Fereydoun Majlessi: Iran’s economic hardship is caused mainly by military and security expenditure, not sanctions

Interview with the Iranian foreign policy expert and former diplomat about the problems with the nuclear negotiations with Iran, condition of the Iranians under sanctions and Iranian foreign policy options in times of war in Ukraine

Vladimir Mitev

Fereydoun Majlessi is a former diplomat, who served in Washington DC and in Brussels in the European community before the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Since then he has been a manager and an entrepreneur, as well as a writer and translator. He has translated Gore Vidal into Persian. At present he is a freelance journalist, columnist and a foreign policy expert. 

Mr. Majlessi, the tensions around Iran are escalating again on a number of fronts, one of them being the fact that in spring it was discovered that Iran has not declared some nuclear sites, which is an issue of concern for the IAEA. At the same time there are unconfirmed officially reports that the American president Joe Biden seems to be opposed to taking the Revolutionary Guard out of the US list for terrorist organizations. What do you expect to be the fate of the nuclear negotiations? Why have these negotiations been moving with such difficulty over the last year?

The team that was brought to power in their desired selected election was the same group of the shadow government who opposed the IAEA from the very beginning! They are the same fundamentalists who believe or claim to believe that they are absolutely right to carry out their divine mission to eradicate Israel from the scene of the world for Israel’s injustice in depriving the Arab people of Palestine from their rights. They are committed to do so and they are actually doing so on different scales. Diplomatic negotiations for finding a peaceful resolution with a team very much committed in their strategy of a final solution for distraction of their enemy which is under full protection of the other side of negotiations is contradictory and not a realistic plan for finding a hopeful solution. 

As a heavily sanctioned country Iran certainly experiences with greater difficulty the rise of food prices. There have been some reported social protests in the country. What are the most important impacts of Western sanctions on Iran, its economy and society in your opinion? What could be the ray of hope for the Iranians in these conditions?

The hard economic conditions of Iran are not caused by heavy sanctions. Iran could bypass many sanctions. The main reason is the heavy expenditure for wars abroad and heavy budgets of security and religious foundations, inside the country and abroad, without being economically justifiable. 

How are the anti-Russian sanctions in the energy domain, including oil, affecting the Islamic Republic of Iran?

It may provide Iran with a potential of benefit, but not too much. 

How did the war in Ukraine influence the prospects of a nuclear deal in general? Do you expect some substantial strategic rapprochement between Iran and Russia and Iran and China in the current situation? What is your evaluation of the “looking east” foreign policy line of the Ebrahim Raisi administration?

I think the Americans and Europeans are abusing their economic power by imposing sanctions on other countries regardless of the UN resolutions as if they are still masters of the world! First of all any sanction has 2 parts and over doing that will sanction them selves! Iran is a big country with a variety of domestic possibilities, Russia and China are much bigger with much more possibilities and can provide each other’s needs. Europeans and Japan that are more badly in need of a market! So instead of master decisions for other countries depending on their military and nuclear power, which make them more committed to finding their own ways of increasing the military and nuclear independence, it is much better to come to a more respectful negotiation table on an equal basis and forget the sanctions and let the other countries breathe. Nature and the economy could play their roles that way.

Photo: (source: Pixabay, CC0)

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