Chances of new understanding between Russia and Iran against a background of special operation in Ukraine

After imposing sanctions against Russia, Iran was one of the first countries to propose expanding cooperation in order to mitigate the impact of sanctions

In recent years, relations between Russia and Iran have deepened significantly. The two countries have been linked by mutual understanding on the processes in Syria, as well as the nuclear deal and the Bushehr nuclear power plant. But Russia has for too long been following the West and planned to join the family of European nations sooner or later. And this could not but cause justified caution in the perception of Russia on the part of Iran, which has lived for 40 years under US sanctions and is not ready to build serious relations with a country that seeks to join the West.

So what happens now?

Attitudes toward the special operation.

Iran did not join sanctions against Russia and voted against removing Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. The authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran explained their decision not to impose sanctions against Russia by the fact that NATO’s eastward expansion threatens Russia and that NATO was forcing Russia into a war that promotes the interests of the US military-industrial complex. At the same time, the Iranian leadership has expressed its attitude to this issue with uncharacteristically direct and frankness.

“If the USA can’t create a crisis, then the weapons companies can’t operate at maximum capacity. They need to create crises to secure the interests of this mafia. Today Ukraine has become a victim of this policy,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader takes the current events seriously and notes their long-term impact. At a meeting with students on April 26, Khamenei said that the world is on the threshold of a new world order.

“A new international order awaits the world, different from the bipolar order that existed 20 years ago – the United States and the USSR, West and East – and the unipolar world that Bush the father proclaimed after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the death of the communist and socialist systems.

Bush declared that the new world order was a unipolar American order, meaning that the US was on top of the world, but of course he was wrong,” Rahbar said.

The events in Ukraine, Ayatollah Khamenei clearly fits into this changing structure of the world, noting that countries must influence the formation of the new world order, and that Iran has a keen interest in not falling by the wayside.

“The events related to the current crisis in Ukraine should be considered in more depth and through the prism of the formation of the new world order, perhaps a complex and tangled process will follow and in this new and challenging environment, it is the duty of every country, including the Islamic Republic, to be present in this new world order in terms of tools and ideas to ensure the interests and security of the country so as not to fall by the wayside,” Ali Khamenei said.

Officially, the Iranian authorities speak about the operation in a clearly anti-US and anti-Western vein. At the same time, they have been calling on Russia to end the conflict in Ukraine and resolve the issue peacefully. Iran has also maintained relations with Ukraine.

It should be noted that there are also groups in Iran that take both an anti-US and anti-Russian stance, linking Russia and the United States in a kind of conspiracy of Iran’s enemies. This position is largely based on an understandable distrust of Russia as a result of its longstanding pro-Western course. It is precisely this position that is being actively promoted by former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known for his long-standing ties with radical Shiite circles in Iran. Here are excerpts from Ahmadinejad’s statements,

“Ukraine’s offer of NATO membership was only meant to pave the way for the implementation of a trilateral agreement between the United States, Russia and China. They are sharing the world among themselves.” (February 28, 2022)

“Great people of Ukraine, President Zelensky, your noble and almost unsurpassed resistance has exposed the satanic plots of humanity’s enemies. Believe that the great nation of Iran supports you, admiring this heroic perseverance” (March 2, 2022)

“Look at Mr. Biden, he is not defending the Ukrainian people. In fact, he has paved the way for a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. If the USA responded harshly to Russia, Russia would not dare come to Ukraine.” (March 12, 2022).

Thus, Ahmadinejad, too, discusses the movement toward a new world order in his own way. However, his point of view, unlike Rahbar’s, appears to be obviously pro-Ukrainian.

It is important to emphasize that Ahmadinejad is very popular with part of the population. And the fact that he was removed from disgrace after the new President Ebrahim Raisi came to power speaks of that the part of the elite supports him.

On April 15, Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan gave an interview to the Khabar Foori newspaper about the situation in Ukraine. There were 56 comments under the article, all but one of them negative and in the spirit of Ahmadinejad’s supporters.

One of the most popular statements, which received 97 approvals and only 6 disapprovals, “We have not forgotten the abominations of your actions in World War II and before. We have not forgotten the shelling of Imam Reza’s shrine. You devour the financial and economic resources of other countries like a leech, and what do you do? You have occupied half of our country, exploiting the incompetent leaders of Qajar Iran. Don’t think you are better than Britain or America. If America and Britain colonize, their technology will stay in the country afterwards. You have no technology at all except begging.”

The next statement got 68 reader endorsements, “The collapse of Russia is the dream of most Iranians and the peoples of West Asia.”

“The hatred of the peoples of the world, including the hatred of the Iranian people towards the Russians, has a historical aspect and is not a recent problem… The Russian invasion of Iran under the Tsar and the separation of 17 Caucasian provinces from Iran is a historical example of the hegemonic nature of Russians in the world,” another comment on the article reads.

It is clear that one cannot treat the comments on the Russian ambassador’s article as the opinion of the Iranian people. And certainly not the opinion of Iranian official circles. What is presented here is the opinion of a certain liberal pro-Western group that is active on the Internet. These comments only confirm the existence of a formalized position and the historical myth that exists on this basis.

To be fair, it should be noted that Levan Dzhagaryan in a sense provoked Iranian Westerners to react so harshly to his interview, as he mentioned several pro-Western media outlets working in Iran and regularly working off an anti-Russian agenda. Unsurprisingly, this agenda was once again worked up in response.

The Russian Embassy in Tehran rose to this topic on February 11 and 13 in connection with the provocative fabrications of the anti-Iranian media outlets Iran International, Radio Farda and BBC Persian, which first accused the Russian ambassador of destroying ties between the countries by laying flowers at the Griboyedov monument, and then accused the Russian permanent representative in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov of destructive actions at the negotiations on the nuclear deal. All this work is designed to complicate Russian-Iranian relations as much as possible.

Relations with the West

Negotiations between the six powers (the UK, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States) and Iran on a return to the nuclear deal, which limits Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, began in April 2021. The talks were suspended in March 2022.

The USA blamed it first on Russia and then on Iran. According to media reports, the possibility of removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of terrorist organizations remains a key issue on which the sides cannot reach an agreement. Experts also note that a deal with Iran will allegedly never make it through the US Congress.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s team continues to work for the signing of the nuclear deal. On April 26, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US administration was concerned about the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons in the next two weeks. Hours later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that only a nuclear deal could curb Iran’s nuclear program, and that other mechanisms had been tried and were not working. He also stressed that developing nuclear weapons is a matter of weeks for Iran.

Meanwhile, Iran, for its part, continues to prepare for the possibility of lifting sanctions.

After Iran’s presidential election on June 18, 2021, many experts noted that the elected Ebrahim Raisi is considered to be a close associate of the Supreme Leader and that he is even considered to be a successor to 81-year-old Khamenei.

Regarding the new presidential candidacy, should sanctions be lifted on Iran, figures that could easily be accepted in the West are also being discussed. For example, the figure of Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

On April 25, restrictions were loosened for Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since 2009 after accusing authorities of vote-rigging and calling for protests. In 2009, Mousavi organized the most massive protests in the history of the Islamic Republic.

Economic cooperation. North-South Corridor.

After imposing sanctions on Russia, Iran was one of the first countries to propose expanding cooperation in order to mitigate the consequences of sanctions. At the same time, Iran has vast experience in surviving in such conditions.

Iran immediately offered our country supplies of its medicines, construction materials, food and clothing, noting that it expects the trade turnover with Russia to quadruple.

Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision is discussing with Iran an increase in the supply of fruits and vegetables to Russia by 3.5 times. Iran, for its part, is interested in increasing Russian imports of cereals and oilseeds from 7 to 12 million tons per year. Tehran intends to consider opening its market for Russian poultry, lamb and other meat products.

On March 24, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali said that Russia and Iran are working on the unification of financial transaction and payments systems bypassing the international system SWIFT. Russia and Iran are also negotiating mutual recognition of national payment cards, a topic discussed during an official visit by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin to Tehran. “There is hope that by the end of the year the Mir card will work in Iran,” Volodin noted.

Further, on April 13, Russia and Iran signed a number of memorandums, including one on cooperation in innovative medical developments.

Russia and Iran have traded in national currencies for many years. By the end of 2021, more than 70% of trade turnover was already carried out in rubles.

In addition, the discussion of the “North-South” logistics route across the Caspian Sea has intensified. The route is designed to transport goods from India and the Persian Gulf states to Western and Northern Europe via Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia, including by connecting the railroads of these three countries.

On April 21 Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak noted that today the North-South corridor becomes relevant: if previously the task of developing the transport corridor was for the future, now it becomes urgent. On April 28 Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Rostam Ghasemi responded by saying that he was ready to ensure transit of goods from Russia.

Russia and Iran have been working on a 20-year strategic agreement for years, similar to the recent 25-year strategic agreement signed between Iran and China (Iran’s main strategic partner during the entire period of sanctions). Before, there was no impetus to accelerate this process, but that may be changing now.

Opportunities

The start of the special operation has essentially shifted Russia into an anti-Western stance, which means that Iranian official authorities and Iranian opposition groups are forced to make a redefinition of their attitude toward Russian policy. At the same time many people believe that the most pro-Russian president of Iran in recent years is the recently elected President Ibrahim Raisi. In expert circles, this circumstance is considered an additional chance for strengthening relations between the countries. But the main circumstance for Iran, as well as for any other country, of course, will always remain the issue of how loyal Russia will be to the chosen course and the position taken.

Source: Rossa Primavera News Agency

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