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Lifting of anti-Iranian sanctions: challenge or opportunity? Interview with Fyodor Lukyanov

Fyodor Lukyanov. Photo: newsland.com

Iran and six international negotiators (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) have reached a consensus on Iran’s nuclear program. The long and painful talks are over. Now the world community will gradually lift its anti-Iranian sanctions in exchange for Iran’s promise to reduce its nuclear resources. Many experts warn that now that Iran will face no more political and economic restrictions, it will start enlarging its influence and may become a geopolitical rival to Russia and Turkey. It will also have a significant influence on the global energy market.

However, Russian political expert Fyodor Lukyanov does not expect quick geopolitical changes in the region. “Iran will certainly increase its influence but this will not happen at once,” the expert says in an interview to EADaily .

Mr. Lukyanov, the six major powers and Iran have reached a consensus on Iran’s nuclear program. What do you expect from this agreement? Will it make Iran stronger as a regional and global player?

I don’t expect drastic changes in the region. It was a painful agreement. The talks lasted for a much longer time than they were expected to. On the one hand, this is good as this proves that the negotiators cared for what they negotiated. But, on the other hand, this shows that the parties – particularly, the United States and Iran - do not trust each other. The agreement they have reached contains certain protectors – guarantees that Iran will not become very active. This is why the sanctions will be lifted stage by stage.

Iran has always had a big role in the region. The sanctions kept it in check but the world community could not just keep that country isolated for ever. Iran’s regional policy does not depend on the United States. The Americans’ failures in the Middle East are playing into the Iranians’ hands.

The lifting of the sanctions may have economic consequences as well as that country is rich in oil and gas.

But this does not mean that Iran will dominate the region. Though potentially strong, its economy is facing hard times and needs serious reforms. As far as oil is concerned, OPEC’s quotas and Saudi Arabia’s control will hardly let Iran make a breakthrough.

The good thing about this whole process is that here we have no empty promises (as was the case in Ukraine or Greece). Here the parties have promised to do only the things they can do.

Iran shows different attitudes towards the South Caucasus nations. With Armenia Iran is actively developing relations but with Azerbaijan, who is a partner to the Untied States and Israel, it has certain problems. What should those countries expect now that the anti-Iranian sanctions will be lifted?

I don’t think that Iran will change anything in its attitude towards those countries. As far as Azerbaijan is concerned, Hassan Rouhani has substantially improved Iran’s relations with that country.

With Armenia Iran will be as close as it has been so far. I think that now that the Middle East is facing bloody conflicts, the South Caucasus will not be Iran’s top priority.

Russia objected to the anti-Iranian sanctions from the very beginning. It even lifted the ban on S-300 deliveries to Iran. On the other hand, Russia and Iran have always been rivals in the region. And both of them are big oil and gas exporters. So, what the lifting of the anti-Iranian sanctions means for Russia? Is it a challenge or an opportunity?

I think both. Iran is one of the leaders of the region irrespective of the sanctions. Russia certainly wants to see it as a member of the SCO – simply because it is the last big independent regional power outside that organization. Besides, Iran is a natural component of the Silk Road strategy announced by China two years ago.

Russia may also want to see Iran actively cooperating with the Eurasian Economic Union – even though I don’t expect serious progress in this direction as today China is becoming much more active player in Eurasia. Of course, the Eurasian Economic Union needs to develop but this process will take time. Just remember how much time it took the Union to sign a free trade agreement with Vietnam.

In any case, Iran’s role in the region will be growing and the other players, like Russia, Turkey and the United States, will certainly have to ease up, will they?

Of course, Iran would like to see its role growing but today ti has seriously problems in the south and southeast – a war between Shi’as and Sunnis, a conflict with Saudi Arabia and the presence of the ISIS. All this will take a lot of intellectual and political resources from Iran.

Interview by EADaily correspondent Arshaluys Mgdesyan

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