© VCGNewly elected Iranian President Masoud Pezeshkian visits the shrine of the Islamic Republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Tehran, Iran • July 6, 2024
Tehran's road to improve ties with West 'not easy'

Iran will continue its "Look East" policy and consolidate its collaboration with both China and Russia, even though the newly elected President Masoud Pezeshkian may put more effort into repairing ties with the West, said a Chinese expert after Iran's "reformist candidate" won the election on Saturday.

"You created an opportunity for Iran and brought back hope and joy to the atmosphere of dissatisfaction, distress, and melancholy in society. I am grateful to all of you," Pezeshkian said during a speech Saturday at the Mausoleum of the late Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, where he pledged allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, according to Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Pezeshkian also thanked Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei for opening up the stage for a more competitive and healthier presidential election, according to IRNA.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday sent a message to Pezeshkian, congratulating him on his election as president of Iran.

In his message, Xi said:
"In the face of complex regional and international landscapes, China and Iran have always supported each other and stuck together through thick and thin, continuously consolidating strategic mutual trust, steadily promoting exchanges and cooperation in various fields, and maintaining sound communication and coordination on regional and international affairs, which has not only benefited the two peoples, but also made positive contributions to promoting regional and world peace and stability."
The Chinese president said that he attaches great importance to the development of China-Iran relations, and is willing to work with Pezeshkian to guide the deepening of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

Pezeshkian is a 69-year-old heart surgeon whose previous government experience was as health minister.

He has called for "constructive relations" with Western countries to "get Iran out of its isolation." He also favors reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and global powers, according to media reports.

The new president is likely to focus or even prioritize reviving ties with West, especially the US, after taking office, in the hope that those countries will lift certain sanctions, which will boost Iran's economy, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.

In a televised speech on June 25, Khamenei said: "One who thinks that nothing can be done without the favor of America will not manage the country well," Reuters reported.

The new president is likely to exert a certain impact on Iran's diplomacy, yet it is impossible to change the antagonism between Tehran and Washington, said Li Fuquan, director at the Center of Iran Studies of China's Northwest University. Iranian conservatives, who still dominate the country's politics do not trust the US, and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, is not willing to normalize ties with the US, Li said.

The US also lacks motivation to improve relations with Iran, Li said, citing as reasons that despite multiple secret contacts and negotiations with Iran, the US sanctions on Iran have not decreased, but have continued to increase.

Moreover, the US presidential election brings more uncertainty regarding Washington's willingness to improve ties with Iran, according to experts.

Liu believes Pezeshkian will continue stabilizing and consolidating ties with both China and Russia, as those diplomatic direction are a consensus reached by Iranian top-tier politicians.

In 2023, Iran gained full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). It also became a member of BRICS in January this year.

Joining those organizations and enhancing cooperation with China brings certainty to Iran amid a complicated regional and international environment and is in line with Iran's need to improve its economy, Liu said.