Evidences indicate that Iran and Russia have common strategic interests in bilateral areas (economic, military-security), regional level (their role in the new security system of the Middle East region) and international arena (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, widely known as JCPOA, and confronting the U.S. unilateralism).
- Cooperation in Defense- Military field
Military-Defense contracts and also holding joint war-games of Iran and Russia have turned to become one of the most dynamic fields of cooperation between the two countries within the past several years. In this connection, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the then Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs paid a couple of visits to Moscow during the Summer 2020, the first in June and the second in July, following the termination of sanctions against Iran, Russia started to sell military weaponry to Iran.
Likewise, the trip made by General Amir Hatami, Iranian Minister of Defense to attend in the International Military-Technical Forum “ Army 2020, which was held in Moscow August 23-29, have prompted the stipulations for further strengthening of technical and military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran followed by the termination of weaponry sanctions against Iran. Having shown interest to cooperate with Iran, Russia can be an important supplier of sophisticated weapons systems, military equipment and technology.
- Bilateral partnership in the new Middle East order
After the outbreak of Arab Spring in 2011, the strategic region of the Middle East has entered into a new security order. Perhaps, we might have witnessed the least cooperation between Iran and Russia prior to the crisis in this region. But the common interests between the two countries in containing and preventing terrorist groups and also confronting the U.S. unilateralism helped to form good proximity and coordination between them. The most important example of the changes in ties between Iran and Russia were the two sides’ cooperation in crisis-stricken region of the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq. In the light of the developments took place in Syria and Iraq and the vacuum of power in the region, Iran and Russia managed to fill it successfully. Now, increasing clout and influence of the two countries in the region include the strengthened relations with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad government in Syria, Hamas in Palestine, Iraqi government and Houthis in Yemen. From the other hand, the military cooperation of Iran and Russia to fight against terrorism was not confined to Syrian territory; according to some reports, Iran and Russia with the collaboration of Syria and Iraq have established a center to exchange information on anti- ISIS in Baghdad in which intelligence and information were exchanged and analyzed among them.
Tehran is a reliable ally for Moscow in a very unstable region. It seems that in view of its pivotal role in strategic objectives for both side, war in Syria is the most important area of cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
Three key factors of Iran’s position in the Middle East and the quality of relations between Russia and Iran in the coming years are as follows:
- Future policies of the U.S. president
- Continuation of the U.S. sanctions against both countries
- Developments in the neighboring countries which has essential importance for the interests of Iran and Russia
- Kremlin’s Emphasis on preserving JCPOA
JCPOA agreement, Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA and pursuing negotiations for JCPOA revival during Biden Administration are also among effective factors on Tehran-Moscow relations.
After the withdrawal of the U.S. from JCPOA and pursuing the “maximum pressure” strategy, and Iran’s new policy on “Looking to the East”, strengthening economic, political, military – security collaboration with Russia have gained more credibility. Russia, as an effective player in JCPOA believes that Washington should return to the treaty and cancel the sanctions against Tehran. Foreign policy apparatus of Russia believes that withdrawal of the U.S. from JCPOA and destroying the main motivation of Iran to completely abide by her nuclear commitments caused Tehran not only to reject further limitations but also to disentangle herself from existing binds.
- Moscow-Tehran Alignment to Confront the U.S. Unilateralism
At geopolitical level, we are experiencing a transitional period which has started from second decade of 21th century. The world is moving from unipolar to bipolar or multi-polar system, which will probably be flourished during the present century. The new model of bipolar geopolitics will have two major poles which will compete with each other. A pole comprising the U.S. and the European Union which is weak at the moment, and a strong pole containing China and Russia under the protection of Euro-Asia whose influence will increase day by day. Amid all this, the partnership of Russia and Iran is meant in line with their common interests and strong confrontation with the U.S. hegemony. They believe that Trump administration unilateralism caused hamper in international system and has seriously endangered their interests. Thus, they are looking for a more balanced international order and a multi-polar world.
Therefore, both Russia and Iran have shown their commitment to create similar networks and multilateral organizations at regional level (like Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Euro-Asia Economic Union, the recent 25-year Agreement between Iran and China, and 20-year Agreement with Russia) in order to create an efficient balance against the U.S. unipolar.
The world has always been dealt with the fear and threat emanated from insecurity and chaos, but every individual country can change the threats to opportunities according to its own national interests. Strengthening of cooperation between Russia and Iran is, naturally, justifiable and considerable in view of their national and regional interests. Having Regarded the present implications in relations of the two countries, one can realize the strategic look of the two sides on the ties.
Moscow, will undoubtedly, continue to play the card of her ties with Iran once her relations with Washington is concerned. In order to achieve this goal, Russia will strengthen her cooperation with Iran at regional level in the field of fighting terrorism and in strategic important fields like development of non-military nuclear and military cooperation. From the other hand, geopolitical, ideological and cultural differences exist in relations between them, but the volatile situation of the Middle East will reduce the restrictions, dangers and potential problems caused by geopolitical disputes (competitive dynamism) at the cost of strengthening ties with winning result of (cooperation dynamism) aiming at confronting mutual security concerns in the region.