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Raisi pushes anti-US agenda in BRICS as Iran celebrates ascension

The Islamic Republic hopes that BRICS membership will remedy its ailing economy and open a new front against American influence in the global sphere.
The President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi attends a meeting during the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Aug. 24, 2023.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi told a summit of the BRICS group of nations that Tehran is determined to help member states ditch the US dollar in their economic dealings.

Raisi was delivering his speech in Johannesburg, South Africa, only a day after BRICS — currently formed by Brazil, Russia, India and China — sent out invitations to Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina to become new members as of 2024.

"Iran decisively backs up BRICS' efforts toward de-dollarization … using national currencies and strengthening the bloc's mechanisms for payment and financial interactions," Raisi said in comments aired live by Iran's state TV on Thursday.

Sanctioned by the United States and squeezed by banking restrictions, Iran has long been knocking on doors to try to remove the dollar from its foreign business and restore payments for its vital oil sales.

To that end, membership in BRICS has recently been a key mission of Iran's Foreign Ministry, with diplomats engaging in hectic negotiations to speed up Tehran's ascension.

Raisi told the summit that the Islamic Republic's inclusion will be associated with "historic" benefits. The Iranian leadership sees BRICS' challenge to the conventional economic order as an opportunity to weaken US influence on the global stage.

Thus Raisi used the sidelines of the Johannesburg summit to discuss the idea with like-minded leaders. At a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, the Iranian president said that with Tehran added to the group, BRICS will be more capable in fighting off "American unilateralism."

He also met with Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva. According to the state-funded IRNA news agency, they exchanged views on Western sanctions against the Islamic Republic, with Raisi claiming that the US "maximum pressure" policy has only pushed Iran to make progress.

The Iranian president also talked transit with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Raisi urged him to expedite the North-South Transport Corridor project, on which Tehran is pinning hopes for economic relief. The network will link India to Russia via the southeastern Iranian Port of Chabahar.

Upon his return to Tehran, a proud-looking Raisi told reporters, "Our BRICS membership came by no random occurrence. It was a policy pursued by the government." 

Echoing him, his fervent supporters have been celebrating the ascension and siezing it as an opportunity to engage in partisan battles and to prove former moderate President Hassan Rouhani wrong. In their view, the Rouhani administration chased a mirage by seeking relations with the West and wishfully expecting economic gains in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was abandoned by the United States.

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