This year, the Valdai Discussion Club took part in the 2018 Doha Forum for the first time by holding a session titled “Russia’s evolving global role” on December 16 as part of the event’s business program. Director of PIR Center’s “Russia and nuclear non-proliferation” program Andrei Baklitsky was at the forum and shared his comments with valdaiclub.com on the speech by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, whom he views as one of the best diplomats in today’s world.
At first glance, the December 16 speech by Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif could hardly be regarded as anything exceptional. Despite all the attempts by the moderator to pin down the speaker, being one of the world’s best diplomats, Zarif answered the questions that suited him, and confidently evaded those that did not present Teheran in a favorable light. The planes shelling Yemen were not Iranian, but American; Iran operates in Syria at the request of its legitimate government; and Washington does not abide by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while Iran continues to honor its commitments; and the US with its domestic challenges better refrain from lecturing Iran on human rights.
Quite understandably, Doha is sparing no effort to show that all the attempts to isolate it have failed. Representatives of 70 countries attended the conference, including the UN secretary-general, his under-secretaries, including Vladimir Voronkov, president of the UN General Assembly, as well as foreign ministers from European, African, Asian and Latin American countries. Valdai Discussion Club held a special session devoted to Russia.
Following the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, the Iranian government, it must be acknowledged, has played a bad hand quite well. While Riyadh is seeking to restore its reputation in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing and the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, Tehran is positioning itself as a responsible country, and makes no secret of its positive role in launching the negotiating process in Yemen.
This is not an isolated occurrence. According to media reports, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has halted investment in the development of the South Pars gas project in Iran. Reuters believes that the Chinese state company wants to avoid any actions that could have a negative effect on the ongoing trade talks with the US.
Tehran has no control over what happens in relations between Washington and Beijing, Washington and Brussels or Doha and Riyadh, though it plays a major role in Iran’s economic and political planning. The country has found itself in a tight spot. Despite the sympathy demonstrated by the international community and official statements by a majority of the world’s governments, at the end of the day Tehran is left to its own devices, and Javad Zarif surely understands this.
However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry will continue to bolster the country’s image internationally, while keeping a close eye on the cards it is dealt. After all, with all the odds stacked against it, Iran still has a chance to pull an ace, and would be foolish not to take advantage of it.