What is Iran getting from its alliances with Russia and China?
Some believe that the long-awaited nuclear deal between Iran and the Western powers, Russia and China will diminish Iran’s regional influence. But those who think it does ignore the huge implications of Tehran’s trilateral relationship with Moscow and Beijing. Indeed, there is always the possibility, according to another school of thought, that any lifting of sanctions against Iran as a result of the agreement could release a financial windfall that will only strengthen Iranian projects and ambitions in the country. Middle East.
Iran’s close relations with Russia and China – which include political, military and economic cooperation – could make it a regional hegemony, more determined and violent in its quest to impose its system and ideology beyond its borders. borders, especially in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Last week, all actors involved in the talks with Iran stepped up their rhetoric and took important strategic steps. US civilian and military officials have revealed new security policies in the Middle East and have confirmed that US troops will remain in the region, but with adjustments in their areas of deployment. The United States reassured its allies in the region and asserted its ability to rapidly project its power beyond its bases to deal with Iranian threats using “smart” methods.
For its part, the Iranian leadership has deployed its military muscles on the ground. And a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi carried a deliberate message that the two countries were discussing signing an agreement similar to the 25-year pact signed between Iran and China, for conclude a Sino-Russian-Iranian strategic trilateral. which could be developed further, depending on the evolution of regional dynamics vis-à-vis the United States, Israel and the Arab States.
The deal between Iran and Russia should not be of the same magnitude as the Sino-Iranian pact, but it has interesting implications, for example in Syria. The Russian and Iranian presidents have agreed to step up efforts to secure the deal possibly before the end of the year. The treaty could last for years and cover military, energy and political cooperation.
Iran would benefit greatly. Indeed, while the pact with China has had valuable military and economic benefits for both parties (including in the field of oil exports), a comprehensive agreement with Russia would have the added value of deep political involvement. from Russia to the Middle East. This could be useful in Iran’s regional projects. Iranian influence in Syria, for example, requires close cooperation with Moscow. In Syria, the Kremlin holds the keys to Syrian leadership through President Bashar Al Assad, while Iran holds the keys to controlling Syrian territory. A question is, who in Syria is leading and who is following, Russia or Iran? With major agreements like the one being drawn up between Russia and Iran, part of the answer will lie in common goals and partnership on the battlefield.
Iran and Russia also face changing dynamics in Syria, in the form of changes in US policy and an opening of Arab states to the possibility of welcoming Syria back into the Arab League. By bringing Syria back into the fold, the Arab states have two things to gain. They can counter Iran’s overwhelming influence there and, by extension, preserve Syria’s Arab identity; and they can capitalize on Iran’s inability to finance the country’s reconstruction, a necessary condition for Syrian stability, and strengthen Arab regional economic ties.
By the way, Russia may not really care about reducing Iranian influence in Syria. Its main priority is to pursue the path that most secures the position and influence of Al Assad. But he is ready to play an Iranian role in the country for now, in case that proves the best way forward.
Perhaps a more direct confrontation with the United States elsewhere in the region is more important. Even in this regard, Iran’s alliance with Russia is bearing fruit.
Over the weekend, the administration of US President Joe Biden launched its comprehensive approach to Middle East security policy, during Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s speech at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain. The speech echoes recent remarks by US Central Command chief Frank McKenzie to the National Council on American Arab Relations, in which he confirmed that Washington has no intention of ending “our permanent military presence in the region. . [that] has been guaranteed for over 70 years ”. The Pentagon has also stressed that Iran’s continued threats require vigilance and that the protection of international waterways is imperative.
But at the same time, the Biden administration argues, once again, that a “smart” way should be found to deal with Iran’s continued security threats. This language is intended to recognize a belief in Washington today that there is no military solution to threats from Iran and its proxies. This is the fundamental difference between Mr. Biden’s approach and that of his predecessor, Donald Trump. Mr Biden’s team does not want to use military language, either to deter or to respond.
All of this sets the stage for – and describes the psychology of – the important round of nuclear talks with Iran, which resume on November 29 in Vienna.
The Biden administration’s message to Manama is likely intended to reassure its Gulf partners and soften the blow to a more generous offer Washington may soon make to Iran as part of the upcoming nuclear deal. In Vienna, after all, the American side will find it difficult to raise the issue of Iran’s regional activities – Iran opposes this being part of the discussion, and it is strongly supported by Russia and the United States. China in this objection.
It is already becoming clear that Mr. Biden does not want an escalation or confrontation with Iran. And the more rooted Iran is in its alliance with Russia and China, the more likely it is that Biden will continue that approach.
Posted: Nov 21, 2021, 4:00 a.m.