The 7th annual conference of the Middle East and North Africa, as “Change for a New Start”, was held online on Thursday, December 2, 2021, by the think-tanks “the Middle East Political and Economic Institute (MEPEI) in Bucharest, the EuroDefense of Romania and the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) in Tehran by special support from the Iranian Embassy in Romania.
The major topics discussed are as follows:
- Agents of dynamic changes and play of powers in the region’s new security structure,
- New global developments, reflection of a crisis on a large scale
- Afghanistan, new game of power and security challenges
- Geopolitical influence of global, regional and emerging actors
- Economic failures in the Middle East, with emphasis on the Lebanese crisis
- Endurance and economic resistance against the sanctions
- Assessing the Middle East countries, especially Iran,‘s relations with the European Union
- Participation of global and regional players, especially China and the US, in the Middle East
The speakers of the webinar were experts, professors and intellectuals from the Islamic Republic of Iran (professors and senior experts Foad Izadi, Ali Beman Eghbalizarch, Keyhan Barzegar, Khalil Shirgholami, Mojtaba Ferdowsipour, Garineh Keshishian, Davood Kiani, Mohsen Abdollahi, and Pouriya Askari), Afghanistan, Austria, China, Hungary, Lebanon, Italy, Malaysia, Palestine, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Syria, Turkey, the UK, Belgium, the US, and the General Secretary of the D-8. Also over 200 persons had registered to attend the webinar.
In the opening speeches, Mr.Flavious Kaba Maria, President of MEPEI and Mr.Seyed Hossein Sadat Meydani , Iranian Ambassador to Romania, Dr.Liviv Morschan, president of EuropeDefesne made speeches :
Mr.Sheikholeslami: The two countries ties’ are historical and rooted in the two nations’ will, of the signs are 120 years of formal ties and translation of the Saadi’s collection of works in the November of 1921. The new Iranian administration’s approach is based on expanding relations with the neighbors, regional balance and stability and expanding the bilateral ties with all countries, including the European countries and Romania.
Dr.Werner Faslabend: The Isis strengthening of presence in West Asia is worrying. In recent years, Iran and Turkey’s military role has increased, but the two countries’ economy has severely been damaged and turned fragile. The Russian presence has strengthened in the region and the main winners of the last two decades have been China and the US.
Mr.Melshkano: Cyberspace and information had a critical role in the Arab Spring. The continuation of the civil wars in Yemen, Syria, and Libya must not be blamed on the west. The JCPOA agreement is important for the Persian Gulf and Iran has repeatedly pronounced the illegality of nuclear weapons. The country is an important player in the Middle East, and to resolve the disputes, the regional structures should be used and we have always enjoyed good relations with Tehran.
Mr.Souren: There are three crucial realities in the Middle East: First, China, as the deciding super power; Second, the US has weakened over the last two decades and is shifting its approach from military to economy and other areas. And finally, Turkey with its neo-Ottomanism, is in deep rivalry with Iran and Russia. To him, the world has to confirm the ineffectiveness of the sanctions, because the US insistence on ramping up the unilateral sanctions has made this country a new Soviet.
Here are the major topics brought up at the meeting:
- With the Syrian civil war, the US and world powers had in mind a basic change of the region’s map of political geography and maximally used Turkey, but the Syrian people’s resistance and Iran and Russia’s help totally changed the landscape.
- Turkey’s goal was to regionalize power in the Balkans and China, India, Russia, Turkey and Iran have roles as new players and the region is heading towards distilling power and the US has reduced military interference.
- Europe’s role in the Syrian and Libyan crises is almost nothing and this player’s approach is tightly tied to the US, and after ten years of geopolitical rivalry among the key regional actors of the Middle East, it seems the fragile situation is cooling down and morphing into a new round of rivalry.
- It is necessary that the world community pressure the Taliban to change ways and the world powers present a long term plan to improve Afghanistan’s social and economic situation and partnership of the neighbors is of necessity for the rule of law and stability in this country.
- Pakistan wants to hold a key role but lacks the capacity and India is worried especially about the borders. The Afghan people’s economic situation is dire, a matter that can trigger migration more than ever. For now, the bulk of the migrants spill over into Iran. It is urgent that the EU be in contact with a moderate Taliban to counter terrorism and alleviate migration pains.
- The Middle East region, due to a host of reasons including the energy, Abrahamic religions, and access to other important regions of the world, has a significant part in balancing the world’s power and China’s economic presence is a factor in changing the US approach. India and Japan have economic approaches. Also the US partners have no independence in cooperation with this country’s rivals in the Middle East and the new actors lack the power, capacity, stability and security to give to the Middle East. Therefore, they must be more thinking about cooperation than confrontation. Meanwhile, the sanctions, have neared Iran, Turkey and Russia and the situation of the region’s people has deteriorated and the US-Turkey relations have been undermined and the US’s two decade long presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has been of no avail.
- China is one of the powers which is expanding its full-scale presence in the region and trying to broaden ties with all Middle East countries. Of course, China has serious rivals and the intensification of tension between China and the US will probably spill over into the Middle East. China’s approach towards the region is not based on a Cold War and hegemonic mentality and this can give China a balancing role if China has the will and readiness.
- China’s cooperation with Iran is exaggerated and this country’s investment initiative worth of hundreds of billions of dollars actually does not exist and no doubt, China’s ties with the Persian Gulf Council’s countries are better. Also, the US is, on three dimensions, worried about China’s presence in the Middle East, which iclude sale of advanced technology, development of the infrastructures and sale of weapons.
- Lebanon has been for three decades in the process of political, security, and social transition , but the economic situation, has been on the decline in recent years with the emergence of Covid-19, and generally, the governments’ performance has been weak . Also, the US is trying to strengthen its influence, especially in the political and security structure and finally, Saudi Arabia obstructs the improvement of the situation as a compensation for the Yemen failure.
- Lebanon’s power is based on three basic components; first, unity of the army, nation and the resistance; second, complete cohesion with historical and civilizational area of the Levant; third, solidarity with the battle against occupation. Also, in the future parliament, the role of the independents will be more pronounced and there is no hope in the landscape of this country.
- There is no clear and promising picture of future relations of the green continent countries’ relations, especially those of the EU members, with the Middle East countries, especially Iran. Also, the approach of the big European countries towards the Middle East, especially those of the governments of the UK, France and Germany, and their constant support for the US unilateral actions in the region have not been satisfactory over the last two decades.
- The Union is focused on human cooperation with the Middle East, especially with the south Europe, countries and has spent more than 800 million euros during the 2014-2020 periods.
- Russia is taking advantage of the latent and frozen crises to pressure the EU and has recently used the “energy and migration” leverage and in fact its policy of creating crises is a hybrid one aimed at stopping Nato’s expansion towards the east.
- Europe’s differences with the Middle East are focused on the Palestinian-Israeli crisis and it is necessary the EU target balanced relations with a moderate approach.
- Iran has been under the US illegal sanctions for over 40 years and has managed to adapt and advance. Although the country has been under the negative influence of the sanctions, the government can for years continue its handling of the affairs. The new president has decided for Iran to have closer ties with its neighbors, China and Russia. Also, studying Iran’s situation shows that the US and Europe’s unilateral and illegitimate sanctions have caused Iran’s non-participation in the Paris Climate agreement and as well as in the campaign of green-gas emissions reduction. While Iran’s heavily hydrocarbon-dependent economy and industry are responsible for about 2% of the world’s gas emissions, the sanctions have generally distanced from the set goals, leading to the countries’ economic situation getting deteriorated , leading to the migration of the citizens, the main target of many being European countries.
The opinions discussed are close together and make for a better understanding of basic ways and it is urgent that unilaterism, militarism, and ideology be removed from the international relations, and today more than any time, there is a need for multilaterism based on international rules and revision according to the conditions.
Also, we have been witnessing a variety of opinions based on thorough expertise , especially on the Afghanistan and Middle East developments and the trajectory of the China rise, and there is a need for cooperation for settlement of challenging issues , especially in Afghanistan.
The European Union cannot gain strategic autonomy without the Middle East, and especially Iran’s energy, and in its foreign relations, we have to b witnessing movements and responses from other European countries like Romania than the three countries of Germany, France, and Italy alongside the UK.
According to 15 reports by the general secretary of the IAEA, Iran’s activities are fully compliant with the international and specialized rules.
Written by: Ali Beman Eghbalizarch, Senior Expert of Europe - December 4, 2021