''It is possible that by the end of the war in Syria positions of Russia and Iran will diverge''
Russia and Iran: allies, or...? An expert opinion
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has recently cancelled his visit to Iran, which has become the reason for talk of a possible split between Tehran and Moscow. What is more, the reasons for this concern are becoming more and more. A political analyst and columnist of Realnoe Vremya Gumer Isaev in his newspaper column, written for our newspaper, tries to investigate the complicated Russian-Iranian relations.
In connection with the cancelled visit of Dmitry Rogozin to Iran, domestic media have voiced several versions, among which there is a version about the leak, allegedly committed by the Iranian media. Interestingly, this is not the first story with ''leaks''. Not so long ago in Iran they barely concealed indignation when the Russian media revealed information about the prospects of using the base in Hamadan, Iran, by the Russian air force. Maybe, though, the cancellation of Rogozin's visit had purely a ''technical character'', but a small analysis of current events suggests that relations between Russia and Iran are not going smoothly.
Historically, the relations between the two states have been complicated. Both countries can lay historical claims to each other — from the death of Griboyedov in Tehran to the occupation of part of the Iranian territory by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Despite the fact that Iran and Russia have recently found themselves on the same side — for example, in the confrontation with the West or on the sidelines of the civil war in Syria, the modern relations between Moscow and Teheran has a number of contradictions.
Iran, as well as Turkey, has its own imperial ambitions in the Middle East, not without reason considering that the great history of the Persians, along with rich oil reserves and the achievements of the Islamic revolution, give Iran an opportunity to be the regional leader. Other influential countries in the region such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia are trying to challenge the leadership of Iran.
''Moscow benefits from the sluggish confrontation between Iran and the United States''
Tehran's relations with the West, especially with the United States, are developing in a complicated way as usual. Some anti-Iranian sanctions are being replaced by others, and every new US President promises to solve the Iranian issue — either peace or war. It is Washington who is a notorious third player in the relations between Moscow and Tehran. Moreover, the U.S. role is often decisive. Elected populist Trump again calls Iran the main enemy of the United States, trying to disavow steps to defuse the relationship with Iran made by Obama. It should be admitted that Russia has successfully used the strained relationship between Iran and the West, and peace processes from Obama in the direction of Iran did not enthuse the Kremlin.
Moscow benefits from the sluggish confrontation between Iran and the United States and she doesn't want a significant improvement in relations between them or, conversely, an escalation of the conflict into a hot phase. Iran being under sanctions is forced to turn to Russia. In its turn, the special relations between Moscow and Tehran is one of the levers that Russia can use in relations with the West. Therefore, the anti-Iranian rhetoric of Trump is not so bad for the Russian authorities. But the newly elected President Trump may follow in the footsteps of Mr Bush and move to decisive actions in the Middle East that do not fit into the concept of maintaining the status quo in the region, which suits the Kremlin. Judging by the strong statements of Trump on Syria, the Americans are ready to act in the Middle East far more strongly than Obama.
The Persian watershed
Despite the presence of supporters of closer relations with Russia in Iran, there are many people who do not trust Moscow. So, the Iranians clearly remember how in 2010 President Medvedev banned the sale of the antiaircraft-rocket complexes S-300 to Iran, although in 2007 the two states concluded a contract to supply five battalions totalling about $ 800 million. The supply to Iran took place only in 2016. As for the other Russian weapons, the supply can't be made because of current sanctions so far. It is no secret that Iran is in dire need of equipment to conduct hostilities in Syria.
It is also worth mentioning that Russia and Iran have close economic relations. Russia has built Bushehr and has plans to build new units. However, the trade turnover between the two countries is still low — in recent years it has fluctuated from 1.2 to 2 billion dollars a year. In comparison with Turkey, in 2014 it was about 30 billion, with Egypt — 5.4 billion. In the context of the lifting of sanctions in the Russian media began to discuss prospects of expanding cooperation, in particular, they hoped that Iran would purchase Russian civilian aircraft. But Iran ''pleased'' by the multi-billion dollar contracts with Boeing and Airbus. Perhaps, the Persians will buy Russian superjets but Iran needs machines in greater numbers and larger sizes of what Moscow can offer.
Finally, if to speak about joint actions of Russia and Iran in Syria, it is not so clear. Yes, technically both Russia and Iran favour the preservation of the Assad regime and act as a united front against ISIS (banned in Russia) and other groups. But it is unlikely that the Iranians perceived positively the Russian-Turkish agreement on Aleppo and other areas. Iran has its own plans for the future of Syria. Not so long ago, there were reports that the militants of the Pro-Iranian Hezbollah did not allow the Russian military to the area of Wadi Barada for monitoring the conditions of compliance with the ceasefire. Minor conflicts between Pro-Iranian groups and the Russian military also happened in Aleppo. It is not excluded that closer by the end of the civil war in Syria, the positions of Russia and Iran will disperse.