Guyana and Suriname’s ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of the richest countries in the world, may pay dividends, especially if US /Iranian ties normalize in light of dramatic developments recently. For the first time since 1979, a US president and his Iranian counterpart have an open line of communication.

US President Barack Obama and the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, recently had a telephone conversation. Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, for the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, held bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Presidents Obama and Rouhani have been exchanging letters for some time now. The tone between Tehran and Washington has definitely been cordial and mutually respectful; especially in that Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved these overtures. And just a few days ago, the Iranian Majlis (Parliament) voted overwhelmingly to approve Rouhani’s diplomatic initiative with the United States.

It is the most serious indication that US-Iranian ties may improve now that President Rouhani is serous in solving the nuclear issue. However, this could all be derailed by powers such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, who prefer to drag the US into a war with Iran, according to media reports.

These developments could very much affect Guyana and Suriname’s ties with Iran because a more moderate leader in Tehran makes it easier for stronger Caribbean Community (CARICOM)/Iran relations, which can translate into tangible economic aid to the region. Both Suriname and Guyana are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) like Iran. Guyana and Suriname are also members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), which Iran currently chairs.

However, small states such as Guyana and Suriname should be shrewd in dealing with the turbulent Middle East, especially as it relates to the Sunni and Shia rivalry. Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon make up the so called “Shia crescent.” While, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and the Gulf Arab Kingdoms are predominately Sunni Muslims. However, there are considerable numbers of Shias in Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. These people, the Arabs, Persians and Turks, have very different narratives of history and on regional conflicts today.

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