Britain, France, Germany and the European Union — the European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — have offered little beyond frustration to Iran, which had been expecting them to provide the promised economic dividends of the accord in the face of US pressure that has been mounting since President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal in May 2018.
Increasingly disappointed, Iran has sought alternatives by trying to materialize its “Look to the East” doctrine, which seeks deeper ties with Asia’s three leading powers, namely China, India and Japan.
The policy has been manifested in a recent diplomatic frenzy, which has seen Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sitting down with top officials in the three countries. Within that same framework, Iran is also busy preparing to host Japan’s prime minister June 12-14 as Tehran struggles to find new windows of opportunities and to keep the existing ones open.
From a geo-economic standpoint, Iran’s foreign trade in the past decade has witnessed a growing tendency toward Asia. This is explained partly by the sweeping emergence of China and India in the global economic arena as well as the pressure Iran has been facing as a result of Western sanctions. Over 60% of Iran’s crude has generally been destined for Asia. Of that, the bulk has gone to China, India and Japan. Lack of access to the US-led global financial system has also driven Iran toward more imports from Asian countries with transactions increasingly based on local currencies rather than the US dollar.