The International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) has published its Annual Strategic Report 2020 which provides in-depth data analysis on the interactions and developments in Iran last year. The report provides a clear picture of Iranian affairs and interactions, most prominently in the context of the emergence of a new international environment against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic—China has maintained its strong presence in the international arena in the post-COVID world. Despite the recent divisions generated by the departure of former US President Donald Trump from the White House, the report affirms that US policy is not solely crafted by Republicans and Democrats, but by US national institutions and national security interests. The report provides clarity on the phenomena of political Islam as local factions and organizations aspire to usurp power in many Arab and Islamic countries. This has become a serious concern for several countries; both in the East and the West.
By studying Iran’s intertwined files, its consecutive interactions and ramifications, the report reviews Iran’s internal affairs as follows: ideologically, Iranian clerics have faced scathing public criticism amid rising political tensions. The deterioration of the economic and political situation at home has greatly exacerbated the most severe social problems. The Economic File unveils the most important variables that have made the Iranian economy deteriorate further: US sanctions, the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s continued adherence to the policy of the “resistance economy.” In Arab Affairs, the report discusses the renewed cooperation between the Gulf states and and their diplomatic efforts to highlight the risks of Iran’s behavior in the region and the threat Iran poses to international security and peace. It also reviews the escalation of the Houthis in Yemen by launching missile and drone attacks targeting neighboring countries and international maritime navigation; how Iraq has turned into a battlefield for confrontation between Iran and the United States; and the enrichment of Iranian influence in Syria; the continuous suffering of the Lebanese people from Hezbollah’s hegemony on Lebanon’s political life. In International Affairs, the report argues that international interactions still affect Iran at all levels due to the US maximum pressure campaign and the ramifications of the nuclear file on Iran’s international relations. The report also discusses the steady economic cooperation between Iran and Russia and mainly focuses on Iran-Europe relations in regard to the nuclear file, Iran’s human rights record; and the countermeasures to address the coronavirus pandemic.
The report touches upon China’s support towards Iran against the US move to extend the UN arms embargo imposed on Tehran, reviewing the long-term comprehensive agreement concluded between the two countries. It also discusses how Iran’s relations with India and Pakistan are affected by the US position. This is in addition to discussing how Iran and Afghanistan kept their relations active. The report discusses Iran-Turkey relations in relation to the Syrian crisis and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and their mutual political, military and economic convergences. Further, it states that Iran’s relations with the Central Asian states are politically and economically stable. The report concludes that Iran in 2020 was mainly keen to pursue appeasement and rely on the “wait and see” policy, i.e., betting on time.
The report forecasts that Iran in 2021 is likely to face deeper internal crises and more intense interactions with the new US administration, growing divergence with the Europeans and the loss of its influence in Syria and Iraq. It does not forecast a potential breakthrough between Iran and the Gulf states.
Finally, the report concludes that the Gulf states have realized the risks and looming threats of Iran and the need for better political understandings and to integrate their defense capabilities to curb Iran’s potential threats in addition to cooperate with their strategic allies across the world.