Russia-Iran after INP agreement
Dr. Mehdi Sanaei, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Iran to the Russian Federation, described prospects of development of relations between Russia and Iran in detail in his Live Journal blog (http://sanaei.livejournal.com).
Relations between the IRI and the RF have been directed toward development in recent 25 years. During the last few years officials of the two countries have demonstrated readiness to establish a new firm fundament for bilateral dialogue. Despite the efforts made, the volume of economic ties hasn't matched the potential of the two neighbors.
When the comprehensive nuclear agreement was reached between Iran and 5+1, new prospects for solving international problems opened up; and a new atmosphere for development of international contacts between Iran and other countries was established. However, in recent weeks the mass media began to publish some negative statements on the consequences of the agreement for Iranian-Russian relations. I am sure for many reasons that such statements have no firm grounds; and there are several clear prospects for relations between the two neighbors:
1) As a result of the sanctions, Iranian-Russian trade contacts slumped, especially in 2012-2013. Now the process has been reversed, and the trade turnover between the two countries increased 5-fold, reaching $1.7 billion. At the same time, experts are sure that the potential of trade exchanges between our countries will increase this figure. The presidents of our countries also expressed their assurance at the last meeting in Ufa that, despite multisided development of cooperation, the trade turnover between our countries hasn't matched the level of our opportunities. The comprehensive nuclear agreement may lead to eliminating the financial and economic sanctions and simplifying the trade process between Iran and Russia. The head of the Russian-Iranian Business Council, Victor Melnikov, has recently said that implementation of the agreements reached, considering the elimination of anti-Iranian sanctions, may increase the trade turnover to $10 billion in the future.
2) The comprehensive nuclear agreement between Iran and 5+1 created a positive experience and a precedent in the sphere of settlement of important international issues through negotiations and diplomacy. The Vienna agreement, which was reached due to the participation and support of Russia, showed that consent can be achieved, avoiding sanctions and threats and considering the concerns and national interests of all sides – a win-win strategy. On the contrary, in case of sharpening of confrontations on the nuclear program of Iran and a threat of war, the consequences of hostilities could negatively influence the situation in the countries neighboring Russia.
3) The Vienna agreement may also change situations which could cause conflicts in the Middle East region in favor of regional and international stability and security. An absence of misunderstanding in the nuclear sphere creates grounds for a decrease of the US interference in Middle East affairs. Moreover, as the pressure on the issue reduces, cooperation between Russia and Iran may encourage stability and security and the anti-terrorism struggle in the region; and if the countries of the region will also help us on the path, American influence on the Middle East will reduce. The statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which is devoted to the consequences of the comprehensive nuclear agreement for the Middle East, stresses such moments as “a positive effect of the agreement on the general situation in the security and stability sphere in the whole world and the Middle East,” “establishment of important preconditions for moving toward a formation of the mass weapon-free zone in the Middle East,” and “mobilization of a broad anti-terrorism coalition in the region.”
4) Russia has taken a lot of efforts for Iran’s membership in the SCO. However, due to the sanctions, the goal wasn’t reached. When the sanctions are lifted, obstacles on the way to SCO membership will be eliminated for Iran. And when Iran shifts from the position of an observer to a position of a full member, ties between Iran and Russia within the SCO will become more powerful and broad.
5) Lifting sanctions against Iran may encourage extension of Russian-Iranian cooperation in the energy sphere. In November 2014, a contract on construction of two new units of the Busher NPS and two other important documents were signed in the sphere of Iranian-Russian cooperation. When obstacles in the sphere of financial turnover between the two countries are eliminated, the documents will have more chances of being implemented. Moreover, new nuclear cooperation between Iran and Russia will be formed. It will be connected with a center for production of stable isotopes in the Fardo facilities and exchange of low-enriched uranium volumes for natural uranium.
6) The idea that the nuclear agreement will lead to Iran distancing itself from Russia and moving toward the West is far from reality. The political courses of Iran and the USA on regional and international issues don’t coincide, and in most cases they contradict each other. Iran has no intention of negotiating with the US on bilateral, regional and international problems. The dialogue concerns the nuclear program only. Meanwhile, Moscow and Tehran have many common interests in various regional issues, including those in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Caspian region, Afghanistan, the Middle East. They have a common view on problems of the international order, the one-sided policy of the US, restriction of national independence, and interference of the West in the internal affairs of countries, the extension of NATO and the European missile defense system. Dr. Rouhani’s government plans deepening and extending relations with Russia, China and India; this is a priority.
7) One of consequences of the agreement is a growth of competition between Russia and Iran on the energy market, according to some experts. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists of the Russia Today Agency: “Iranian oil has never left the market; and the growth of its value on the world markets will be insignificant, as experts say… There were no firm restrictions against Iranian gas. For many years Iranian gas has been exported to Turkey, for example.” The truth is that Iran and Russia have common interests in the oil and gas sphere. This is maintenance of stable prices at the world market. Russia and Iran may cooperate in this sphere within the GECF. It takes time to increase the export potential of Iranian oil, so that Iran could adapt its market to the conditions. At the same time, the policy of other OPEC members is important.
8) Even though some weapons sanctions against Iran will be eliminated in only 5-8 years, the agreement may be grounds for extension of military and technical cooperation between Iran and Russia. Iran and Russia had fruitful cooperation in this sphere in the past, and under new conditions they could do the same on a wider scale.
9) Lifting sanctions is a reason for the reduction of the influence of a third factor in the relations between the IRI and the RF. It was an obstacle to implementing the plans which had been agreed earlier. The Russian President made a statement after the signing of the agreement: “A new powerful impetus will be given to our bilateral ties with Iran; and external factors won’t influence their development anymore.” In these conditions, improvement of the presence of major Russian companies on the competitive Iranian market and a growth in the volume of Iranian goods on the Russian market will lay a foundation for a significant extension of relations between the two countries.
10) Bilateral relations should become broader than the limits of trade and economic contacts. It is time to achieve big shifts in scientific and educational cooperation, tourism, improvement of regional and international cooperation, using new initiatives; and we should develop details of the improvement of the cooperation between the two partners.