Although the article notes that the closeness and permanence of Iran-Russian relations are not a foregone conclusion and may be opposed by some in Tehran, it also points out that there is certainly an ongoing trend toward developing a mutually supportive relationship based on defiance of the West.
The National Interest notes that Ali Akbar Velayati, one of the Islamic Republic’s most prominent officials was chosen to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in late January, and that this “suggests that deliberations about Iranian policy toward Moscow is being spearheaded at the very top and from within the Office of the Supreme Leader.”
The overall argument of The National Interest is that at present the claims of a close Iran-Russia relationship and mutual opposition to Western interests reflects more bluster than actual progress. But this bluster is in itself significant because it signals that the two anti-Western powers are aware of the potential and interested in pursuing it. The two country’s interests do not align perfectly with one another, but if their leaderships are both convinced of the need for external assistance against Western powers with regard to Iran’s nuclear program and the crisis in the Ukraine, the two may be highly motivated to overcome existing differences.
Close relations between Iran, Russia, and other members of a potential Asian bloc pose a certain threat to Western interests even if the US and major European powers are united in common cause. But as relations between Tehran and Moscow appear to be on the upswing, cooperation between the US and some European nations may be trending in the opposite direction.
This is the suggestion of an article published Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal which notes that some European business organizations fear that they are being shut out of economic relations with Iran by the US. The article indicates that US exports to Iran tripled between 2006 and 2013 and the European Union exports were more than cut in half during the same period.
During the course of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers there has been considerable worry that economic sanction relief was undermining international support for those sanctions and leading some European businesses to seek investment in Iran early, so as not to miss the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an emerging market.
This latest report renews those concerns, noting that Norman Lamont, president of British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, has accused the US of “bullying companies through the banks.” The BICC now has plans to partner with the Iranian chambers of commerce of France and Germany in order to facilitate business between Europe and Iran while avoiding US enforcement of sanction against companies that take advantage of the scheme.
This may signal a wider split between the US and Europe, which could undermine the ability of both to confront Iran and other Asian powers in the future. What’s more, this split appears even wider when one looks to another traditional US ally and perennial target of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Relations between the Obama administration and the current government of Israel have deteriorated over Obama’s soft power approach to dealing with Tehran.
This developing mistrust is not at all limited to Israeli officials, according to a recent poll of Israeli citizens conducted by the Times of Israel. According to it, 72 percent of Israeli voters do not trust president Obama to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Even among Arab Israelis and persons who reported having favorable views of the Obama administration overall, there was a roughly even split with 42 and 47 percent, respectively, saying that they do not trust Obama on the issue.
Meanwhile, many Iranian activists and their international supporters maintain a distrustful outlook on Obama and other Western leaders in light of the limited pressure that has been exerted on Iran over its human rights abuses in the midst of nuclear negotiations. The Human Rights Activists News Agency reported on Wednesday that two Iranian political prisoners, human rights activist Mehdi Khodaei and physics graduate student Omid Kokabee have written a book from inside Evin Prison titled Human Rights Atlas, which strives to bring renewed attention to the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic.
If measures like this do not motivate unity of purpose in confronting Iran, it is possible that Iran’s own measures will motivate unity of purpose among itself, Russia, and others in confronting the West.