Russia takes advantage of Iran’s tough spot

6 July 2018 12:00 (UTC+04:00)

By  Trend

In recent times, Russia, consciously or not, has several times upset Iran with its decisions and actions.

Back in early February, Iranian foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed cautious concern over the establishment of Russian control over the process of Syria's reconstruction and attempts to remove Tehran from it, according to an article published by Enab Baladi.

Zarif said in a television interview that the possibility of Syria's reconstruction process is available to all countries, and that Iran and Russia can cooperate on this issue and there is no need to be rivals.

"Russia's participation in the process of Syria's reconstruction does not mean that Iran should be excluded from it," he added.

According to the source, such statements were made after talk about disagreements between Moscow and Tehran over the distribution of post-war quotas.

Syria’s ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, said during the Russian-Syrian Business Forum in Moscow that the Syrian government had received instructions from Bashar Assad to provide the maximum benefits to Russian colleagues who will participate in Syrian economic restoration, according to the Russian Sputnik agency.

Assad’s empowerment of Russia comes amid clear moves to distance Iran, with even Iranian media close to the government expressing annoyance at removing Tehran from major economic projects in Syria, Syrian Observer reported.

In late May Iran and Hezbollah, who had entrenched themselves in southern Syria in the dangerous vicinity of Israeli borders, received a direct message from Moscow to pull back from there.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov then said that only Syrian government troops should be stationed on the country's southern border and that the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces should happen as soon as possible, TASS reported.

A couple of weeks ago, following the OPEC meeting in Vienna, it was decided to increase oil production by 1 million barrels per day. The decision was made largely due to the coordination of the positions of Russia and Saudi Arabia. Iran has strongly opposed the increase in production, as this further narrows its possibilities.

Behrouz Bonyadi, an Iranian MP, called Russia’s position "a betrayal".

In his address to an open session of the Iranian parliament on June 27, he strongly criticized Russia, saying that Moscow "cannot be regarded" as a reliable friend and partner for the Islamic Republic, Iranian media outlets reported.

“Today, we witness Assad increasing his harmony with Putin brazenly, and denying or underestimating the martyred defenders of the holy shrine (Iranian military personnel fighting in Iraq and Syria),” he said.

In addition to claims for “the Russian-Syrian rapprochement at Iran’s expense” he stressed, “we also witnessed the last act of betrayal against the Islamic Republic during the latest meeting of OPEC member states in Vienna as well as in the convention on the status of the Caspian Sea.”

President Putin has signed an order approving the draft Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, RIA Novosti reported in late June. The Convention is planned to be signed by all littoral states in early August.

Iran suggests the sea to be divided equally - a 20 percent share for each state. However, the other states, including Russia, insist on a “median line method” whereby Iran will get only a 14 percent share.

Apparently, Iran's proposal is not reflected in the Convention and Tehran will have to agree with the majority. Perhaps, this is the reason for Mr. Bonyadi’s strong irritation about Russia’s “betrayal” in the issue of the Caspian Sea status.

If Iran aspires to be not an ordinary state but a regional power, it should be ready to various, unexpected and sometimes unfavorable scenarios and unwanted developments.

Is there anything in Russia’s behavior from geopolitics? The answer is likely No than Yes. Russia pursued its national interests, which may not coincide with Iranian ones.

However, geopolitics may come to the scene soon. It seems that Iran will be discussed at the forthcoming summit of the presidents of Russia and the US in Helsinki.

President Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said in an interview to CBS News: “Well we'll see what happens when the two of them get together. There are possibilities for doing a larger negotiation on helping to get Iranian forces out of Syria and back into Iran which would be a significant step forward.”

And this: “Well I don't think Assad is the strategic issue. I think Iran is the strategic issue.”

Russia isn’t interested in change of power in Iran: it has good relations with the Iranian establishment at the state level and many attractive prospects for further cooperation.

However, Moscow, apparently, would not object too much to Tehran making concessions on the issue of greater transparency of its nuclear program, and also to moderate its appetites in Syria and the entire region, but on condition of Moscow’s active participation in and control over these processes.

Russia feels that, albeit unwillingly, Iran needs its support against the background of lack of real allies in the confrontation with US and a number of other states.

Europe will keep away from Tehran at a critical moment, as the Iranian leaders themselves admit.

China, the world's biggest consumer of Iranian oil, will also unlikely to escalate with Washington. This is not a mere assertion: in May, as Reuters reported, a senior official at Iran’s state-owned oil supplier held separate meetings in Beijing with Chinese top oil buyers to ask them to maintain imports after U.S. sanctions kick in, but failed to secure guarantees from them.

Therefore, Russia feels confident about Iran and can painlessly afford some preferences for itself.

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