Unveiling Iran’s new policy for the Middle East: regional power games?

Past event online

Peace, Security & Defence
Unveiling Iran’s new policy for the Middle East: regional power games


Nuclear deal at a stalemate: is Iran looking West or East?

Where does Iran see its future? Is it looking towards the West, or more towards China and Russia for strategic partners? How can Iran, the United States and the European Union be brought back to the negotiating table? And what are Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

These were some of the questions addressed at the Friends of Europe online roundtable, entitled ‘Unveiling Iran’s new policy for the Middle East: regional power games?’, on 20 April 2022 by an audience of invited experts and co-chaired by Negar Mortazavi, Host of the Iran Podcast and 2017 MENA Young Leader, and Dharmendra Kanani, Director of Asia, Peace, Security & Defense and Digital & Chief Spokesperson at Friends of Europe.

In a wide-ranging discussion, participants addressed how the US should prioritise a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) process, that the EU can act as a mediator, and the impact of the ongoing sanctions, economic pressures and security concerns upon Iranian citizens and civil society.

Iran is at a crossroads. Despite the sanctions currently placed upon the country, it has developed a coping mechanism, reaching out to countries such as China and Russia, and the new hard-line conservative leadership elected last year is seeking to make its mark. Yet it has not walked away from the so-called Iran deal (JCPOA), despite the US withdrawal in 2018. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has complicated the geopolitical picture and brought pressure upon Iran’s alliances.

Against this backdrop, the participants discussed whether the Iran deal – which trades sanctions relief for curbs on Iran’s nuclear ambitions – could be re-energised, and if so, how and when.

Iran sees that Biden […] doesn’t want a conflict with Iran, but there is a stalemate when it comes to the nuclear deal.

Described as both “on life support” and the “lynchpin” for future relations, participants discussed whether the current stalemate could be overcome – a tricky proposition when negotiators are not even meeting face to face. It was felt that the last year has drained trust and confidence from both sides.

Might Iran continue to look elsewhere for strategic partnerships, in the eyes of some, by “hanging out with the bad crowd”? Indeed, what would the country gain from turning its back on those who have helped it, for example, through the COVID-19 pandemic and in sustaining oil prices?

Neither side is escalating, but neither side is walking away. Maybe that is the best outcome for now.



Over the past decades, Iran has sought to position itself as a key political, economic and cultural player in the Middle East and across the wider Muslim world. Its regional and global foreign policy strategy has undergone a number of changes throughout this period. These changes have been conditioned both by events in Tehran and by general regional trends – often determined by external powers’ interventions in the region. In the light of the current war in Ukraine, the Iranian government seems to be leaning towards Russia and China, while still remaining cautious about fully backing Moscow.

Under the new conservative President Ebrahim Raisi, Iran has proclaimed its intention to pursue closer cooperation with its neighbours – without having to compromise its vested interests. In a region dominated by rivalry and polarization, as well as deep external involvement, it is vital to understand how Iran seeks to protect and advance its goals through a mixture of power projection and the use of diplomacy and soft power. Moscow’s ongoing war puts Iran, which holds important oil and gas resources, in a powerful position. Having strengthened its bond with Russia, which is now facing similar sanctions, Tehran is further moving away from the West – even against part of its own society, which condemns the invasion of Ukraine.

This roundtable discussion will bring together a limited number of experts and decision-makers for a closed-door conversation on how to design foreign and regional policies that reduce tensions while also providing the humanitarian assistance needed in many instances.

Participation is by invitation only.

Our events include photos, audio and video recording that we might use for promotional purposes. By registering, you give your permission to use your image. Should you have any questions, please contact us.

PHOTO CREDIT: David Sandoz



Participants connect to online platform
Unveiling Iran’s new policy for the Middle East: regional power games?
Expand Unveiling Iran’s new policy for the Middle East: regional power games?

Questions include:

  • As the narrative on nuclear proliferation is changing in the light of the war in Ukraine, can Iran provide a justification for the development of its own nuclear programme?
  • How can Iran’s regional interests be balanced with diplomatic strategy to work towards conflict resolution and stabilization in the region?
  • What role do intra-regional initiatives, such as the 2021 Baghdad Summit, play in fostering dialogue and bringing about a sustainable security environment in the Middle East?
  • If Iran exhibits a readiness to engage, how can Europe – which shares with the US the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons – pursue a regional policy that fosters cooperation rather than confrontation?


Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

Negar Mortazavi

Journalist and 2017 MENA Young Leader (EYL40)

End of roundtable


view all
view all
view all

the debate on

Track title


Stop playback
Video title


Africa initiative logo