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Why Iran is feeling ‘victorious’ on its entry in the BRICS

Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi addresses gathering during the 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

Iranian media was triumphant on Friday. “Victorious” was written in many Persian synonyms in various government-aligned newspapers. “Knock the Dollar” heralded Tehran Times, the English media organ of the ruling Ayatollahs. Others called for shunning the yoke of the IMF, World Bank, and crippling sanctions. “Isolation ends” and “US Imperialism bites the dust” was the message of an editorial in another pro-government Persian broadsheet.

The moment, as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said, will help realise the resistance economy (Iran calls the economy sustaining despite US sanctions as ‘resistance’).

“Although imperialism seeks to hamper our economic growth, this growth lies in linking with independent economies in the region that can help realise resistance economy in the country,” he said, referring to a set of principles set by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei to make Iran’s economy sanction-proof.

Raisi said Iran’s accession to BRICS didn’t happen by chance. Rather, it was the result of a policy chosen by his administration and months-long quiet efforts by the cabinet. He also added that Iran firmly supports the successful efforts of BRICS to reduce reliance on the US dollar, use national currencies as well as its mechanisms for payment and financial settlement.

Due to its unique transit location, extensive energy resources as well as high levels of expertise in various fields, namely industrial production as well as nano and medical technologies, Iran has a special case for cooperation, joint economic projects and investment with BRICS member states.

More than any other Middle East states, Iran’s inclusion in the grouping has strong implications for the region and the world.

Aftermath of An Entry

Soon after Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran came under crippling sanctions, foreign meddling, acts of war and aggression, sabotage, piracy, and espionage by Western regimes. However, Iran, unlike another Islam-oriented country Pakistan, has withstood the tests of time. It nevertheless has been navigating in world affairs as an isolated surfer. Of late, courtesy friends like India, Russia, and very recently China, it shrugged off the shell and has started asserting its role in West Asia and beyond. The entry of Iran into Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS – two most powerful non-West blocs – will bring Iran into the world mainstream, ending its already withering isolation completely.

Since the onset of the 21st century, Iran has been in the news because of its nuclear programme that it claimed to be limited to civilian purposes, and the West and US doubt it to be productive of nukes. Iran had given in to concessions in return for a deal with the US and five other powers in what was then called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – a landmark agreement that was supposed to give Iran much desired sanctions relief. But, it was abandoned by President Trump and incumbent Joe Biden will now have to deal with emboldened Tehran to come to terms equally agreed upon. The US muscle-flexing will no longer extract any leeway from Iran. Signals of it were evident in Friday’s coverage of BRICS in Iranian media.

Geographically, Iran’s entry will help facilitate not only trade but development projects along the International North–South Transport Corridor.

Already a route that helps dodge Western sanctions (providing an alternative to the Suez Canal, for example), three out of four countries involved are now BRICS members: Iran, Russia, and India.

China could also play a larger role here by strengthening already existing roads and railways via its Belt-and-Road Initiative.

The strengthening of the corridor will make Iran an attractive partner to have formal diplomacy and economic ties with, especially for countries wanting to use the corridor for their trade facilitation.

Another important implication for Iran, the Middle East and the US will be that as per the partnership protocol of BRICS, Saudi Arabia and UAE will be discouraged from allowing the US to use their side of the Persian Gulf to disrupt Iran’s economic initiatives. In addition, BRICS initiatives will seek to further develop trade routes within the Persian Gulf — reinforcing existing ports and likely creating new ones to bolster Iran and Saudi Arabia’s newfound diplomatic relations.

Judging by this, it now becomes very apparent why China was focused on meditating ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this year: A stable region would facilitate trade within the BRICS alliance while also rendering the US forces imposing Washington’s will useless.

One of the most fervent foreign policies of Iran in the Middle East has been supporting the cause of Palestinian statehood. Even at the BRICS forum, President Raeisi didn’t forget to mention it. He denounced the ongoing racist policies, stating that crises arising from oppression, occupation, hegemony and state terrorism, especially on the part of the Israeli regime, have prevented the Palestinian nation from both exercising their right to self-determination and enjoying the right to development.

This Iranian voice for Palestinians will now resonate at every BRICS forum, though it may have to be tampered as China, India, and Russia, the “big boys” of the grouping, though empathetic to the Palestinians, also maintain significant ties with Israel.