Mustafa Fahs
TT Iran at Peace with Itself

If former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had been representing his country at the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, would he have taken the step taken by his successor, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian? In all likelihood, the logical answer would be, no. This is the assumed answer not because Zarif is more disciplined and mindful of diplomatic courtesy, and it is certainly not because the former minister was a moderate and the current minister is a hardliner. Abdollahian’s actions are probably a message that separates not merely two approaches but two eras as well. The regime, which has chosen to return to its foundational nature, is no longer very suited to having a constantly smiling foreign minister. It now needs someone whose facial expressions carry the regime’s genes in content and form.

The Iranian regime’s genes carry a lot of characteristics; it starts with the imperial complex and obsession with grandeur and passes through Iran’s status and position. That has become clear from the regime’s literature, statements, narratives, and preoccupation with constantly looking for ways to demonstrate Iran’s presence in the world, regardless of the cost. That is what it takes to satisfy the regime’s inflated ego, which is constantly counting its victories and its enemies’ defeats to cover up its persistent anxiety about its consistent failure to find a safe space for Iran in the world. Abdollahian saved the time of everyone following him to discover his nature and gauge the impressions he would present, as the new government’s policies are clearly illustrated on its foreign minister’s face and do not need much time to comprehend. The nature of the regime’s institutions will correspond fully with the impressions he is giving, and this congruence will help us overcome the dilemma of how to deal with Iran, which had been facing everyone over the past three decades. The world has faced three forms of Iranian foreign policy. The first is the official policy that represents the government; the second represents the regime and expresses the Office of the Supreme Leader of Iran’s position. The third could be considered to represent the revolutionary apparatus, expressing the foreign policy of the Revolutionary Guard through the Quds Force. Now, with the government of President Ebrahim Raisi, Iran is presenting a single foreign policy, with that of the state institutions and the regime in full conformity with one another for the first time since former President Muhammad Khatami was in office.

In practice, Abdollahian’s leap over the second row to the first as the group photograph was being taken at the latest Baghdad conference is nothing but an Iranian signal that this government will not hesitate to leap over all norms, be they related to diplomacy, regional or international relations, or those that ensure good relations with neighbors. It also emphasizes Iranian hegemony over four Arab capitals, that it will take a hardline position on all matters, and that, in any future negotiations with the international community, discussions will not go beyond the nuclear issue, that neither Iran’s influence in the region nor its ballistic missiles are on the table.

Stepping to the first row is meant to stress Iran’s geographic expansion and that Iran decides where it will stand and where it will be. This step was not necessarily taken from a position of strength but from a position of hollowed-out posturing that is founded only on delusional rhetoric and tools of destruction that trade security for stability. This was evident from the new president’s first day in office when Iranian drones struck naval targets in the waters of the Arabian Gulf.

Ironically, the clamor Abdollahian tried to stir during the photo op in Baghdad and the foreign ministry’s rhetoric, justifying his actions by saying that he stood at the spot that is appropriate for Iran, do not correspond to the terror that Iranian officials felt as they saw the picture shared by Russia’s ambassador to Iran of him and his British counterpart on the steps of the Russian embassy in Tehran on the day that Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin were pictured together at the Tehran Conference in 1943. That picture demonstrated just how worried the Iranians are about the future after the Middle East’s powerful states reconfigured their positions in perpetration for anticipated changes on the regional and international levels, especially after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Based on the above, new-old Iran has decided, after imposing Raisi as president, to return to the “the 1980 beginnings,” to a revolutionary government whose actions are aligned with the regime’s objectives. It will take more hardline decisions and close off the path to those who were betting on there being an opportunity to come to an understanding with the Iranian establishment. They will discover that even if the whole world changed, this regime would not.