Effects of the war in Ukraine on the Middle East: an Iranian perspective

Speech by H.E. Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sheikholeslami, deputy foreign minister of Iran

The war in Ukraine has its implications for politics in the Middle East. The Cross-border Talks already wrote about the attitudes in the Israeli and Palestinian societies, where strong leaning towards the Ukrainian cause is observed. The American president Joe Biden’s present visit to Saudi Arabia is another apparent consequence of the war in Ukraine. For a long time the American Democrats have had somewhat of a skeptic attitude towards the Saudi rulers, who were much more preferable to the Republican administrations. Now Biden’s visit is seen as a victory for Mohammed bin Salman – the strongman in Riad. Apparently, once again the United States strongly aligns its Middle Eastern policy with Israel. A video by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft suggests that Biden follows in Trump’s footsteps with the Abraham Accords, aiming to get Saudi Arabia recognising Israel.

One of the regional powerhouses that remains out of all those maneuvering is the Islamic Republic of Iran. The voice of some of its foreign policy experts was heard at a conference, which took place on 7 July 2022 in Bucharest, in the context of the 120th anniversary of the start of the Romanian-Iranian diplomatic relations. Cross-border Talks’ partner blog – The Persian Bridge of Friendship got the right to publish a concise Iranian review of the effects, which the war in Ukraine causes to the Middle East international politics. Its author is Mohammad Hassah Sheikholeslami – the director of the Iranian foreign policy think tank Institute for Political and International Studies, which belongs to the Iranian foreign ministry. Dr. Sheikholeslami is also a deputy foreign minister of Iran.

The Iranian diplomat and analysts reminded that Iran still supports a win-win solution with regards to its nuclear agreement with the international powers and it is “fairly achievable”. In his view however the war in Ukraine has a number of complex effects on the Middle East. It confirms the necessity and importance of the concept of hard deterrence and decreases the countries’ willingness to deal with arms control disarmament in the region. 

Another effect of the war in Ukraine is that Russia can no longer be the arbiter and equally distanced player in the Middle East, who plays a balancing role (if it ever was). Therefore, tensions in the region will increase. Third issue is related to energy – in the context of sanctions of Europe and the United States against Russia, the Middle East has once again returned to the center of attention of the West. Fourthly, the issue of food security has become more and more important throughout the region.  

In his conclusion remarks Sheikholeslami apparently bets on the American pivot to Asia, which would leave the security of the Middle East to be agreed upon and provided for the countries of the region themselves. Against that background Biden’s visit must be closely followed so that any observer can deduce whether the extent to which the US security engagement in the region remains valid. 

Here is the whole speech of Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sheikholeslami, which was held online at the conference Middle East in Quest for Security, Stability, and Economic Identity in Bucharest. 

Photo: Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sheikholeslami (source: gov.ir)

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