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Iran Embraces Its Eurasian Future
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Ebrahim Raisi’s election as Iranian president was marred by a low turnout and the banning of moderate opponents. Photo: AFP
Ebrahim Raisi’s election as Iranian president was marred by a low turnout and the banning of moderate opponents. Photo: AFP

Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi was sworn in as the 8th president of Iran this Thursday at the Majlis (Parliament), two days after being formally endorsed by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei.

Representatives of the UN secretary-general; OPEC; the EU; the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); the Inter-Islamic Union; and quite a few heads of state and Foreign Ministers were at the Majlis, including Iraq President Barham Salih and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The Islamic Republic of Iran now enters a new era in more ways than one. Khamenei himself outlined its contours in a short, sharp speech, ‘The Experience of Trusting the US’.

Khamenei’s strategic analysis, conveyed even before the final result of the JCPOA negotiations in Vienna in 2015, which I covered in my Asia Times ebook Persian Miniatures , turned out to be premonitory: “During the negotiations I repeatedly said they don’t uphold their promises.” So, in the end, “the experience tells us this is a deadly poison for us.” During the Rouhani administration, Khamenei adds, “it became clear that trusting the West doesn’t work”.

With perfect timing, a new, six-volume book, Sealed Secret, co-written by outgoing Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and two top JCPOA negotiators, Ali Akbar Salehi and Seyed Abbas Araghchi (who’s still involved in the current, stalled Vienna debate) will be published this week, for the moment only in Farsi.

Professor Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran summed up for me the road map ahead: “Iran’s foreign policy decisions are pretty clear. Iran will be putting less emphasis on Western nations, especially European, and more emphasis on the Global South, the East, neighboring countries, and of course that will include China and Russia. That doesn’t mean the Iranians are going to ignore Europe altogether, if they decide to return to the JCPOA. The Iranians would accept if they abide by their obligations. So far, we have seen no sign of that whatsoever.”

Marandi could not help referring to Khamenei’s speech: “It’s pretty clear; he’s saying, ‘we don’t trust the West, these last 8 years showed that’, he’s saying the next administration should learn from the experience of these 8 years.”

Outgoing president Hassan Rouhani (L) and Iran’s newly inaugurated President Ebrahim Raisi arriving for the handover ceremony in Tehran, August 3, 2021. -Photo: AFP / Iranian Presidency
Outgoing president Hassan Rouhani (L) and Iran’s newly inaugurated President Ebrahim Raisi arriving for the handover ceremony in Tehran, August 3, 2021. -Photo: AFP / Iranian Presidency

Yet the main challenge for Raisi will not be foreign policy, but the domestic framework, with sanctions still biting hard: “With regard to economic policy, it will be tilting more towards social justice and turning away from neoliberalism, expanding the safety net for the disenfranchised and the vulnerable.”

It’s quite intriguing to compare Marandi with the views of a seasoned Iranian diplomat who prefers to remain anonymous, and very well positioned as an observer of the domestic conflict:

“During Rouhani’s 8 years, contrary to the Supreme Leader’s advice, the government spent lots of time on negotiations, and they have not been investing on internal potential. Anyhow the 8 years are now finished, and contrary to Rouhani’s promises we currently have Iran’s worst economic and financial record in 50 years.”

The diplomat is adamant on “the importance of paying attention to our internal capacities and abilities, while having powerful economic relations with our neighbors as well as Russia, China, Latin America, South Africa as well as maintaining mutual respectable ties with Europeans and the US government, if it changes its behavior and accepts Iran as it is and not always trying to overthrow the Iranian state and harm its people by any possible means.”

Iranians are heirs to a tradition of at least 2,500 years of fine diplomacy. So once again our interlocutor had to stress, “the Supreme Leader has never, ever said or believed we should cut our relations with Europeans. Quite the opposite: he deeply believes in the notion of ‘dynamic diplomacy’, even concerning the US; he said multiple times we have no problem with the US if they deal with us with respect.”

And now, let’s time travel

There are no illusions in Tehran that Iran under Raisi, much more than under Rouhani, will remain the target of multiple “maximum pressure” and/or Hybrid War tactics deployed by Washington, Tel Aviv and NATOstan, crude false flags included, with the whole combo celebrated by US Think Tankland’s analyses penned by “experts” in Beltway cubicles.

All that is irrelevant in terms of what really matters ahead in the Southwest Asia chessboard.

The late, great René Grousset, in his 1951 classic L’Empire des Steppes, has pointed out “how Iran, renewing itself for fifty centuries”, has “always given proof of astonishing continuity.” It was because of this strength that Iranian civilization, as much as Chinese civilization, has assimilated all foreigners that conquered is soil, from Seljuks to Mongols: “Every time, because of the radiance of its culture, Iranism reappeared with renewed vitality, on the road to a new renaissance.”

The possibility of a “new renaissance”, now, implies a step beyond the “neither East or West” first conceptualized by Ayatollah Khomeini: it’s rather a back to the (Eurasian) roots, Iran reviving its past to tackle the new, multipolar, future.

The political heart of Iran lies in the sophisticated urban organization of the northern plateau, the result of a rolling, pluri-millennial process. All along Grousset’s “fifty centuries”, the plateau has been the house of Iranian culture and the stable heart of the state.

Around this central space there are plenty of territories historically and linguistically linked to Persia and Iran: in Eastern Anatolia, in Central Asia and Afghanistan, in the Caucasus, in Western Pakistan. Then there are Shi’ite territories of other ethnic groups, mostly Arab, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah), Yemen (the Zaidites) and the Persian Gulf (Bahrain, the Shi’ites in Hasa in Saudi Arabia).

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on January 8, 2021 shows him delivering a televised speech on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of 1978 revolt in Qom which ignited the Iranian Revolution. Photo: AFP via KHAMENEI.IR
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on January 8, 2021 shows him delivering a televised speech on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of 1978 revolt in Qom which ignited the Iranian Revolution. Photo: AFP via KHAMENEI.IR

This is the Shi’ite arc – evolving in a complex Iranization process that is foremost political and religious, and not cultural and linguistic. Outside of Iran, I have seen in my travels how Arab Shi’ites in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf, Dari/Farsi Shi’ites in Afghanistan, those of Pakistan and India, and Turcophone Shi’ites in Azerbaijan look up towards political Iran.

So Iran’s large zone of influence relies mostly on Shi’ism, and not on Islamic radicalism or the Persian language. It’s Shi’ism that allows political power in Iran to keep a Eurasian dimension – from Lebanon to Afghanistan and Central Asia – and that reflects once again Grousset’s “continuity” when he refers to Persian/Iranian history.

From Ancient History to the medieval era, it was always out of imperial projects, born in Southwest Asia and /or the Mediterranean basin, that came the drive to attempt the creation of a Eurasian territory.

The Persians, who were halfway between Mediterranean Europe and Central Asia, were the first who tried to build a Eurasian empire from Asia to the Mediterranean, but they were halted in their expansion towards Europe by the Greeks in the 5th century B.C.

Then it was up to Alexander The Great, in pure badass blitzkrieg mode, to venture all the way to Central Asia and India, de facto founding the first Eurasian empire. Which happened to materialize, to a large extent, the Persian empire.

Then something even more extraordinary happened: the simultaneous presence of the Parthian and Kushan empires between the Roman Empire and the Han Empire during the first two centuries of the first millennium.

It was this interaction that first allowed commercial and cultural trade and connectivity between the two extremities of Eurasia, between the Romans and the Han Chinese.

Yet the largest Eurasian territorial space, founded between the 7th and 10th centuries, following the Arab conquests, were the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. Islam was at the heart of these Arab conquests, remixing previous imperial compositions, from Mesopotamia to the Persians, Greeks and Romans.

Historically, that was the first truly Eurasian economic, cultural and political arc, from the 8th to the 11th century, before Genghis Khan monopolized The Big Picture.


All that is very much alive in the collective unconscious of Iranians and Chinese. That’s why the China-Iran strategic partnership deal is much more than a mere \$400 billion economic arrangement. It’s a graphic manifestation of what the revival of the Silk Roads is aiming at. And it looks like Khamenei had already seen which way the (desert) wind was blowing years before the fact.

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
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  1. SND says:

    Kudos to Ron Unz for having Pepe’s always fun to read commentary here.

  2. Malla says:

    Marandi could not help referring to Khamenei’s speech: “It’s pretty clear; he’s saying, ‘we don’t trust the West,

    Sure. But the West backstabbed the Shah and got Khomeini into power in the first place. Khomeini came back to Iran from Paris not Cairo or Basra.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  3. China’s Belt & Road initiative seemed like it was more of just an attempt to harness the third world, but the bungling geopolitics of the West and their total lack of awareness has really resulted in this becoming a powerful reconstruction of Silk Road power.

    It’s also crazy how the average Americans take a John McCain view of Iran – it’s just some other country that is constantly diplomatically out of line for disagreeing with neoliberalism and being the real, solid, continuous foundation in the pan-Islamic opposition to Israel…

    Iran has never resembled Iraq or the Gulf Arab states in terms of culture, and the Arabs have never really been on par in terms of development. Iran should be thought of as a state that mirrors the power of a place like Turkey, not a half-empty desert perpetually filled with barely literate people who only know one book.

    One of the things they consistently say about Rouhani that was a disaster was his desire to meddle in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, diverting many resources to these conflicts. People thought of it as unproductive – certainly, it would seem as such while regular Iranians suffered under sanctions – but the fact of the matter is that Iran is truly a regional geopolitical contender that can potentially turn Iraq and Syria into client states. Yes, of course the USA is there to resist this for now – but how much longer can the US continue applying pressure in the ME as the wheels begin to come off at home & the enchanting narrative of nation building wears off..?

    The theme of the 2020’s will be the increasingly multipolar world. Neocons will think of this as a curse, but it is a blessing. Nothing could be better for the Americans than to become introspective and try to turn their energy away from Empire and into national identity. It may be the only chance they’ll have to correct the wrongs at home.

    • Agree: Joe Levantine
    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  4. Koserte says:

    The reality is that Iran is deeply corrupt. I see no advancement. Iran has to import gasoline, while its sitting on an incredible amount of petroleum. Thats an astonishing inablility to use your strength.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  5. Anonymous[197] • Disclaimer says:

    I’m not sure you know what “reality is”.

    Iran had to import gasoline in the 2000’s. Then because US sanctions made that difficult, they imported some from Venezuela, while building their own additional refinery capacity. Today, Iran is an exporter of gasoline.

  6. Anonymous[197] • Disclaimer says:

    I see, so there was no revolution, no millions of people in the streets, no thousands shot dead, no disdain for the Shah’s megalomania, corruption, and theft, no hatred for and fear of the security service, their informants, and their torture chambers, no backlash against miniskirts, sensual movies, and live sex on the theater stage. The West “got Khomeini into power”, because he “came back to Iran from Paris”.
    That’s garbage.

  7. Malla says:

    LOL Revolutions? So many revolutions are all fake. French Revolution, Russian Revolution… all fake. No evil Tzar, no evil French king. All fake narratives.

    The West Started the Iranian “Revolution”
    U.S. President funded Carter in Paris

    how khomeini came to power

    The Truth About the Shah of Iran

  8. Malla says:
    Ruhollah Khomeini Portraits
    Three women preparing printed portraits of Iranian Shia Islam religious leader and politician Ruhollah Khomeini, UK, 15th November 1979. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

    Khomeini (who was holed up in Paris and given security by the French secret services) portraits being mass manufactured in the UK to be sent to Iran for their “revolution”. LOL

  9. @Løvstuhagen

    Anyone with the slightest understanding of the region knew that once the US got rid of Saddam the Shia majority would turn toward Iran – who was helping them while Saddam was persecuting them… The same Saddam the NATO cou tries backed so he would fight Iran. I dont know if it was incompetence or complete hubris that made them think otherwise in Washington/Northern Virginia.

    • Replies: @Løvstuhagen
  10. @Anonymous

    He loves conspiracy (he also claims the US secretly supoorted putting Mao in power — LOL). The fact is the west put the Shah in power when they overthrew the elected government of Iran because they dared to have a say in what happened with their own oil. Whether they outlived their usefuleness is another thing. Right wing hawks are crazy – but I seriously down they wanted the embassy taken over just so Jimmy Carter could look bad. Their ego wouldnt allow. I guess they let Saddam use chemical weapons against Iran as a sign of support for the regime too — in his mind.

    • Replies: @Malla
  11. UNIT472 says:

    I won’t try and predict what will happen many decades in the future but I have reason to believe that some senior people in the Iranian regime are going to be deceased before the years out.

  12. To say that the west started the revolution in Iran is immense stupidity, the revolution stopped the destruction of Iran by the west. Ask Israel about that.

  13. Malla says:

    He loves conspiracy (he also claims the US secretly supoorted putting Mao in power — LOL).

    I have provided enough information to back these claims up.

    • Replies: @antibeast
  14. Malla says:
    @Liborio Guaso

    That is how the Western elites work.

  15. Malla says:
    @Liborio Guaso

    President Reagan flatly admits that the USA got rid of the Shah with a fake funded revolution by earlier President Carter.

    Reagan Reveals the Betrayal of the Shah of Iran by USA

  16. Malla says:

    so there was no revolution, no millions of people in the streets,

    From wikipedia
    Worse for the Shah was that the Western media, especially the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), immediately put Khomeini into the spotlight.[11][123] Khomeini rapidly became a household name in the West, portraying himself as an “Eastern mystic” who did not seek power, but instead sought to “free” his people from “oppression.” The normally critical Western media rapidly became a docile tool in Khomeini’s hands.[11][95]

    In addition, the media coverage eroded the influence of other, more moderate clergy such as Ayatollah Shariatmadari and Ayatollah Taleghani.[102][104][109] The BBC itself later issued a statement admitting to having a “critical” disposition to the Shah, saying that its broadcasts helped to “change the collective perception of the population.”[4]
    How the BBC helped bring the Ayatollah to power
    In the book he writes: “Another propaganda tool for Khomeini was none other than the Persian-language broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The channel gave him a platform. His regular broadcasts made him the unchallenged leader of the Iranian revolutionary movement.”

    When we met in a west London hotel not far from the notorious Iranian embassy, Bergman pointed out: “The BBC gave free hours of free broadcast to Khomeini from Paris. It is unbelievable.

  17. Malla says:
    @Liborio Guaso

    The Shah was SUCH a lackey of the West that he said this

    Shah of Iran on the power of the ‘Jewish Lobby’ (60 Minutes interview by Mike Wallace)

    Not many leaders have the balls to speak out about the powerful jewish lobby controlling media, finance etc…and their support for Israel against the Palestinians.

    Shah Of Iran Critisizing Britain

  18. antibeast says:

    Hey, Malla, you forgot about the real reason why Mao was able to revive the CCP which Chiang had trounced by 1935:

    Yup, that’s right. A bunch of Jewish ‘commie pinko’ Bolsheviks in the USA bought Mao a ‘magic carpet’ which he rode to Tiananmen on Oct. 1, 1949 to declare that the founding of the PRC. That’s how the USA installed Mao to become the ruler of ‘Communist China’.

    By the way, the Second Sino-Japanese War never happened. Nor did the Nanjing Massacre. ‘Three-Alls’ Campaign? Unit 731? All ‘fake news’ invented by the Jewish ‘commie pinko’ Bolsheviks to discredit the Japs.

    Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

    • LOL: Showmethereal
    • Replies: @Malla
    , @Mulga Mumblebrain
  19. Malla says:

    Antibeast, my apologies. I did not want to discuss Mao here, it was showmethereal who brought it up. I keep myself controlled on that issue, lets not unleash hell on that subject. There are many Chinese Nationalists here as well as it seems many right winged Westerners are pro-China because they see in China, their National Socialist dream Utopia getting realised. I also do not talk much about the so called American “Revolution” (LOL, ya rite) because this place is filled with American Conservatives/ nationalists.
    Again, my apologies, lets change the subject and keep it to Iran.

  20. @Liborio Guaso

    Yeah kind of strange right. They claim the US help back the Islamic Revolution which is anti Israel – but claim Israel controls US policy. It is true the west backed Islamic militants against the Soviets and later China. It is true they backed militants against some incumbent Muslim governments (in Syria yes – but Saudi Arabia no) – and it backfired.. But that wasnt the case with Iran. Assad didnt do the west bidding. The Saudi royalty do… The Shah did as well.

    • Replies: @Malla
  21. Malla says:

    But that wasnt the case with Iran.

    It WAS the case with Iran. Check out my posts. It was the case with Cuba too. Check out my other posts.

  22. @antibeast

    I’ve just discovered the beauty of the ‘Off’ button in dealing with Malla’s effluent. To deny the Nanjing Massacre that the Japanese regime admitted happened, that many Japanese soldiers admitted to witnessing and that thousands of Chinese survivors testified to, was the mark of a real cur, and the final straw.

    • Replies: @Mulga Mumblebrain
    , @Malla
  23. @Mulga Mumblebrain

    Twenty-two comments, TEN by the ‘Malla’ psychopath. Odd.

  24. Malla says:
    @Mulga Mumblebrain

    Are you not the same crackpot who called the Mullah Dr. Zakir Niak an American agent.

  25. @Showmethereal

    Very true – the fact that they did not go into this prepared to have a response, or thinking that everything would just work itself out, is proof of the general incompetence of our ruling class.

    One of my good friends said that the Iraq war was very formative for him… He had always just assumed that the people with power in the country, who were running the show, were not totally incompetent. He thought there was a team of intellectuals at the helm that, when we invaded a country, had a plan on what to do, and were able to react to changes on the ground logically.

    But that was not the case at all.

    The Iraq war showed many people the caliber of the folks that we have in power.

    They’re not intellectual elites that you would trust with your life being in their hands… They are the sort of people who work down at the DMV.

    • Thanks: showmethereal
    • Replies: @showmethereal
  26. @Løvstuhagen

    “Very true – the fact that they did not go into this prepared to have a response, or thinking that everything would just work itself out, is proof of the general incompetence of our ruling class.”

    Well the major problem is the US should never had gone into Iraq in the first place…. There was no justification for it.

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