Neighboring countries have a special place in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Fifteen Neighboring countries, along with India and China, can be “strong and secure areas” for the country in terms of economic prosperity, improving trade balances, developing trade, given the facilities and capacities they have in the economic, political, cultural, and other fields, attracting foreign investment as well as bypassing US and European sanctions policies. Certainly looking to the neighboring countries, and Russia and China, will be “the most important foreign policy priority”.
The new government will take office in less than 40 days. Although important issues are facing the new government at home, but due to the specific regional and international conditions facing the country, foreign policy and its priorities are also of fundamental importance.
According to upstream documents, four groups of countries have priority in the relations and foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran:
- The first group includes “neighbors”, which comprises of a total of 15 neighboring countries.
2- The second group is “Muslim countries”. It does not matter if this Muslim country is in the neighborhood of Iran or in other regions and continents of the world.
- Developing countries or the “Third World” are the third priority of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign relations.
4- The fourth and last priority includes countries that somehow meet one of the “political, economic, social or military needs” of Iran.
As can be seen, according to upstream documents, neighboring countries, both Muslim and non-Muslim, should be at the forefront of Iran’s foreign relations.
Although some see the development of regional cooperation as a viable alternative to protecting the country from the negative consequences of sanctions policies, this is not the whole story and is only a small part of a larger puzzle and equation. The issue of neighbors and prioritizing them should not be reduced to the issue of US sanctions. The issue is beyond that. 1- Being in a common field of civilization and religion; 2- Cultural and historical, economic and commercial commonalities; 3. Exposure to common economic, military, and security threats from foreign powers are three important propositions that necessitate “deepening of foreign relations” with neighboring countries. This is especially important in the current context.
In this regard, if viewed from an economic, trade and commercial point of view, the 15 + 2, i.e. neighboring countries plus India and China, are potentially and actually a very large economic market that, if carefully planned and taken seriously, certainly unique opportunities in other fields will be presented to Iran. Of course, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a large and powerful country, has the same mutual advantage for its neighbors.
According to the research works conducted by the Institute for Business Studies, the total annual exports and imports of Iran’s 15 neighboring countries, with a population of 600 million, is about 1,200 billion dollars. Meanwhile, the share of Iranian trade in this large market is currently 30 to 40 billion dollars a year! This shows the high capacity of economic and trade cooperation between Iran and its neighbors.
Today’s regional and international situation and the repeated misdeeds of European countries and the US, on the one hand, and the need to maximize national interests, demand more than ever that strengthening of relations with neighboring countries in particular and the policy of looking East (Russia, China and India) in general, be on the agenda of the diplomatic apparatus in the new government.