Tehraan Summit | Editorial

Tehraan Summit | Editorial

THE power of images in international politics can sometimes send much stronger messages than verbose statements laced with diplomatic jargon. Certainly, the photograph of the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkiye meeting for a summit in Tehran — hands clasped warmly — was likely designed to send multiple messages to various audiences. But perhaps the underlying sentiment behind the meet-up was that while the three states may differ radically on some issues, they are willing to join forces to forge ahead in areas of common interest. The three states indeed make strange bedfellows. Russia and China, with Iran as a junior partner, are part of an emerging global bloc that has challenged the US-led order. Turkiye, on the other hand, is a card-carrying member of Nato, the Western military grouping both Russia and Iran detest. Moreover, the meeting in Tehran was held to discuss Syria, where the trio’s interests diverge greatly. If it were not for Russian and Iranian military intervention, Bashar al-Assad’s government would have fallen long ago, while Turkiye has been a strong backer of anti-Assad rebels. Ankara has also reportedly supplied Ukraine with drones the latter is using against Russian forces. And Russia maintains cordial relations with Israel, an arch-enemy of the Islamic Republic. But in the midst of these apparent contradictions, reports from the summit tell us that Russia signed a $40bn agreement to invest in Iran’s oil and gas sector, while an agreement between Ankara and Tehran worth $30bn to develop trade and energy ties was also inked.

Clearly, Russia and Iran are saying to the West that the sanctions placed on both states for different reasons will not prevent them from forging ahead with geopolitical cooperation. Turkiye, on the other hand, is hedging its bets; though it wants to maintain ties with the West, it is not willing to isolate Russia and Iran, its neighbours in the region. The Ukraine conflict has basically thrown the West-dominated post-World War II and post-Cold War global order into disarray, and what we are seeing are the first steps towards a new multipolar world. In a related development, senior Iranian official Kamal Kharrazi said in an interview that Iran had “the technical capability to build a nuclear bomb”, but no decision had been taken in this regard as yet. Instead of responding to American threats with such rhetoric, Tehran should leverage its relations with Turkiye and Russia to finalise a better nuclear deal.

Tehraan Summit | Editorial

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2022

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