Why Iran is ignored when nations plan transboundary trade routes
The experiences of rising states in contemporary history indicate that transformations in their strength and capabilities have been critical to elevating their status to the ranks of actors capable of exerting influence over global issues.
For such countries to be positioned at the heart of projects to establish transboundary global corridors and take a leading role on the map of global logistical projects does not happen by accident, nor are they the spur of a certain historical moment. In addition, such countries do not aim to destroy other nations, squander resources or displace populations to strengthen their rise — with the ultimate goal of elevating their rank within the global hierarchy of power.
Rather, their rise is a product of contemporary and civilizational visions that prioritize the standards of good governance at home while seeking to bolster status, diversify international relations and strategic partners, and establish positive equilibriums, while also supporting nations and compelling outsiders to respect national sovereignty.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are geographic neighbors and regional powerhouses, given their available resources and potential. Each has carved out its own approach and built its own model to enhance its standing and regional leadership. The Saudi leadership has laid out a national, civilizational and contemporary vision based on belief in its own national values and an awareness of its available resources and a desire to harness them for bolstering influence overseas aimed at enhancing the Kingdom’s standing and role.
The regime has based itself on revolutionary, sectarian ideals that prioritize its survival and the interests of clerics
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami
At home, the Kingdom has prioritized comprehensive development. It has initiated a complete modernization of all of its institutions, enhanced oversight and made these institutions subject to oversight and accountability. In addition, it has fostered justice and diversified sources of income. Saudi citizens are the cornerstone of the country’s development scheme, with the Kingdom cultivating the sentiments of citizenship and empowering women to participate in building the modern state. The Saudi government has also delivered on a package of massive reforms in all sectors, achieving advanced positions according to several criteria and indicators.
Overseas, the Kingdom has prioritized fostering peace and stability through settling disputes, setting in motion the zero-problem approach, diversifying regional and global alternatives, and supporting national armies and the territorial integrity of nations. It has called on the international community to counter nonstate actors, given the growing danger they pose to security and stability.
At the same time, Riyadh is shouldering the responsibility of playing an important role in stabilizing the global economy, not to mention laying out mediation initiatives aimed at resolving regional and global disputes.
Conversely, the Iranian regime has, since the beginning of its tenure more than 40 years ago, laid out a vision diametrically opposed to contemporary models and visions of governance that focus on the socioeconomic welfare of citizens — opting instead to work on sustaining its survival in power. The regime has also based itself on revolutionary, sectarian ideals that prioritize its survival and the interests of clerics rather than those of Iranian citizens — in contrast to the Saudi vision.
The clerical regime has imposed its ideology on society, establishing a revolutionary state that operates in parallel with the regular state institutions. Moreover, it has deducted a large share of the state budget for revolutionary rather than for national, inward-looking projects, thus leading to the absence of justice, transparency, oversight and equal opportunities in Iran.
Externally, the regime has given precedence to implementing its sectarian schemes, imposing hegemony over sovereign states through supplying nonstate actors in several Arab nations with money and weapons to establish paramilitary forces, thus depriving the Iranian people of their own resources and denying them the chance to build their own institutions and state. In doing so, the regime has violated the principles of good neighborliness and noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries by respecting their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 has presented an inspiring model for good governance and administration, as well as a commendable development model. The Kingdom has won the confidence of several regional and global actors due to its vision and leadership, contributing to it having a say in the global economy. It has also turned into an acceptable and neutral global intermediary and an influential contributor to the global economy’s stability, as well as a chief actor in handling global political issues.
Several countries worldwide, particularly the global powers, are now looking at Saudi Arabia with admiration. They view the Kingdom as an important and influential actor in global affairs, which has led it to be at the heart of several global trade and logistical projects, such as the corridor proposed by Central Asian nations. This is a land and maritime corridor linking the Gulf states with Central Asia via Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is in addition to the latest corridor linking India and the Middle East with Europe, which was proposed at last week’s G20 summit in New Delhi.
The ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 has presented an inspiring model for good governance and administration
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami
On the other hand, the Iranian sectarian revolutionary model of administration and governance has created a crisis-ridden state at home, while externally it suffers from the consequences of isolation and embargo. This is due to the regime’s policies that aim to develop nuclear and ballistic capabilities, as well as policies aimed at expanding Tehran’s regional clout — at the expense of other sovereign nations.
At home, Iran has turned into a state shackled with economic and living crises as a result of the plummeting local currency, runaway inflation and surges in crime, sectarian violence and immigration, not to mention the lack of justice and equal opportunities. This has created “a crisis of legitimacy,” since popular approval of the regime’s policies has nearly vanished. Iranian citizens have taken to the streets on several occasions, exposing the unstable domestic font.
Externally, Iran faces sanctions and is isolated against the backdrop of its ambitions to expand its regional dominance, acquire nuclear arms and develop ballistic missiles, let alone engage in disputes with its immediate neighbors. In addition, its competitive standing in the context of economic and logistical corridors, as well as transit points, has declined because of its poor infrastructure, weak financial capabilities and inability to take advantage of investment opportunities given the rulers’ inadequate policies and deteriorating conditions. Hence, Iran is not admired by the global powers that are involved in proposing and designing the mentioned corridors, despite its geographic location, ports, massive resources and promising investment opportunities.
By checking what is circulating in Iranian media outlets regarding the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, we find that Iranian columnists have reiterated their country’s lack of political credulity and it being unqualified to be at the heart of global corridors, despite the ability of its neighbor, Saudi Arabia, to link itself to the global economy.
For example, the North-South Transport Corridor, one of the world’s most vital economic projects, remains frozen as a result of the lack of infrastructure and measures regulating transit in Iran. Worse, Iran’s chances of involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative are receding. Iran is also not part of the Azerbaijan-Armenia Zangezur Corridor project that both China and Turkiye are working on. Also, the corridor linking India to Europe excludes Iran due to the lack of the necessary requirements, which deprive it of internal and external investment opportunities. However, if availed, they could elevate the Iranian economy to being among those of the world’s most advanced nations, instead of its ongoing deterioration.
To conclude, as Iranian columnists have put it, opportunities do not wait for any country, no matter how massive its potential and its resources. In case Iran does not take advantage of these opportunities, when coupled with serious programs and unwavering determination, these opportunities will one day turn into threats. And perhaps this is an opportunity for Iran to reconsider its domestic and foreign policies in a way that boosts its standing and links it to the global economy. Iran will have to decide this sooner or later, considering the current internal and external realities that it faces.
- Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is the founder and president of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami