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Russian-Iranian Relations through the Prism of the Syrian Crisis

Moscow is extremely interested in keeping Iran in the sphere of its influence. First of all, Iran’s geostrategic position allows it to influence the situation in the Caspian Sea region, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. This, in turn, compels Moscow to discuss a wide range of foreign policy issues with Tehran. Given the shared visions on how to handle most of these problems, the support of Iran is believed to be important to the success of Moscow’s activities to restore and strengthen Russia’s regional position after the fall of the Soviet Union. Finally, both Moscow and Tehran are interested in saving the remaining government institutions in Syria. This common task plays in favor of Russian-Iranian cooperation, although each country certainly has its own reasons for saving the remnants of the regime.

Russian-Iranian Relations through the Prism of the Syrian Crisis
Russian President Putin meets with his Iranian counterpart Rouhani at the Kremlin on March 28, 2017. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI KARPUKHIN

Introduction

 

Since 2012, Russia and Iran have been undertaking serious efforts to improve their relations and bring them to a new level that would imply strategic partnership between them. In 2013-2015, the Russian authorities intensified their efforts to settle the Iranian nuclear issue. Moscow helped to facilitate Iran’s negotiations with the international group of negotiators whereas Lavrov’s 2012 proposals on the settlement of the nuclear issue laid the necessary ground for the resumption of talks. In this case, Russian motifs were determined by a number of factors. First of all, Iran armed with a nuclear bomb was not desirable for Moscow, as this would change the balance of power in the region and encourage other, even less stable, Middle Eastern regimes to join the nuclear club. Secondly, Russia believed that an unsettled nuclear issue could have hypothetically led to the destabilization of Iran as it created pretexts for a potential military conflict between the U.S. and Tehran. Under these circumstances the Kremlin did not want Iran to become another failed state near the border of the post-Soviet space in addition to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Thirdly, Russia’s role in the multilateral negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue helped to promote Moscow’s importance as a constructive international player.

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