due to Iran’s BRICS membership?

The politics and the dynamics of the West Asia has no other choice but to change. We need to, and we have to see some changes. It’s not only because of the BRICS, but BRICS can be influential in that because Saudi Arabia is also another country that is to become a new member.

The improvement of the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia as two regional powers in this part of the world, shows that the dynamics of relations is changing. Saudi Arabia typically is the leader of the Arab world. It is considered politically as the leader of the Arab world and with its rapprochement to Iran, this would impact other Arab countries’ relations with Iran as well.

If Iran and Saudi Arabia want to benefit from the membership into BRICS, especially in terms of economy, they would need security in the region. Security in the region means resolution of the conflicts that are currently on the ground in the country, in terms of war, for example Yemen war, or the situation in Syria or Libya, and the conflicts that are actually under the ash.

They need to fix that, or at least to bury the hatchets to stop disagreements and conflicts to work for a better cooperation.

There remains one issue, it is the Palestinian issue. The Zionist regime has been for many decades occupying the Palestinian land and the Abrahamic Accord in terms of the American policies, it has been trying to divide in the region. They were trying to separate the Arab countries from the traditional place that they had to work with the Muslim world and to join to the Zionist regime.

So this was actually a policy to divide the Muslim world. I believe that the situation in the Zionist regime has been improving a lot and any mistakes from the Zionist regime would lead to a very massive war which will demise that regime.

And you can add to that the internal problems that they are having. For weeks we have been seeing the public protest Netanyahu regime and many other cities in the occupied lands.

They are under pressure not only domestically but also regionally and they are trying to fix the problem by making seditious acts in other areas, like working with Arab countries and working with other Iranian neighbors as Azerbaijan. This needs time to be resolved.

I don’t expect that it would last for many years, maybe less than a decade. They need to resolve the situation, to improve the security.

Just look at what happened between Iran and Iraq just these days. We had an Iraqi foreign minister here, and it was mainly based on the security pact that we had with Iraq and Iran was insisting that Iraqi government needs to remove the entire Iraq terrorist groups from the land, and it happened. Iran was firm about its security because there were many terrorist attacks being taken from that part to inside Iran to be used against the establishment and the people.

So, this was one of the parts Iran demanded and forced the Iraqi government to remove those groups and send them into the camps led by the United Nations. Gradually, Iran would expect them to be completely and removed from the country.

So, since Iran is serious about security, not about borders, it would be about the region as well. Iran and Saudi Arabia are not enemies, they are rivals. BRICS is one of the important points about this part of the issue that since they want to work especially in terms of economy with members of the BRICS alliance.

Another country that Iran will meet within the BRICS context is the Arab Republic of Egypt, which has also joined BRICS. BRICS provides an institutional ground of, not only the summit of the presidents. There is the BRICS business council, there is the BRICS parliamentarian gathering, there is BRICS technology forums etc. So there are also a lot of things happening below the presidential level. And from the next year on, Iran will meet Egypt as well. Do you have any expectations for the Iranian-Egyptian relations?

Yes. Egypt is the intellectual leader of the Arab world. They have been very important in that regard. The attempts to have better relations and improvement of ties with Egypt is not limited to the BRICS.

This was happening from the day one because of Foreign Minister Abdollahian’s expertise in the Arab world and in this region. He has a long history of working in this area.

So, he has always been more considering to this rapprochement and improvement of relations with Egypt. It happened after the revolution that happened there when Mohamed Morsi came to Iraq.

However, it did not work very well, and he was toppled down later. After that, the role of the Western countries, especially the United States in Egypt, was improved, and we know how the politics of Egypt went on.

But after this government came to office in Iran and Amir Abdollahian became the foreign minister, I know from the meetings that we have had and the conversations that we have had with different officials in the foreign ministry, that they have been trying to improve their relations.

BRICS membership can help to foster that. This rapprochement did not start with BRICS, but this can help to boost it.

Yes, when you talk and meet at different levels, Tehran will welcome cooperation with Cairo. It may be at the administrative level, may be in different issues, as you said, just like business, it could be about security, it could be about agriculture, it could be about anything.

And finding practical grounds for cooperation would for sure improve the situation because the people and the governments find some grounds for working really and practically on the ground together to meet some interests of their own countries. So yes, BRICS can help, and Iran would welcome that.

This interview was conducted on behalf of and partly published on TeleSUR. It has been edited for reading purposes.

Yunus Soner

Political Scientist, former Deputy Chairman of Vatan Party (Türkiye) Soner has participated in diplomatic visits to China, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico, among others. He has conducted meetings with President Bashar Al Assad (Syria), President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Mexico), Manuel Zelaya (Honduras) and Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Finances and Representatives of Parliament from various countries. He has worked on Turkish-Russian, Turkish-Syrian, Turkish-Chinese and Turkish-Egyptian relations as well as on Latin America. Soner has had media participation in various international media channels, among them Russia Today and Sputnik (Russia), CGTN (China), Press TV (Iran), Syrian TV, El Mayaddin (Lebanon) and Telesur (Venezuela) and Turkish media. He has been a columnist to Turkish daily newspaper Aydınlık




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June 2024