عنوان مقاله [English]
Introduction: The look to east is the result of oscillating role of internal decision makers influenced by the international structure in Iran’s foreign policy. With Ahmadinejad’s victory, a need to reconsider prioritizations in foreign policy was felt and the topic “look to east” was highlighted in scientific and executive circles pointing out that the existing capacity in foreign policy had not been exploited properly. Thus, a move toward the east and forming a strategic alliance with China was known as one of the capacities which would lead to a more powerful status for Iran. At that period, efforts were made to enhance the place of China in foreign policy. With Rouhani’s election victory, attempts were aimed at focusing on interaction with the West one more time, just like when Executives of Construction Party and Popular Party of Reforms were in power. Since the middle of Rouhani’s government, however, particularly due to the United States withdrawing JCPOA and applying maximum pressure policy, revisions to the foreign policy were made once again and the preference of proactive relationship with China was taken into consideration.
During the last 40 years, Iran has been passing a trend full of tension with the West and in the last two decades, regional players have taken a trend of convergence with the West against Iran. Such contradiction is caused Iran to consider a look east approach in order to get rid of isolation in its foreign policy, reduce the impact of sanctions, and increase multilateralism. Ahmadinejad’s coming to power coincided the deadlock in nuclear negotiation with the EU and when the EU proposals were considered by the Iranian authority in opposition to the negotiations in Khatami’s period between the two sides, problems emerged. These factors justify the look to east in foreign policy both in affirmative and negative terms. From negative point of view, these principles are against the structure of the international system and USA approaches. China in spite, did not follow a trend based on convergence with Iran due to the pressure of that same structure. In Rouhani’s time, with the suspension of sanctions and signing JCPOA, the ground was ready for modifying the role of international system structure in Iran’s foreign policy and the trend of approaching the west began. With USA withdrawing JCPOA, maximum pressure policy and reinforcing regional unions against Iran, Rouhani’s government, also affected by the pressure from international system structure, followed a China-centered look east policy. Iran is facing problems regarding its foreign policy which considers international system structure undesirable. This issue became more obvious with the increase of various sanctions during Ahmadinejad and Rouhani’s time including post JCPOA in a way that governments considered finding ways of escaping from pressure of the structure for example by means of shifting foreign relations to some countries or deepening relations with others. Iran-China relation in these governments is affected by these structural situations dominating Iran which is the topic of present study.
Research Question: which factors have influenced the place of China in Iran’s look east policy for internal decision makers and international system structure during Ahmadinejad and Rouhani presidency?
Research Hypothesis: it is hypothesized that Iran-China relation in both presidents’ periods has been heavily influenced by the international system structure, and the place of China in look east policy has been highlighted more in Rouhani’s period compared to Ahmadinejad’s. In addition, that same structure has in fact turned the attention of internal decision makers toward China.
Methodology (and Theoretical Framework if there are): The present study makes use of compare and contrast methodology. In this article, neoclassical realism has been selected as the theoretical framework and will be explained subsequently.
Results and discussion: This article addresses the following factors as giving “look east policy” priority in Ahmadinejad’s period: increasing tension between Iran an Persian Gulf Arabs, counter hegemony balancing, increased deterrence and economic requirements, fighting against international system structure. Furthermore, Iran-China relation during Ahmadinejad’s period in political, economic and military areas has been addressed. Political, economic and military relations of Iran and China in this period was influenced by Iran’s nuclear issue and Western sanctions against Iran. The level of relations reveal that it was Iran who most of the time had the tendency to develop relations with China while China mostly followed political considerations of the western powers. In the following, Rouhani’s foreign policy has been investigated in short and factors leading look east policy out of the focus of foreign policy have been addressed namely, criticizing the relations with east in Ahmadinejad’s government, enhancing the relations with Arab countries in the region, revisioning the relations with west, solving the nuclear issue and desecuritization of Iran which led the look east policy out of the priority of foreign policy in Rouhani’s period. Then, the relation of Iran and China in political, economic and military areas during Rouhani’s presidency has been addressed. The level and quality of the relation of Iran and China was better than that in Ahmadinejad’s period due to the signing of JCPOA.
Conclusion: in fact, our look to east in the last four governments were mostly influenced by structural pressures giving direction to the foreign policy. Thus, our interactions particularly in relation to powers of the east have always had a tactical aspect rather than strategic. As a result, we lacked a pragmatic foreign policy based on internal capabilities and international limitations. Regarding the logic of the look to east and the type of Iran’s relation with China and Russia in last 16 years, it seems that look east policy for Iran at least in this period of time has not been a principal and strategic approach. 16 years of experience has shown that the portion of pressure of international system structure was heavier than the approaches of the governments of this time and such development of relations was not so much dependent on internal factors compared to structural factors.