Of five permanent and ten temporary members of the Security Council, only Russia abstained from the vote for this resolution. The remaining 14 members voted unanimously in favor of it, in what has been viewed by some as the first major international check on the expansion of Iranian power in some time.
Although Steinmeier credited Moscow with a exhibiting a constructive attitude in that particular instance, Russia’s overall policy in the region and especially with respect to Iran has been largely at odds with Western interests. This has been made clear by the ongoing disagreement over Russia’s decision to deliver advanced missile systems to Iran in fulfillment of a deal struck between the two countries in 2007 but halted by international pressure. Russia now argues that the supposed diplomatic breakthrough with the announcement of a framework nuclear agreement on April 2 means that there is no more need to abide by the relevant ban.
On Wednesday, the Daily Caller explicitly blamed the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran for “paving the way” to Russia’s delivery of this weapons system. The administration has predictably spoken out against Moscow’s plan, saying that “now is not the time” for such a move. But if the transfer goes forward it will empower Iran at a crucial time, arguably deterring potential Israeli airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
But even if Russia is once again prevented from following through on the 800 million dollar deal with the Iranian government, this alone would not stop Russia from empowering the Islamic Republic, which is an increasingly strong ally to Moscow and a potential member of an Asian bloc that also includes China. The Daily Caller points out, for instance, that the two are reportedly already engaged in an oil-for-food trade agreement that helps Iran to circumvent Western led sanctions, presumably diminishing the Western powers’ would-be leverage in recent nuclear negotiations.
Interestingly, the emerging deal has also been blamed for this very behavior by Russia and other countries. Many observers and analysts now feel that it is extremely likely that sanctions against Iran will be dropped and that the Islamic Republic will again become a viable object for financial investment. A Reuters column on Wednesday explained why this is such an enticing prospect for governments and international businesses. Iran has the world’s fourth largest oil reserves and largest gas reserves, and unlimited trade along with new infrastructural development could make it a veritable cash cow.
But Reuters also points out that rapid removal of existing sanctions could be seriously disruptive, necessitating a complete restructuring of global oil prices. And in the midst of that restructuring, Iran could be greatly empowered by circumstances that might allow it to increase its output of oil from one million barrels per day to five million barrels per day in about a decade.
Such a dramatic outcome depends heavily on large-scale investment from foreign partners, but Russia is already contributing and seems very willing to contribute much more, perhaps being encouraged by the prospect of a nuclear deal that some expect to be the precursor to broader rapprochement between Iran and the West.