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Senior Iranian officials have launched a full blown diplomatic charm offensive across the Middle East and Europe following the recent signing of a nuclear accord that Tehran has celebrated as victory over the West.
Top Iranian leaders have shuttled between Tehran, Damascus, Baghdad, Moscow, and Turkey in recent days as they seek to boost Iran’s economic portfolio and regional influence on issues such as the Syrian civil war.
Iran’s diplomatic charm offensive comes on the heels of the recently inked nuclear accord that provides Tehran with some $7 billion in economic sanctions relief in exchange for a temporary halt of some of it nuclear activities.
Regional experts say that Tehran is feeling empowered by the deal and flexing its diplomatic muscles in a bid to court foreign investors and bolster its regional influence.
As Iran gets set to see sanctions rolled back for this first time in years, senior officials have been entertaining a cadre of foreign leaders.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was in Moscow on Thursday for a series of talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, according to regional reports.
Zarif stressed that Iran and Russia will “continue growing relations” on the economic, energy, and foreign relations front, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
Moscow has in turn been pushing for Iran to play a role in an upcoming global meeting on ending the civil war in Syria, where Tehran has backed President Bashar al-Assad militarily.
Zarif was in Lebanon for high-level meetings over the weekend and in Iraq earlier this week to meet with “senior officials” in Baghdad.
He then flew to Amman for “meetings with senior Jordanian officials” before taking off on Wednesday for Damascus, where he met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
“During the meeting on Wednesday, Zarif and Muallem reviewed the political, economic and cultural relations between the two countries as well as major regional and international developments,” Fars reported.
While in Damascus Zarif also met with a “number of Palestinian resistance leaders,” according to Fars.
Zarif then linked back up with Muallem to fly to Moscow, where they were scheduled to “meet high-ranking Russian officials” on the issue of Syria.
Zarif was expected to also meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has taken a particular interest in bolstering ties with Tehran.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that it is very interested in Iran and not concerned with “political considerations” regarding its relationship.
“We intend to further expand mutually beneficial ties with Iran to continue cooperation in the interests of regional stability and international security,” Fars quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying in a statement. “Our relationship is based on the principles of good neighborliness and friendship, and is not subject to political considerations.”
A strong relationship between Iran and Russia would “ensure stability” in the region, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is slated to arrive in Tehran on Jan. 28.
“Erdogan will confer with high-ranking Iranian officials on bilateral ties and the latest regional developments during his stay in Tehran,” according to Fars.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs was expected to lay the groundwork for this visit on Thursday when he traveled to Turkey.
International trade delegations have also been flocking to Tehran to lay the groundwork for new economic deals.
“Trade delegations from Turkey, Georgia, Ireland, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, China, Italy, India, Austria, and Sweden have visited Iran since December 2013,” according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Ali Alfoneh.
At least “150 foreign businessmen from Turkey, Iraq, Oman, Tunisia, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan participated at various trade fairs in October/November [of] 2013—when the [nuclear accord] was being negotiated in Geneva,” Alfoneh reported.
This marks a “70 percent increase” in trade negotiations compared with the same period of time in 2012.
“The very fact that the West is allowing for a more permissive sanctions environment has offered the promise of new investments to growth-hungry companies worldwide,” Alfoneh wrote in a recent FDD report.
Former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin said that Iran is taking a “victory lap.”
“The [nuclear] deal is beyond [Supreme Leader] Ali Khamenei’s wildest imagination, because it gives the Islamic Republic almost everything they wanted, without forcing any permanent concessions on Iran,” said Rubin.
“As far as the Islamic Republic is concerned, Team Iran threw and caught a ‘Hail Mahdi’ pass,” Rubin said. “John Kerry ordered the American linebackers to stand down for fear of insulting the offense, not that the State Department was in such great shape to start with, Rouhani spiked the ball, and now Iran’s diplomats are doing their end zone dance and victory lap.”