US sanctions contributed to a worsening economic situation in Iran.
Iran’s deputy tourism minister said that the FIFA World Cup 2022 will help tackle “Iranophobia” by introducing the country’s unique tourist attractions to the world.
“Qatar’s World Cup offers a unique opportunity to introduce destinations near the host country, and we should take advantage of this opportunity to confront Iranophobia”, said Ali-Asghar Shalbafian, as quoted by Iranian Labour News Agency [ILNA] quoted on Monday.
Shalbafian noted that Iran’s geographical position and the enhancement of its infrastructure would make it a potential destination for World Cup spectators, especially with the increase of flights between Doha and Tehran.
Iran has been planning to use the major sporting event as an opportunity to invite more tourists to the country.
In November, Iranian officials announced that the Islamic Republic’s island of Kish was ready to welcome football fans and participating teams. The island’s proximity to Qatar and its low costs would enable spectators to find a place to stay during the World Cup.
Earlier reports stated that some 4,000 rooms were being prepared to accommodate Iranians and foreigners attending the event.
Tehran has been working on reviving its tourism industry following the Covid-19 outbreak, which took a heavy toll on the sector.
Iranian officials said that revenues from the tourism industry reached $11.7 billion in 2019, accounting for 2.8% of Iran’s GDP. The Islamic Republic was also ranked as the second fastest-growing country in tourism by the World Tourism Organization in the same year.
‘Media war’ and economic sanctions
Experts believe Iran’s tourism is struggling under Western “media propaganda” that discourages people from traveling to the country, as reported by Tehran Times on Wednesday.
This comes as tensions between Iran and the US continue to rise, especially following Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord.
In 2018, former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew Washington from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran in bid to apply “maximum pressure” on the country.
The US imposed additional sanctions on the country on Tuesday as talks aimed at reviving the nuclear accord continue to take place in Vienna.
Iran’s oil supply is expected to increase by 1.4 million b/d [barrel per day] by December 2022 if a deal is reached with the US over the lifting of oil sanctions in the second quarter, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.
The Platts OPEC survey also estimated that Iran produced 2.52 million b/d in October and September. During the first quarter of this year, Iran’s crude and condensate exports averaged 825,000 b/d.
Tehran’s output averaged 3.79 million b/d in 2017.
The fate of nuclear talks remains unknown and Western powers accuse Iran of developing a nuclear weapon. Israel, which opposes the revival of the JCPOA, has been repeating such accusations in recent decades in a bid to maintain its military power in the region while continuing to occupy Palestine without a threat.
“We first heard this in the early 1990 and again we’ve heard this recently. So there’s a problem here in terms of rhetoric. You can’t keep saying the Iranians have been on the verge of a breakthrough or breakout since the 90s,” Dr. Mehran Kamrava, Professor of Government at Georgetown University in Qatar, told Doha News on Wednesday.
Meanwhile in the Gulf region, several countries that had their own rivalries with Iran have appeared to start shifting their foreign policies, namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
This came after the 2017 GCC crisis was resolved earlier this year following the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration.
During the latest GCC crisis, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt launched an illegal land, air and sea blockade on Qatar over claims that is sponsors terrorism. Doha has vehemently denied those allegations.
The quartet claimed the move was due to Qatar’s relations with Iran and Turkey.
Since reconciling, Qatar has offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. On the other hand, it offered to mediate between Abu Dhabi, Tehran and Ankara.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have engaged in several rounds of talks over the past months, with positive statements being released from both sides.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s top national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Iran earlier this week to discuss bilateral ties between the two countries, a move that suggests a thaw in Tehran-Abu Dhabi relations.
Last month, UAE President’s diplomatic adviser Anwar Gargash said his country was “taking steps to de-escalate tensions with Iran as part of a policy choice towards diplomacy and away from confrontation”.