The Iran Deal and Iran-Russia Relations

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Behzad Khoshandam
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert on International Issues

The historical backdrop and experiences with Russia’s foreign policy behavior toward Iran during 18th, 19th and 20th centuries are not reminiscent of good memories for Iran's foreign policy and diplomatic apparatuses as well as the country’s public opinion. History shows that Russia’s traditional approach to Iran issue has been to use the country as a trump card in bickering with big and regional powers, and Moscow has always used Iran as a bargaining chip to regulate important international agendas in favor of its own interests.

Simultaneity of the Iran deal with a turn in Russia’s policy toward Eurasia as a result of the crisis in Ukraine, and adoption of a cooperative approach by that country will certainly have many effects on relations between Iran and Russia in coming years. At the present juncture, Russia and Iran are two influential powers in such important geopolitical domains as Central Asia, Caucasus, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden, the Levant and the Mediterranean. The gradual march of Iran and the P5+1 countries toward a final deal over Iran's nuclear program will extend the scope of relations between Iran and Russia to include new fields with considerable effects.

During the past 15 years, relations between Iran and Russia as two neighboring countries with similar geopolitical tendencies have been affected by a number of variables, including the crisis in Iraq, Iran's nuclear issue, the Arab Spring, extension of the NATO toward the east, the crisis in Ukraine, the crisis in Syria and the very important variable of the Western civilization. While Russia has been one of the most important losers of the Arab Spring when it comes to distribution of international power and shrinkage of its traditional spheres of influence, Iran, on the opposite, has been one of the most important winners of those developments. It seems that on the threshold of a deal with Iran and based on that deal, a new turning point is coming about in relations between Iran and Russia.

One of the most important effects of Iran's nuclear deal on Iran-Russia relations will be recognition of and respect for the effective and stabilizing regional power and role of Iran by the concert of big powers, including Russia. Russia’s Eurasian behavior has been the opposite point of the exceptionalistic behavior of the United States and the West in toto, in the course of the Ukraine crisis. As a result, Russians have no choice but to boost cooperation with regional power poles and mostly Asian blocs, including Iran. Therefore, in the light of an Iran deal, two trilateral set of relations, that is, relations among Iran, West, and the Middle East, on the one hand, and relations among Iran, Russia, and China, on the other hand will determine the direction and quality of bilateral relations between Iran and the West, between Iran and the East, and between Iran and the regional states in the Persian Gulf. Therefore, let’s not forget that relations among Iran, NATO and the West, as well as relations among Russia, NATO and the West will be mostly affected by domestic policies of those parties and the issue of strategic balance of powers within framework of the international order.

In the light of the Iran deal, Iran and Russia will be two influential regional powers within geopolitical spheres around them and relations between these two neighbors will be a function of mutual respect and avoidance of unusual and unequal behaviors in international arena, especially on the part of Russians.

The most important impact of the Iran deal on relations between Iran and Russia will be reciprocal impact on strategic and tactical actions and behaviors of these two countries through regulation of their relations with big transregional powers, and more serious recognition of Iran's natural rights by Russia. Relations between Iran and Russia will not become stable in the light of the Iran deal unless Russians put such important issues as justice, mutual respect and serious and sincere cooperation on their foreign policy agenda with regard to Iran.

The bottom line is that Iran's exceptional, effective, peaceful, and stabilizing role in the region needs to be respected by big powers, including Russia, in the light of the Iran deal. in the light of the Iran deal, relations between Iran and Russia would need a serious paradigm change in Russia’s approach to geopolitical status of Iran, Iran's spheres of influence, Iran's capacity to build coalitions and promote transregional interaction, as well as considerable weight and capacity of this actor for strategic and tactical influence on effective actors that impact strategic and tactical national interests of Russia. With or without a deal, Iran will not become another victim of Russians to use as a trump in regulating their global policies in view of the universal experiences in Iraq, Libya, and Syria since the beginning of the third millennium.

Key Words: Iran Deal, Iran-Russia Relations, Russia’s Foreign Policy, Regional Power of Iran, Middle East, West, NATO, Transregional Interaction, Khoshandam

More By Behzad Khoshandam:

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