Iran seeks to leverage diplomatic goodwill

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TEHRAN – As it braces for the return of a US-enforced oil embargo on Monday, Iran can take comfort in how much stronger its diplomatic position looks compared to the past. 

During the last sanctions period between 2010 and 2015, most of the world lined up behind Washington to help enforce embargoes aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear programme. 

The US had a widely respected president in Barack Obama, while Iran had the rabble-rousing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who riled Western audiences with stunts such as Holocaust-denial conferences and was tainted by a vicious crackdown on protests in 2009. 

Today, to many observers, it is Iran that looks like the responsible actor. 
European and Asian governments were aghast that President Donald Trump abandoned their hard-won 2015 nuclear agreement with which Iran was complying. 

Moscow and Tehran are now tightly intertwined as military allies in Syria, while China sees Iran as a test-case for how it can fend off its own US sanctions. 

Meanwhile, the only powers that support the US position -- Saudi Arabia and Israel -- have faced mounting criticism over their own behaviour, particularly after the shocking murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

"During the last round of sanctions, there was a very binary vision of Iran as the malign actor in the region, and all the others were in line with what European and other players wanted," said Ellie Geranmayeh, Iran analyst for the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

"But now there's a much more complex and public debate about the other regional players and a realisation that everyone is playing a very dirty game in the Middle East. No one thinks Iran is a saint, but there's a more nuanced view," she added. 

'Diplomatic suicide' 


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