Russia Oscillating between Tehran and Riyadh

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mohammad Shariati Dehaqan
Iran's Former Ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation

Foreign relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia have been of high sensitivity throughout their history. Saudi Arabia was totally pessimistic toward foreign policy and performance of the former Soviet Union and the present-day Russia. It must be noted that when Afghanistan was under occupation by the Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia and the United States were major sources of support for armed and jihadist groups in Afghanistan in order to defeat the former Soviet Union in that country, because countering the Soviet Union was among the main policies followed by both the United States and Saudi Arabia. Once there were even claims that Chechen fighters and some Muslims in Russia were followers of Wahhabi thought and ideas and they availed themselves of popular aid they received through Friday Prayers and semi-state bodies. This issue caused some tensions in foreign relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia at that time.

Now, in view of Saudi Arabia’s decision on international issues and its indignation with the United States’ policy in the region, Riyadh is doing its best to get closer to Russia in order to solve its problems. Saudi Arabia was certain that if Russia did not cooperate with it in the case of Yemen, a Security Council resolution in favor of its campaign would not be issued through a vote of abstention. Another point is the existence of many differences between Russia and Saudi Arabia over the crisis in Syria. The differences are due to Russia’s support for the incumbent Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime in Syria, while Riyadh’s position is quite the opposite of this. For this reason, many other issues have been overshadowed by this discrepancy between their viewpoints on Syria. However, due to Saudi Arabia’s need in Yemen and the fact that its actions in Bahrain have not been condemned by Russia, Saudi Arabia has been trying to at least maintain good economic relations with Russia. In doing this and in order to strengthen contacts with Moscow and prevent issuance of a possible resolution against Riyadh or at least Russia’s vote of abstinence, Saudi Arabia has been giving concessions to Russia, and this step has been proven to be very effective.

At present, and in the course of tensions that have escalated between Turkey and Russia, Saudi Arabia has been trying due to the alliance with Turkey to stay away from tensions that exist between Moscow and Ankara, and in doing so, it has somehow distanced from Turkey. In the case of the recent attack on Saudi embassy in Tehran, we witnessed that Russia was among the first countries to condemn the embassy attack and call for mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Another noteworthy issue is that the two countries of Saudi Arabia and Russia have never been, and are not now, on a friendly footing over the issue of Syria and even situation in other countries. Despite this reality, the two countries have been making efforts in order to maintain their economic relations. Both countries are among the biggest suppliers of crude oil in the world and when it comes to production and supply of oil to global markets, Russia and Saudi Arabia alternatively overtake each other. On the whole, the two countries have been trying to reduce hostilities to a minimum. A recent analysis by some Saudi strategists indicated that involvement of Russia in Syria will reduce Iran's role in the Arab country.

Without a doubt, strengthening of relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia will overshadow Iran's role in Syria. Saudi Arabia considers all possibilities in its foreign policy. Therefore, Riyadh does not exclude the possibility that by getting closer to Russia, it would be able to gradually phase out Iran from Syria’s equations. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is sure to make efforts to bolster ties with Russia, though the final outcome of further strengthening of the two countries’ foreign relations is not clear as of now. As a result, the question that is raised here is will Saudi Arabia be able to achieve its goal in Syria by pushing a wedge between Russia and Iran in the case of the Syrian crisis? Or will Iran and Russia continue to play complementary roles in Syria?

Russia and Saudi Arabia have been also in contact with regard to the supply and production of crude oil, because both countries have suffered huge losses as a result of oversupply in global markets. In spite of very low price of oil and huge losses it has suffered so far, Saudi Arabia still continues to supply crude oil in high quantities in order not to lose its customers.

Iran must keep a watchful eye on all developments in the region in view of its national interests and expediencies. Since the conclusion of Iran's nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has opened a new chapter in Iran's relations with China, Italy and France, we must now act within framework of new relations. Although Russia was among Iran's partners during the sanctions period, it voted positive for all sanctions resolutions against the Islamic Republic. Therefore, due to problems that are currently nagging economic relations between Russia and Turkey, Moscow is currently seeking help from Tehran. Throughout history, Russia has proven that it cannot be considered a strategic partner for Iran. Of course, another noteworthy point is that Russia has been getting closer to Iran with regard to regional issues and opposition to the United States’ policies, but we must wait and see what would be Russia’s reaction with regard to Iran's relations with Europe, the United States and the world, and see how Moscow would react to this issue.

Key WordsRussia, Tehran, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, United States’ Policy, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Turkey, Chechen Fighters, Bashar Assad, Crude Oil, Global Markets, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Strategic Partner, Shariati Dehaqan

Source: Arman Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Mohammad Shariati Dehaqan

*Iran-Saudi Détente, Requisite of Regional Peace:

*Photo Credit: Sputnik News

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم