IS RUSSIA A SOURCE OF LEVERAGE FOR IRAN?

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Although the Iranian position in the nuclear talks has made the prospects of an agreement very doubtful, the ideal outcome for Iran is certainly one in which the talks are successful despite the Islamic Republic’s unwillingness to compromise on key points. Doing so would allow Iran to get out from under Western sanctions that have had a highly significant effect on the nation’s economy. That is not to say, however, that the ideal outcome is the only one that Iran considers favorable. The regime has experience using international partnerships to defy Western sanctions, and it will likely do this to greater effect now that it has already gained access to billions of additional dollars of capital, simply by virtue of keeping the nuclear talks going.

Russia has been one of the key partnerships in this sanctions defiance, and this week’s news of an Iran-Russia oil-for-goods agreement ostensibly valued at 20 billion dollars signals that that partnership remains strong. That is especially significant seeing as Russia itself has been a target of Western sanctions as a result of its actions in the Ukraine.

Time magazine posted an article on Friday analyzing this Iranian-Russian relationship and claiming that the delay of the nuclear negotiations’ deadline until November has given Iran incentive to turn its attention more closely upon Russia. It has done this while citing frustration over the lack of progress and claiming that it is the Western positions that have been unreasonable up to this point.

The Time article actually implies that this strategy of turning back towards a Russian partnership may be a play for leverage against the US. At the same time that that partnership allows both Iran and Russia to defy sanctions through barter and clandestine transactions, it also raises the risk of those two nations forming part of an alliance of anti-Western countries. If allowed to become large enough, such an alliance could maintain sufficient economic well-being even when isolated from the West.

Time also points to some of the potential military dimensions of that alliance, saying that close Iran-Russia relations could result in the revival of formerly abandoned plans for Russia to provide Iran with advanced S-300 missiles that would be capable of shooting down Israeli planes.

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