MNA – “Americans want neither Iran nor Russia to appear as regional powers,” an Iranian expert said in an interview with Mehr news, “The US does not want Tehran and Moscow as partners, either.”
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, Iran and Russia are witnessing an ever-increasing development in their mutual ties. They are conducting constructive negotiations on the JCPOA, the Syrian crisis, ongoing affairs in Iraq, Yemen, Lybia as well as regional and international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
Both countries believe in principles including resistance against the hegemony of western major powers in the region, preserving regional stability and security, and respecting the sovereignty of other countries and not interfering in their internal affairs.
Tehran and Moscow are interested in the expansion of common economic and trade ties as well as cooperation in parliamentary, energy, cultural, scientific, and political sectors besides military and weaponry ones. The two sides plan to update their cooperation document in the future, establish corridors of Iran-Russia-Europe, Iran-Iraq-Russia, and Russia-Iran-Afghanistan and to create customs “Green Corridor” with each other.
In an interview with Mehr news agency, Shuaib Bahman, an Iranian expert on Russian affairs elaborated on various aspects of economic and political cooperation between the two countries.
The full text of the interview follows:
Would you please provide a general image of Iran-Russia economic transactions?
To have a comprehensive overview of Iran-Russia economic ties we can explore it from various aspects.
One is the transaction of goods between the two sides, which has not registered a remarkable growth in the past recent years. In the past two or three decades, the figure has been below $2billion, which is low. The trade volume between the two countries has not witnessed a notable growth due to some reasons, among which I can refer to banking and customs impediments as well as the US sanctions, political issues, and reluctance of both countries’ managers for expansion of such ties. I believe the last factor is the most effective one. Of course, the two sides have had the chance, in particular after the endorsement of an agreement between Iran and the EEU, to do their financial transitions independent from SWIFT or other western channels and via their own-made financial mechanisms i.e. the Iranian SEPAM and the Russian Mir payment system.
It is worth noting that mutually signed agreements between Tehran and Moscow worth above $25 billion, however, they have not been implemented yet. I can say that the main reason for the issue is the tendency of some Iranian managers towards the westerners, which is rooted in their unfamiliarity with the Russian’s technological and technical developments, potentials, and capabilities. For instance, Russians have developed the GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), which is a rival to the US GPS (Global Positioning System) or they have the unique and modern technology to expand a network of offshore natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea.
In recent years, Iran has imported different types of oils, cereals, steel, paper, railway parts and etc. from Russia. But in fact, the Russian market is much bigger and in case of getting more familiar with it, our imports can have a wider variety and Iran can import many other products including technical and technological ones from the country.
We should not forget that presently, the developments and modernization in the Iranian major industries, including railway, steel, machinery and etc., have been made by the help of eastern countries such as China and Russia.
This is while westerners have not been inclined to transfer knowledge and technology to Iran, even when the country was among their allies. If we study Russia’s foreign trade in recent years, we can find out the country has expanded its export destinations as well as its types of goods for exports.
Exploring the bilateral economic relations, it can also be referred to the construction of different phases of Bushehr nuclear power plant by Russians’ help, or the construction of hydropower plants and agreement on electrifying railway roads in Iran.
There are also some weaponry and military agreements between the two sides, the economic aspects of which are considerable.
What about political ties between Tehran and Moscow?
The political relations between Iran and Russia in the past recent years have witnessed some ups and downs, in particular after the Islamic Revolution in Iran or the Dissolution of the Soviet Union. But we can say that as of having President Putin in the office for the second time, the two sides have grown a tendency for improvement of bilateral ties. However, despite the increase in the ties, we can not still say that the common relations have entered a strategic level.
How do you assess the two sides’ cooperation in regional issues?
Tehran and Moscow began their regional cooperation as of the trips of the Martyr Lt. Gen. Soleimani to Moscow. He held meetings and talks with President Putin, in 2014-2016, when he persuaded the Russian President for military presence in Syria. We can say the IRGC commander made a foundation of Tehran-Moscow ties in the region. After the held meetings, the two sides also started a new phase of common ties, for example, Russia resumed providing Iran with the S300 missile system afterward. We can say that Iran and Russia started unprecedented regional cooperation afterward, which ended in weakening the ISIL terrorists in Syria. They also could establish cooperation to resolve the crisis in Syria without giving a role to western countries.
IRGC Commander Lt. Gen. Soleimani’s key role in the development of Iran-Russia ties and their cooperation in Syria is not deniable.
Can Russia and Iran be considered as rivals in Syria?
Of course, the two sides have some disagreements over the Syrian issue, which is natural but we cannot name them as competitors. It is worth noting that all the role players taking part in resolving the Syrian crisis and all the formed coalitions among countries such as Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and the US have not only lost their previous cooperation but have also found some discrepancies, disputes, and hostilities over their stances towards the issue. This is while Tehran and Moscow could successfully manage their collaboration in Syria, despite all the differences in their interests. The two partners also have some future plans for cooperation in Syria.
Regarding that both Iran and Russia are major energy exporters, can we say that they may be faced with some conflicts in their common interests in the long-run?
Some may say Yes, considering the tendency of both countries for exporting oil and gas to Europe or other markets.
But we should remember that being major oil and gas exporters cannot necessarily be translated as being rivals.
The opposite can even be true; the two countries can reach mutual interests via going hand in hand.
Iran and Russia can play a big role in the international energy market, setting prices, controlling supply and etc. For example, the idea of forming the Gas Exporting Countries Forum was initially put forward by Iran and then supported by Russia. The same is true about OPEC+.
In fact, Tehran and Moscow can benefit more from being partners rather than rivals.
In addition, it should be noted that due to some reasons Russia is not following up its previous policies of exclusive energy exports to Europe. They have now good customers in the east, i.e. China. Russians have found that their efforts to be the only gas exporter to Europe have not borne fruit, in particular in the past decade, it has lost about 20 percent of its share in the European Gas market since Europeans were inclined to diversify their energy suppliers.
The other issue is about Iran, which is dealing with crippling sanctions. The US sanctions against Iran have impeded the country from developing its energy ties to Europe. Additionally, if Iran gets freed from the sanctions and resolves all the disputes with Europeans, it will take the country about 10 years to get prepared its infrastructure and installments for starting energy exports to Europe.
Therefore, Iran and Russia cannot be regarded as rivals in this sector.
How do you explain Russia’s stance towards exports of Iranian gas to Turkey?
Russia should not be blamed for the issue. Difficulties of Iran’s gas exports to Turkey must be explained through Tehran-Ankara disputes. It has been the Turks who have decided to shift their gas supplier from Iran to Russia. Turkey is now making a huge investment in Mediterranean gas and oil resources, which will leave the country no need for Iranian energy resources. The country plans to be converted into the major energy hub in the region.
Hon can Tehran-Moscow cooperation resist the US hegemony i.e. its political, economic, or military predominance?
We should not forget that the time of forming blocs, whether eastern or western, has passed but the point is that Tehran-Moscow cooperation can have a big impact on the US hegemony and unilateralist policies. Such cooperation, also the one with China, can neutralize anti-Iranian sanctions. It can also negatively influence the US in the long term.
The US hegemony may bring undesirable results for America in the long-run.
All this, however, does not mean the formation of an anti-American or an eastern bloc.
How can Russia be considered a significant partner for Iran?
Compared to western countries, Russia has never sought to put pressure on Iran neither crippling down the establishment. The country has been in favor of expanding ties with Iran in various sectors.
This makes both China and Russia significant partners for Iran.
It should be noted that despite the enemies’ propaganda, Russia is a good partner, while enemies have always sought to introduce it as an unreliable one.
Western-based media compared Iran-China 25-year cooperation roadmap to the ‘Treaty of Turkmenchay’ to suggest the Iranian nation that neither of these countries are reliable partners for Iran.
Western-based media start various campaigns against any cooperation between Iran and countries other than the western ones. As did so about the Iran-China 25-year roadmap. The same thing is expected to happen about the imminent long-term comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement between Iran and Russia.
Westerners have never been interested in the formation of any cooperation between Tehran and Moscow because of several reasons.
First of all, is the geopolitical reason; getting united, Iran and Russian can create a unique geographical path that expands from the Persian Gulf to East Europe and west of China.
The second one is the energy factor; Tehran and Moscow can have a huge influence on the international energy market.
The third factor is the independent foreign policies that both countries apply. They both stand beside each other against the US hegemony, while they are of major powers in the region per se.
We should not forget that after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, the US has always put curbing the regional powers among its top priorities. Therefore, Americans do not want either Iran or Russia to appear as regional powers and they do not want Tehran and Moscow as partners, as well.
As we witnessed, western-based media compared Iran-China 25-year cooperation roadmap to the ‘Treaty of Turkmenchay’, which was an agreement between Persia and the Russian Empire back in 1828. This was meant to suggest Iranians that neither China nor Russia are reliable partners for their country.
With no doubt, enemies will run campaigns against any probable long-term cooperation between Iran and Russia in the future, as well.
Interview by: Haniyeh Sadat Jafariyeh