The matter of security in Iran is essentially considered as a complex question for any U.S. citizen willing to visit the Islamic Republic.
In this regard, Skift Inc., a New York City headquartered media company that provides news, research, and marketing services for the travel industry, has tried to answer the question from two different points of view; one from the U.S. government and the other by U.S. travel agents and tour operators.
On a Monday article, the media outlet noticed a hint of a “perception problem” deemed to be fueled by the Trump administration’s rhetoric toward Iran.
Official answers to the query comes from the U.S. State Department, which has had a travel advisory against Iran since 1979, citing “the risk of kidnapping, arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.” On the other hand, tour operators who spoke with Skift strongly disagree, maintaining that Iran has proven to be a safe and remarkably hospitable place for travelers, including Americans.
The dilemma arises when an antagonism intensifies between the Trump administration and Iran that makes some American tourists rethinking plans to visit the country though nearly all tour operators say Iran is a safe and hospitable destination even for U.S. visitors.
“It is a country that is often portrayed as unwelcoming, but the reality is quite the opposite,” said Jenny Gray, the global product and operations manager of the Australia-based Intrepid Travel.
“Iranians are warm, friendly and eager to show off their country to foreigners. The feedback from our travelers is a testament to this.”
“Once they [Iranian authorities] have been approved for entry [issuing visas], people are welcomed warmly—we’ve never encountered a problem or even a cold shoulder,” said Robin Pollak, the president of Journeys International, which is offering Iran tours since 2015.
“People in Iran are very curious about visitors from a culture that is off-limits to them. They understand that American visitors do not reflect the way America is portrayed to them by their government,” she added.
Janet Moore, owner of Distant Horizons, which has offered customized tours to Iran for over 20 years, says “We’re used to getting questions on politics and safety, but this time frame seems more serious than what we’ve been through before.”
“People are worried about the rhetoric from (President) Trump and (national security advisor John) Bolton. They don’t want to be anywhere where there’s military activity.”
With an Iran tour scheduled for September, Moore said she’s uncertain whether the trip will actually go forward.
“People have really started to get skittish,” she said. “We’re not getting new sign-ups and most of our American travelers have pulled out and are making alternative plans. While people feel Iran is probably still safe, they also feel it’s something they can do later when things calm down.”
Reverting to foreign arrivals, Skift reports that Journeys International has seen interest fall off sharply among its clientele, which is primarily from the U.S., during the past month.
G Adventures, which offers a 14-day Iran itinerary, says that bookings among American travelers has fallen by 14 percent this year, said communications director Kim McCabe. At the same time, she noted that bookings from non-U.S. travelers increased by about that same amount.
“Global visitor interest in Iran seems to be modestly growing,” Kim said.
“Demand for Iran has been a real up and down situation,” Moore said. “Four years ago it was at a high point. Then we ran into problems in 2017 when Trump announced the travel ban on Muslims. Some people cancelled travel plans to Iran because they feared Iran would stop issuing visas or that they would be met with antagonism.”
Skift concludes that despite setbacks, the tour operators are optimistic about long-term growth in tourism to Iran, which in recent years has stepped up efforts to increase international visitation and has the stated goal of attracting 20 million annual visitors by 2025.
Last December, Ashely Duncan, an American fashion psychologist who accidentally landed in Iran, announced that her perception of the country was “totally different” from what mainstream Western media outlets portray.
Duncan told IRNA in an interview that “As an American, I did have a pleasant experience. I did not allow the politics and the diplomatic relationship to taint my view of Iran’s people.”
Iran hosts some of the world’s oldest cultural monuments including bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, gardens, rich natural, rural landscapes as well as 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
From our partner Tehran Times
The role of Egypt in the Xi Jinping initiative of “democratization of international relations”
Egypt and China play an effective role in enhancing cooperation on maintaining international peace and security, especially in the Middle East. Here, the Egyptian side adheres to the one-China policy, firmly supports China’s efforts to maintain its sovereignty, security and stability, and firmly supports China’s work to combat terrorism and religious extremism. The indicators show the growth of mutual international interests and the rise of China’s global role, which consolidates the system of multipolarity globally, with the increase in the extent of Chinese interdependence in international interests. These are developments that push for the strengthening and consolidation of cultural, political and economic ties between the Chinese and Egyptian sides in the medium and long term, especially with China proposed and implemented the “Belt and Road” initiative, and Egypt inaugurated a political system with development orientations internally, and adopted a “Look East” policy at the external level, which contributes to establishing future Egyptian-Chinese relations that go beyond traditional political, economic, and commercial frameworks, and establishes a more comprehensive and expanding partnership.
China encourages the implementation of global development initiatives, global security initiatives, and global civilization initiatives, enhances coordination and positive interaction between major countries, works to develop relations with neighboring countries, develop solidarity and cooperation with developing countries, maintain multilateralism, and participate in reforming and establishing global governance systems. These are the same concepts and foundations on which President “El-Sisi” agrees with his Chinese counterpart “Xi Jinping” in all international forums. President “El-Sisi” launched of the “Decent Life project” to care for the poorest and most needy villages, as well as care for the poor citizen, comes as a launch of Egypt’s efforts to implementing international development initiatives, which comes in the same context as the Global Development Initiative of Chinese President “Xi Jinping”. Therefore, China, as a rising country, is trying to achieve many development goals, by proposing the Belt and Road Initiative and the long-term goals it contains that have repercussions on bringing about a shift in the structure of the international system from a unipolar system to a multipolar system or to reaching a state of non-polarity in the international system by following a number of political, economic, propaganda, and strategic mechanisms to achieve multi-polar competitiveness, which ultimately reaches and serves Chinese President Xi Jinping’s idea of achieving global development.
In this context, Egypt is trying to take advantage of all the opportunities and gains that China can achieve as a rising power in the international arena in the current century, through its introduction of the Belt and Road Initiative, and its many development and service projects in the axis of the Egyptian Suez Canal and the New Administrative Capital. In all his speeches, President “El-Sisi” emphasizes the concept of the new republic in Egypt, which is the same as what China refers to as the “new era”, which mostly refers to the multipolar world in which China, Egypt, and all African and developing countries are working together to establish it, as an alternative to the polar world. the one.
We find joint Chinese-Egyptian support for international efforts made to confront climate change, and support for initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable green development, including the (Egyptian Initiative for a Green Middle East) and China’s initiative on the (Green Silk Road), with their emphasis on the need for the Middle East region to be free of… Weapons of mass destruction, strengthening efforts to combat terrorism, condemning terrorism in its various forms and motives, and drying up its sources. The Chinese side is working with its Egyptian counterpart to adhere to the concept of a (community with a shared future for humanity), strengthen strategic partnership relations, and deepen cooperation in various fields between the two parties.
The two presidents (El-Sisi and Xi Jinping) agree to reform the current world order and push strongly towards providing pluralism in the new world order, based on the mechanism of the United Nations, preserving its periodic system, strengthening the multilateral global trade system and international poles, and pushing developing countries from marginalized regions to central command areas on the global governance stage. For this reason, both China and Egypt are committed to the concept of (global development) that is characterized by justice, inclusiveness and cooperation in an open, fully coordinated and innovative manner, to promote coordinated and sustainable economic, social and environmental development and the comprehensive development of humanity. Therefore, Egypt’s efforts to participate with the Chinese side in the “Third China-Africa Peace and Security Forum”, which was held from August 28 to September 2, 2023, came to enhance communication between the defense ministries in China and Africa, as part of Beijing’s efforts to protect its commercial and investment achievements on the African continent, and Egypt. Of course, first and foremost, given the importance of Chinese projects in Cairo.
Egypt’s official participation also took place in the Chinese capital, Beijing, on Sunday, July 9, 2023, to participate in (the first high-level conference of the International Action Forum for Common Development). It is a conference in which high-level delegations from 27 countries participated, along with more than 20 United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations. The International Joint Development Conference in Beijing, with the participation of the Egyptian side, aimed to discuss strengthening joint action to implement the “Global Development Initiative” proposed by Chinese President “Xi Jinping” in 2021, with the aim of redirecting global development towards a new stage of balance and comprehensive coordination to confront global shocks. Promoting more equitable and balanced global development partnerships and achieving more multilateral cooperation to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Here we find coordination between the Chinese and Egyptian sides, regarding all international and regional issues, especially the Palestinian issue, by supporting international efforts aimed at reaching a permanent and just solution to the issue on the “basis of the two-state solution”, leading to an end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. On the 1967 borders, its capital is East Jerusalem. Therefore, the Egyptian-Chinese insistence on the need to prevent a return to the Cold War mentality, and the common positions of the two presidents (El-Sisi and Xi Jinping) on the need to abandon confrontation between the camps, that is, whether they are friends or enemies. Instead, China and Egypt agree on the need to advance international solidarity, advocate the concept of common, cooperative, comprehensive and sustainable security, while respecting and addressing the legitimate concerns of all parties, jointly rejecting the revival of the mentality of competing blocs and opposing attempts aimed at a new Cold War, with the aim of maintaining peace and the international stability.
Egyptian President “El-Sisi” also agrees with his Chinese counterpart “Xi Jinping” on the need for international cooperation and collective work to address global challenges, and that the only way to achieve sustainable development is a joint global effort, with access to a new global financial structure that guarantees equal opportunities and fair access to income. Financing for developing countries. This is in light of strengthening efforts to implement the sustainable development goals in response to the (Global Development Initiative) proposed by Chinese President “Xi Jinping” in 2021. Therefore, the joint vision of the leaders of the two countries, President “El-Sisi” and “Xi Jinping”, comes to agree on the importance of aligning global development strategies and development plans with the national priorities and needs of each country. With President “El-Sisi” stressing in his foreign speeches the importance of working with the countries of the South, to emphasize the role of Chinese cooperation with developing and African countries, known as (South-South) cooperation to promote global development goals in parallel with the Chinese Comprehensive Development Initiative, and to promote economic recovery at the global level. And creating development models based on already successful experiences in the countries of the South.
On the other hand, Egypt affirms its permanent commitment to the one-China principle, its support for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory. In addition to supporting the Chinese position regarding “Hong Kong” within the framework of the “one country, two systems” principle. Taking into account Beijing’s efforts to spread international peace and development, through the two initiatives (Global Security and Global Development), which aim to encourage the international community to pay attention to development issues around the world, respect the rights of peoples to adopt their own approach to promoting democracy in a manner consistent with their national circumstances, and reject interference in the Internal affairs of countries under the slogan of the (preserving democracy).
Hence, we find that the (Global Development Initiative) proposed by China came at the right time, as it is a global development initiative centered around people by joining that initiative, Egypt can benefit from China’s successful experiences in coordinating and planning development, saving energy, reducing emissions, and ensuring Food security, what drives the sustainable development plan in Egypt. The (Global Development Initiative) also aims to establish a new type of international relations based on (the rule of common interest and mutual benefit for countries and peoples), taking into account the objective circumstances of peoples, meeting their national priorities, and respecting their identity and culture, given that this global development initiative was proposed by Chinese President “Xi Jinping” comes and the world is in need more than ever of fruitful collective development and cooperation practices, in which efforts are combined and capabilities are integrated to address the problems facing countries, especially developing ones, which ultimately leads to achieving an advanced and appropriate form of “democratization of international relations”.
Saudi-Israeli deal would be a gamechanger but not for the reasons discussed
A Saudi-Israeli agreement to establish diplomatic relations involving enhanced US commitments to Gulf security could be a game-changer for great power rivalry in the Middle East.
To be sure, US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu face formidable obstacles in paying the price tag Saudi Arabia puts on the normalisation of relations with Israel.
In return for relations, Saudi Arabia has demanded legally binding security commitments from the United States, support for its nuclear programme, and unfettered access to sophisticated weaponry – conditions that would be challenged in Congress.
The kingdom has also linked diplomatic relations to ambiguously defined progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a demand Mr. Netanyahu will have difficulty meeting with his current coalition government, the most ultra-nationalist and ultra-conservative in his country’s history.
Speaking to Fox News, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described the Palestinian issue as “very important” and one that “we need to solve.”
Mr. Bin Salman shied away from spelling out what a solution would entail beyond saying he hoped it “will ease the life of the Palestinians.”
Within days of the interview, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan told the United Nations General Assembly and a webinar normalising relations with Israel would require a plan to establish an independent Palestinian state.
On the first visit to the West Bank by a senior Saudi official since the creation of the Palestine Authority in 1994, Ambassador Nayef al-Sudairi, the kingdom’s first envoy to the Palestinian entity, said Saudi Arabia was “working towards establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Palestinian officials told their Saudi counterparts that as part of the kingdom’s agreement to recognise the Jewish state, Israel would have to stop building new settlements, expand Palestinian control over security and construction in the West Bank, accept full Palestinian membership of the United Nations, and consent to the opening of a Palestine Liberation Organisation office in Washington and a US consulate in East Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, senior Israeli officials asserted that Saudi Arabia was merely paying lip service to the Palestinian issue in talks about Israel.
A senior Palestinian official conceded “that what is being discussed includes elements that are less than statehood. We’re talking about a pathway to getting there.”
The obstacles haven’t prevented Messrs. Bin Salman and Netanyahu from raising heightened expectations recently by suggesting significant progress in agreeing on the terms of a US-Saudi-Israeli deal.
Largely overlooked in public discussions about a possible Saudi-Israeli normalisation of relations is the fact that the Saudi demands signal that the kingdom, like the United Arab Emirates, which is requesting an “ironclad” security arrangement with the United States, prefers the US rather than China to be its security partner for the foreseeable future.
“Isn’t it interesting? When you look at MbS’ asks from us, they start with he wants a defense treaty with us… What that tells you is that at the end of the day, they don’t think there is anybody else they can rely upon if they really stranded,” said Dennis Ross, a former US Middle East peace negotiator. Mr. Ross was referring to Mr. Bin Salman by his initials.
Former US National Security Council official Kirsten Fontenrose argued that Mr. Bin Salman had created a situation where he could forcefully argue for a binding security arrangement even if efforts to forge a deal with Israel failed.
“MbS looks at this and says, ‘Right now, it looks like the sticking point is Israeli politics. So, even if I don’t get this, I look like the good guy’,” Ms. Fontenrose said.
I expect there will be pressure from the Saudis moving forward, even if we don’t get normalisation, to follow through… (saying), ‘Well, we have arrived so closely on some of these ideas on a US security pact, we’ve done so much work on civilian nuclear cooperation, why don’t we just continue this?” Ms. Fontenrose added.
Even so, it is hard to believe that Saudi Arabia and the UAE think they can retain the freedom to hedge their bets and expand relations with China, as well as Russia, particularly regarding the Ukraine war and Western sanctions, in ways that the United States would see as threatening its national security and undermining its policies.
While the United States would likely not disrupt the Gulf states’ economic and trade ties with China, the Gulf’s largest trading partner, it would limit Saudi and UAE cooperation with China on geopolitical issues, nuclear development, technology collaboration, and arms acquisition.
“The administration is asking for some things from the Saudis. They want them to continue to peg oil to the dollar, there was some talk that they may allow the Chinese to buy oil with the Chinese currency… What is being asked here is not to stop their commercial relationship but to create boundaries in some of the high-tech areas… It’s a two-way street,” Mr. Ross, the former US negotiator, said.
The kingdom “cannot have it both ways. If it wants that kind of commitment from the United States, it has to line up with the United States… If our security relationship with Saudi Arabia is to be deepened because the Saudis want it, then there are certain obligations that come with that,” said former US diplomat and prominent analyst Martin Indyk.
Undoubtedly, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will test how far they can push the envelope if they come to a security understanding with the United States.
Ultimately, however, they are likely also to find that a security arrangement would, at least in the Middle East, shift the geopolitical US-China power balance in the United States’ favour.
Suez Canal: Enhancing alignment between Belt and Road and Egypt Vision 2030
The location of the Suez Canal Economic Zone plays an effective role at the heart of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, ensuring a permanent strategic partnership between the two sides, to enhance the concept of the role of economic corridors and ports in development for the benefit of all parties. This brings us to a fundamental point, which is the importance of integration between ports and industrial areas, such as the Suez Canal, as the most prominent model for this, as a model of cooperation that is the most distinguished in the entire world within the framework of the relationship between the Suez Canal corridor and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, in order to advance the development wheel for all its parties, and open endless horizons in front of various investments. We find that the Suez Canal is a major gateway for Chinese products to enter African, European, Arab, and American markets, due to its strategic location on the Red Bahrain and the Mediterranean, passing through the Suez Canal. Therefore, it serves the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, and this will be greatly reflected after the completion of development work in the Port of Sokhna in Suez, which will become one of the pivotal ports in the Red Sea and a fulcrum for serving international trade within the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.
The Suez Canal is considered the main station and the main sea corridor for the sea route of the Belt and Road Initiative, which focuses on linking the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, in addition to the land link between China and Europe, given that the sea road of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative extends from the (South China to the Strait of Mule, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, the Strait of Bab al-Mandab, all the way to the Suez Canal).
For this reason, the State of China, in light of the globalization system and the new global economic order that it is trying to strengthen to serve the interests of mainly African and developing countries, seeks to launch many global initiatives, the most important of which is the “Belt and Road Initiative”, which allows it to cooperate with its strategic partners within the framework of that. The initiative, led by Egypt, and within this framework, China officially signed a document of cooperation with the Suez Canal Economic Zone, and participation in the establishment of many industries and infrastructure projects cooperation between China and Egypt through the Egyptian Suez Canal corridor within the framework of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative does not only aim for the material part related to investments and projects, but also aims to build human values, which the initiative aims to build a better world that shares those values and seeks to build international relations based on peace. Achieving comprehensive development for all sectors, as well as working to bring peace instead of violence. As the world seeks to achieve comprehensive development, it either takes place within a framework of cooperation or pursues an aggressive policy that does not build but rather destroys entire civilizations.
The Egyptian Suez Canal plays a major role in increasing cooperation in the areas of trade exchange, localization of industry, and the transfer of Chinese technology and energy to Egypt. As the main goal of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is to support the economy and intra-state trade between countries, facilitate trade, and extend communications lines, stressing that the initiative includes extending cable, communications, Internet, and maritime digitization lines, explaining that Egypt is one of the countries in the world through which most submarine cables, digitization, and digital pass. Egypt represents a very important number and has its weight in the initiative, taking into account the Suez Canal, and the importance of the geographical location, as it connects the east to the west and the north to the south, in addition to the Suez Canal axis, as it represents an added value to the Suez Canal as well as the initiative, which relies heavily on the Suez Canal, in addition to Establishment of the Chinese industrial zone and the Russian economic zone in the Suez Canal. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative relies primarily on the concept of economic corridors for development, given that the Suez Canal is the most important and prominent international shipping corridor that directly links the three continents to which the initiative countries belong the economic zone surrounding the Suez Canal has been planned according to a future vision that takes into account Taking into account the various dimensions of the expected future development in maritime transport traffic and rates of international trade.
Here, Egypt and China can cooperate on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative in many ways. The Belt and Road Initiative differs from other economic blocs in that it is the first of its kind to link trade with development. Egypt is also an important partner in building the Belt and Road. The Chinese side is keen to enhance the alignment between the Belt and Road Initiative and Egypt’s Vision 2030. China supports the Egyptian side in advancing the pace of industrialization, enhancing scientific and technological capacity, and raising the level of development, in addition to deepening cooperation in the field of security and law enforcement between the two countries, in a way that maintains the common security to them. The Chinese side is also keen to enhance coordination and cooperation with the Egyptian side in international affairs to work together to support and implement multilateralism, reject the tendency of unilateralism and bullying, and ensure the correct direction of global governance reforms. The Egyptian side plays an effective role within the framework of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum and the China-Africa Cooperation Forum.
The list of Chinese companies investing in Egypt includes Sino Tharwa Drilling, Shamal International Petroleum, TEDA Investment, Jushi Egypt for Fiberglass Manufacturing, Huawei Technology, and Conco Technology. In addition to a large number of projects implemented by some Chinese companies under the direct contracting system, among the most prominent Chinese projects being implemented are: the Financial and Business District project in the New Administrative Capital, The TEDA-Suez zone for Chinese-Egyptian economic cooperation and the electric train project in 10th of Ramadan City. In addition to financing (Exim Bank of China) the implementation of a railway project to connect Cairo to the New Administrative Capital at a cost of more than one and a half billion dollars.
Therefore, China seeks to expand its investments in the Suez Canal region, especially as an important axis of development. The region also represents an important link and plays a prominent role in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, especially in light of the implementation of the ambitious development plan aimed at establishing development projects in the Suez Canal axis, including logistical services in a way that represents a good opportunity for cooperation between the two sides in many fields, especially technology and infrastructure in approximately 6 ports and two integrated regions, in addition to the role of the Suez Canal axis in enhancing Chinese-Egyptian economic cooperation, and making Egypt a starting point for the Arab and African markets, by virtue of Egypt’s membership in the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement and the COMESA Economic Community of Eastern and Southern African Countries.
The Suez Canal axis has special importance within the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, especially in light of the services provided by the Suez Canal Economic Zone, to support global trade movement through its ports, most notably ship bunkering services with green fuel, in addition to the role of Chinese companies in the region’s ports and the Suez Canal, such as: (Hutchison, COSCO and CMA Alliance), which is responsible for managing and operating one of the berths in the port of Ain Sokhna in the Suez Canal axis, with investments estimated at more than 600 million dollars, within the framework of the effective role that the Suez Canal plays in attracting Chinese investments in the sectors of financial services, logistics, and ports. Therefore, cooperation between many Chinese provinces and cities and the Suez Canal Economic Zone has been strengthened in this context. The Chinese company TEDA aims to promote its industrial zone in Ain Sokhna, in addition to investment opportunities in the Suez Canal Economic Zone to various Chinese companies, and to enhance cooperation with the Suez Canal Economic Zone in Egypt as an economic ally of great importance to Chinese investments.
In order to strengthen Chinese-Egyptian cooperation within the framework of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, China seeks to expand the base of cooperation with Egypt, so that it will be a starting point for Chinese-African cooperation, and Chinese participation in enhancing the economic development and political stability of the countries of the continent, especially in light of the material globalization system and the inability of the peoples. Which is still at the beginning of the development process of keeping pace with the global movement and the rapid transition towards globalization, and therefore the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative targets developing countries in order to work to enhance their economic cooperation and raise the standard of living for the peoples of those regions.
Accordingly, we find that all the elements of success are available for the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, as it started from a comprehensive development concept that addresses emerging and emerging economies, and aims to enhance cooperation with many international financial institutions, as well as economic blocs and organizations, such as: (ASEAN, BRICS, the European Union, the World Trade Organization), and others.
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