Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani gave a wide-ranging statement about Iran’s policies on Monday. The details of the statement were published in pro-government media in Iran and reflect the regime’s current assessment on a number of issues. This is important because it shows how Iran is increasingly pursuing diplomacy in the Middle East while also seeking to challenge the West.
Among the major themes of Iran’s current policy are ties with Saudi Arabia. Iran wants the relationship with Riyadh to improve and also hopes this will help end the conflict in Yemen and benefit the Iranian-backed Houthis. Iran is also doing a large rollout of influence peddling and diplomacy in the Gulf.
The Iranian foreign ministry says it is working to bring “security” to the region and has been sending envoys to Qatar, the UAE and other states. “In connection with Iran's cooperation with the countries of the Persian Gulf, we naturally consider this region important. They are especially important in the framework of the neighborhood policy of the Persian Gulf countries. In this context, we witnessed the visit of the head of the diplomatic service to four countries on the southern border of the Persian Gulf,” Iran’s foreign ministry said.
Iran also wants to improve ties with Russia. The recent Wagner rebellion will not affect ties, the foreign ministry said. Iran rejected allegations of selling drones to Russia, claiming its ties with Russia are based on mutual interests. Tehran also wants the Astana talks with Russia and Turkey to continue. There appears to be some pressure to move the talks, designed to end the Ukraine war, out of Astana in central Asia.
Iran is apparently prepared to increase attacks on the Kurdistan region in Iraq, or to increase strikes on Kurdish dissident groups such as Komala, PDKI, PJAK and others. Iran said that it has not taken any “unusual” action recently, but it is following internal clashes among Kurdish groups and claimed that Kurdish dissident groups are of a “terrorist nature.” It said Iraq must “take responsible actions” to curtail them. Iran has carried out strikes in the past on these groups and there have been recent clashes with the PJAK group.
Europe must “correct” its behavior if it wants to engage with Tehran, the regime said. The foreign ministry used this insulting language in contrast to past statements. In relation to Iran’s provision of drones to Russia, it said Europe is moving in the wrong direction by sanctioning Iran. “Europe must correct its behavior and certainly, the results of the use of sanctions are not only to the detriment of Iran, and the European governments will definitely suffer as well,” Tehran said.
Discussion around Iranian prisoners
Iran also demanded that Sweden release an Iranian citizen it claims Sweden is holding. On the other hand, Iran has been doing outreach to Europe on some discussions, the ministry confirmed. This is a reference to Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani meeting with the European Union coordinator for the Iran nuclear talks Enrique Mora in Doha recently.
Iran also downplayed any rumors that there might be a prisoner swap with the US. It also appears to throw cold water on claims there might be a “mini” deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Reports had said the US sent envoy Brett McGurk to Oman in recent months and Iran has reportedly met with European officials in the Gulf. “The use of sanctions against Iran will never work. The American government must be accountable for its actions against the Iranian nation, and Iran will not withdraw its demands from the American government. We will continue our efforts in the issue of unblocking Iran's assets, which, unfortunately, the US government has caused by illegal actions,” Kanaani said. Iran nevertheless, appears open to some talks with the US and it wants to try to embarrass the US in the meantime, slamming US “human rights” abuses.
Iran is discussing a prisoner swap with the US, according to reports, but it wants US sanctions lifted. “Regarding the innocent prisoners who have been detained in America, the principle of cruel sanctions and arresting people under the pretext of playing a role in circumventing the sanctions is also rejected,” the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Iran is seeking to have dissidents in Europe targeted, either through Iran’s own means or through pressuring local governments. There have been recent incidents in France and Albania relating to the MEK group, which opposes Iran’s regime. Iran appears to be pleased to see dissidents suffering setbacks abroad. “In connection with Albania, we have already taken the necessary legal measures and we expect both the Albanian government and other governments to take responsible action in this regard, which is the fight against terrorism,” Iran says.
Regarding tensions with Afghanistan and Azerbaijan, Iran claims to be working to reduce tensions with both countries.