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Opportunities Provided to Iran and Russia by Iran Nuclear Deal

Friday, November 29, 2013

Interview with Jahangir Karami
Associate Professor at Faculty of World Studies; University of Tehran &
Russia and Eurasia Analyst

Recent changes in the United States Middle East policy have stirred great concerns among Washington’s regional allies. As a result, some of those allies have decided to find a way to protect their interests against these changes by not putting all their proverbial eggs in the US basket. Observing such a change in the attitude of the United States allies, some analysts have speculated that these developments may help Russia to play a more prominent role in the Middle East, especially in places where regional crises are raging. Although most analysts believe that this state of affairs will not lead to a situation similar to classic rivalries between the two superpowers during the Cold War era, they are of the opinion that it will increase some form of political rivalry between the two powers in critical points.

In the following interview with Dr. Jahangir Karami, an associate professor at University of Tehran’s Faculty of World Studies, and Russia and Eurasia Analyst, Kharabonline news agency has discussed major consequences of the changing approach of the United States to the Middle East and the future role that Russians may play in this critical region.

Q: Will recent changes in the United States approach to the Middle East in favor of a policy of power balance aimed at bringing stability to the region, necessarily mean that the Russians will be playing a more prominent role in this region? In the past week, there were reports about possible increase in military exchanges between certain regional countries and Russia.

A: Even in case of such a change [in the US policy towards the Middle East], it should not be necessarily taken as a return of Russia to the region. In a different way, it can be interpreted as such that efforts made to erase the Syrian government from regional power equations have hit a deadlock and plans for ignoring the role of Iran and its allies in regional developments have also failed. In the meantime, Russia has been able to break new grounds both through its approach to recent political developments in the region, which started in 2011, and through resistance [against the West] in the case of Syria crisis and cooperation with Iran over the Arab country. On the other hand, changes made to regional policies of the United States have made regional countries share Russia’s position of being suspicious toward such changes. However, when it comes to Russia’s policy toward Egypt, it should be noted that Egyptians are currently very suspicious toward the policies of the United States and Saudi Arabia. Russians, in the meantime, have been making the most of this situation for entering political games in Egypt.

The increasing propinquity between Russia and Egypt has been highlighted through recent trips to Cairo by the Russian ministers of defense and foreign affairs as well as by other officials of the Russian defense industry. Analysts believe that by encouraging such visits, the new Egyptian government is trying to forge a balance in its foreign relations as a result of pressures exerted on the new Egyptian government, which came to office through a military coup d’état. It is noteworthy that the United States did not hail the coup government of Egypt. As a result, the Egyptian military has decided to discard the foreign policy that the country followed under its previous dictator, Hosni Mubarak, which was based on unilateral approach to bolstering ties with the United States and other Western powers. Instead of the Mubarak-era policy, the new Egyptian government has decided to strike a new balance in its foreign policy approaches by promoting interaction and cooperation with Russia.

Perhaps such developments would be construed as a return to the Middle East politics by the Russian government. This means that Russian is going to have serious relations with Egypt after the lapse of about 40 years and following Russia’s withdrawal from the Arab country in the 1970s. However, it is perhaps too early to talk about the return of Russians to the Middle East as we must still wait to make sure about the level of interactions which will exist and the contents of possible agreements that will be signed between these countries and Russia. In the meantime, let’s not forget that interactions between Russia and the Middle East are not similar to the past. Conditions in the region as well as in the entire world and Russia have greatly changed and, most importantly, there is no stability in Egypt right now and its future outlooks are uncertain at best.

Q: In view of the recent nuclear agreement between Iran and the West, which has increased concerns among the traditional allies of the United States in the region, how do you think Russia will react to this issue?

A: If Russia’s position on Syria is strengthened with the final result of averting the fall of the Syrian government, or if developments in the Arab country take place in a gradual manner and through a long negotiation process attended by both Russia and Iran, it would be very important to the Islamic Republic, which is currently under mounting pressures from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the radical Arab political currents. The increased presence and influence of Russia in the region will be against the interests of radical forces and players in the region, who are not willing to act in a responsible manner. Such a presence will, in fact, improve the balance of regional power as a result of which regional security and stability will increase. Such a state of affairs will not necessarily be detrimental to the United States because Americans have been already looking for ways to reduce the burden of their responsibilities in the region.

With the United States changing its mind about increasing pressure on and taking military strike against Syria, on the one hand, and Iran and Russia boosting interactions, on the other hand, both Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran will have a new opportunity to reduce pressures exerted on them while playing their role in the establishment of stability and security in the region.

Q: Some analysts argue that the traditional allies of the United States in the region have reached the conclusion that the White House is facing limitations in its regional policies toward the Middle East and, therefore, have decided not to put all their eggs in the United States basket. Will the Russians be able to feel Washington’s void in the region?

A: I don’t think that Russians are going to fill in for the United States. Although recent trips to Cairo by officials of the Russian defense and foreign ministries and their negotiations with the Egyptian officials were important, they were also more in line with Russia’s goal to control radical forces in the region, promote relations with the regional countries, and prevent further escalation of chaos in the region. From the viewpoint of Moscow, a racial and chaotic Middle East will be detrimental to everybody, including Russia. To avoid this situation, they need to establish a form of regional and international balance in which the United States, Russia and other major regional players will not be at odds, but will engage in constructive interaction.

Even the approach taken by the Russians to negotiations in Geneva over the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear case, was not limited to the nuclear issue, but was in line with Russia’s overall approach to regional and international issues. A few days ago, the Russian President [Vladimir Putin] pointed to the recent agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers in Geneva, noting that the interim agreement with Iran will help the international community to get one step closer to final resolution for one of the most difficult cases in international politics. He added that the result of Geneva negotiations will benefit the entire world and will have profound effects on international developments, especially developments in the Middle East. The Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov] said for his part that the agreement over Iran's nuclear energy program will have positive effects on the ongoing crisis in Syria and the forthcoming Geneva II conference on the Syrian crisis. Therefore, one can talk about a new period for Russia to appear more active in the Middle East. Such an active role played by Russia does not have to be necessarily competitive, but it will be aimed at bolstering regional cooperation and creating a new balance of powers and more stability in the region. This is why major political players in the region such as Egypt, Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon as well as other players have welcomed Russia’s new role in the region.

Key Words: Iran, Russia, Nuclear Deal, Middle East, United States, Egypt, Syria, Cold War, New Balance of Powers, Karami

Source: Khabaronline News Website
http://www.khabaronline.ir/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Jahangir Karami:

*A New Phase in Iran’s Relations with Russia?: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/A_New_Phase_in_Iran%E2%80%99s_Relations_with_Russia_.htm

*Caspian Sea Littoral States Need A Cooperative Organization: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Caspian_Sea_Littoral_States_Need_A_Cooperative_Organization.htm

*Photo Credit: Press TV

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