Moscow and Tehran redefine their future ties. The two most sanctioned powers in the world are seeking to strengthen a common front to circumvent Western pressures at a time of heightened isolationism. But the pace is accelerating and the two nuclear powers are seeking to close ranks as soon as possible. The latest attempt, with the visit of the Iranian foreign minister to the Russian capital.
Hussein Amir-Abdollah wanted to join the leaders who have crowded the corridors of the Kremlin in recent weeks to consolidate their particular relations, and he did so with several requests on the table. The main one is to sign the long-term strategic cooperation agreement that has always defined Russia and Iran's common policy for the past 20 years, but which has not been renewed since 2021. Its extension now seems to be a matter of days.
"The reviews on the long-term strategic cooperation agreement between the two countries have been finalised in Russia. Iran has also reviewed it. I hope that, in less than a month, the Iranian Foreign Ministry will carry out the final review of the agreement," Amir-Abdollah said at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
امروز در مسکو گفتگوی مهم و نتیجهبخش با آقای لاورف در موضوعات دوجانبه، منطقهای و بینالمللی داشتم. پبگیری توافقات روسای جمهور و تبادل نظر در مورد معاهده جامع و همکاریهای بلندمدت. حضور در کمیسیون روابط خارجی دوما و در پایان افتتاح خدمات صدور کارت ملی هموطنان ایرانی در سفارت. pic.twitter.com/f2NQLaU7AA— H.Amirabdollahian امیرعبداللهیان (@Amirabdolahian) March 29, 2023
An "important and productive" meeting, described by the Iranian foreign minister on his Twitter account and underlined by Lavrov himself. For him, there has been a steady growth in bilateral ties within the framework of the joint economic commission and close cooperation in international and regional affairs. According to Lavrov, Tehran-Moscow relations have developed in the political, trade, investment and economic fields, as well as the implementation of key projects. Through the nuclear pact.
The 2015 nuclear pact, the well-known signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was not going to go far in the meeting between Amir-Abdollah and Lavrov. Cooperation in the field of nuclear energy is one of the key points in relations between the two countries, but paralysed until now by the unilateral withdrawal of the United States in 2018, at the height of the Trump Administration.
For Lavrov, there is no alternative to the JCPOA, and he therefore opts for his only possible solution: urging Washington to lift sanctions against Iran and return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Same perception as Tehran. "We talked about the situation around the JCPOA on Iran's nuclear programme. We have a common confrontation that there is no alternative to this international agreement," Lavorv said.
On the very day of his landing in Moscow, Amir-Abdollah warned both the United States and the three European signatories to the agreement - Germany, France and the United Kingdom - to reactivate the 2015 agreement and threatened that this proposal will not be open forever. But for the moment the negotiations appear to be deadlocked, after Putin used them to gain leverage in Ukraine. For Biden and the European Union, there is no stone left unturned.
Iran's lucrative arms deals
"Certainly, one of the issues on the common agenda of Tehran and Moscow is defence cooperation. Our cooperation will not be against either side," Amir-Abdollah defended against Western accusations that Iran was one of the suppliers of Russia's weapons for its invasion of Ukraine. Specifically the Shahed-136 drones that would be used by Russian troops to destroy Ukrainian civilian infrastructure.
As Sky News notes, Iran has secretly supplied large quantities of ammunition, rockets and mortar shells to Russia to reform the bulk of its arsenal in Ukraine. But both Moscow and Tehran insist on denying these allegations. The West's concern now centres on suspicions that Iran could supply ballistic missiles.
All is possible if the new long-term cooperation agreement is finally signed as soon as possible, as defence assistance will be a key point in the marriage of convenience between Russia and Iran, now more than ever.