Monday, September 1, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow to Help Iran Escape Western Boycott

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 1 – Russia will help Iran do an end run around Western sanctions, something that Western realists can be counted on to blame on the West’s support for Ukraine but in fact an action that reflects a yet another rejection by Moscow of international law and its own past commitments.


            In today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Vladimir Skosyryev says that Western sanctions on the two countries have contributed to “the rapprochement of [their] positions on the Iranian nuclear program, the war in Afghanistan, and the problems of the Middle East.”  But the most important consequences lie elsewhere (


            The just-completed visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Moscow has opened the way for “a significant broadening of trade and economic cooperation by barter” between the two countries, the Russian journalist says, a development that will undercut the West’s sanctions on Iran and reduce the chances of reining in Iran’s nuclear program.


            The statements of Javad and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov allow one to concude that “having encountered with open antagonism from the side of the West, Russia and Iran have decided to more closely coordinate their actions in the international arena,” even though the two men did not specify “the parameters of this coordinate precisely.”


            Elena Dunayeva, a specialist on Iran at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, told Shoksyryev that last month, Moscow and Tehran agreed on a memorandum of mutual understanding and that next week the two sides would meet in the Iranian capital to work out the details of that accord. Some 100 Russian businessmen are scheduled to attend.


            According to the Moscow scholar, “this is an effort to advance trade and economic ties [between the two countries] to a new level,” with Iran selling Russia oil and Russia in a barter exchange selling Iran goods and services. Then Russia will resell Iranian oil abroad, something that is now possible but might not be if sanctions on Moscow were broadened.


            Also required for this arrangement to work, Dunayeva says, is the development of new infrastructure because Iran has exported most of its oil via the Persian Gulf rather than the Caspian Sea, although it has some capacity in the latter which could be expanded.


            Talks between the six and Iran about Tehran’s nuclear program have been going on for eight years. Recently, according to the Russian journalist, the US has “begun to insist on the introduction of such restrictions on the quantity of enriched uranium” that Iran can have that Tehran considers “unacceptable.”


            Those American demands were behind the recent criticism of the US by Ayatollah Hamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, and that reaction helps to explain why Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said in his press conference with his Iranian colleague that Moscow opposes the American proposals.


            But as Dunayeva points out, “the Russian position at the talks was always more pro-Iranian than those of Western countries. Like Beijing, Moscow says that Iran should be able to keep that part of its nuclear program which is directed at the development of the peaceful use of atomic energy.”


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