Iran: Pivot to the East amidst Domestic Repression




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  • As protests and human rights violations prevail in Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to orient itself towards the East. It is deepening its relations with major Asian and Eurasian powers such as Russia, China, and India. Iran recently announced its intention to become a member of BRICS. It has also signed a strategic “25-Year Roadmap” with China and recently joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; it is facing a deadlock in nuclear negotiations with the Western powers while selling armed drones to Russia and promoting various geoeconomic initiatives involving China, Russia, India, and other Eurasian actors. Domestically, the government is experiencing mass protests that threaten its legitimacy and cooperating with other authoritarian states on domestic repression. Regardless of the outcome of JCPOA negotiations, Iran, which can be called a Eurasian swing state, is likely to “turn to the east” – as recently announced by the country’s leaders. 

    This GIGA Talk seeks to shed light on this key strategic development by addressing the following questions: How substantive is this “turn”? What are the challenges for Iran in realising it? Given the increasing proximity between China, Russia, and Iran, can we meaningfully start talking about an “Eastern bloc” – as some analysts already do? Will this turn (and the Ukraine war) lead to authoritarian solidarity between China, Russia, and Iran? If so, will this close alignment make quelling dissent easier for them or will it be detrimental to their legitimacy? How does this “turn” affect regional security and global energy markets? And, finally, how can the European Union in general and Germany in particular best respond and adapt to such shifts? 

    Speakers:  Dr. Mohammadbagher Forough is a Research Fellow at the GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies.

    Barbara Slavin is Director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.

    Discussant:  Gregory Bledjian is Head of Division Middle East at the German Federal Foreign Office.

    Moderator: Prof. Dr. Eckart Woertz is Director of the GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies.


    Prof. Dr. Bert Hoffmann

    Lead Research Fellow / Head GIGA Berlin Office Editor GIGA Focus Latin America

    We offer our events digitally or in hybrid setting. We monitor the current pandemic situation and act accordingly. We look forward to your participation.

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