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The US arch rivals likely to gain most from reinstated Iran sanctions

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Reinstated sanctions on Iran have brought a new complexity to Tehran’s relations with those countries which supported the deal, especially Russia. A new reality has forced both countries to face tough decisions, testing the strength of their bilateral partnership. Many assume that Tehran, facing maximum pressure and isolation, does not have many options left other than to embrace Moscow. High tensions, on the other hand, give the Kremlin the perfect opportunity to take advantage of Iran’s isolation and its limited manoeuvrability.

After the imposition of the new round of sanctions, Iran introduced the policy of “resistance” and has been trying to improve its commercial and economic ties with countries that oppose US policy. But so far, Iran’s diplomatic offensive has delivered no tangible results as most Iranian partners, including its leading oil customers, are afraid to go against Trump and his aggressive hawks and face punitive measures. This has left Iran with Russia as one of the last remaining partners that it can lean on.

In the last few years, both countries have intensified their bilateral commercial ties and expanded their military cooperation. Iran acquired the Russian air defence S-300 system and both countries have been closely collaborating in Syria, helping Assad to turn the tide of war and remain in power.

Most importantly, Iran counts on Russia’s support in the UN Security Council, as Russia would probably block any resolution aimed against Tehran. Sergey Sukhankin, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, observes that Iran under sanctions is a mixed blessing for Russia itself. On the one hand, if Iran remains isolated this is beneficial for Russia from an economic prospective; if regime change occurs Moscow might lose a lot from this. Moreover, the Kremlin is strategically interested in Iran standing against the US: “In case of hostilities between the US and Iran I do not rule out a possibility of Russia rending some........

© Middle East Monitor