Iran’s Supreme Leader has commanded that the Islamic Republic should look to the East for its scientific and technological future, complicating the Rouhani Government’s efforts to deal with economic crisis.

Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with scientific groups in Tehran on Wednesday:

Those countries [with whom we can work] are mostly in Asia. Therefore, we should look to the East, rather than the West.

Looking to the West and Europe has no benefit other than having to stand idle, begging favors and undergoing humiliation.

Khamenei has often declared that Iran should turn away from the West, rejecting interaction with the US except for the 2015 nuclear deal from which the Trump Administration withdrew in May.

But his position cuts against the Government’s attempt to establish links with Europe in finance, investment, and trade, as it tries to cope with long-standing internal issue and offset comprehensive US sanctions due from November 5.

The approach to the European Union and its members has had limited success, with the EU struggling to guarantee its largest firms against US punishment, prompting them to suspend or draw down business with Iran.

However, last month the Europeans announced a “special payments vehicle” which would allow trade, for example exchange of Iranian oil for EU goods, to bypass US dollars. The step helped settle an Iranian currency which has lost 70% of its value this year.

Iran Daily, Sept 28: Limited Currency Recovery After European Payment Channel Announced

Khamenei insisted on Wednesday that Iran’s economic problems — with oil exports down 40% since April and the IMF forecast of a 1.5% contraction in GDP this year and 3.6% in 2019 — are an illusion:

Portraying a false, negative and disappointing image of the situation in Iran is the most important agenda of the enemy today. But…the real image of the country is in general the opposite of the one that the hegemonic system [portrays].

The Supreme Leader tipped off the scale of the challenge by comparing the situation to the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988: “While Iran’s counter-propaganda prowess is lacking just as it did during the war, we will undoubtedly triumph in this fight with God’s help, just as we did [then].”

He called on Iran’s young elites to win the “heavy battle”, maintaining, “If we make progress on the scientific path, the threats posed by the enemies of our civilization, politics and economy will not last.”