Iran’s President to Putin: Moscow and Tehran Should Join Forces Against Western Sanctions

By Dimitri Simes | January 19, 2022 | 4:17pm EST
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Kremlin on Wednesday. (Photo by Pavel Bednyakov / Sputnik /AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Kremlin on Wednesday. (Photo by Pavel Bednyakov / Sputnik /AFP via Getty Images)

Moscow (CNSNews.com) – Iran and Russia should work together to push back against Western sanctions, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting at the Kremlin on Wednesday.

“In the current, exceptional conditions when unilateral actions by the West, including the United States, are being confronted, we can create synergy in our cooperation,” Raisi said.

“We have been opposing the Americans for more than 40 years,” he added. “And we will never stop the progress and development of the country because of sanctions or because of threats.”

During an hour-long meeting, the two leaders discussed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, Syria, Afghanistan, and economic cooperation.

The Izvestia newspaper reported that Raisi gave Putin a draft for a 20-year strategic partnership agreement between Moscow and Tehran.

“We in the Islamic Republic of Iran have no restrictions on developing and expanding ties with friendly Russia and these ties will become strategic,” Raisi said. “Therefore, these relations will not be short-term or situational – they will be permanent and strategic.”

On Thursday, the Iranian president is scheduled to address the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, and meet with members of the Russian business community.

The visit comes at a time when talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the JCPOA are at a critical juncture.

President Trump in 2018 withdrew from the Obama-era deal – which imposed temporary restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief – and restored sanctions that had been lifted under the agreement. But President Biden wants to return to the JCPOA, on condition that the regime in Tehran reverses its violations and returns to compliance.

The talks in Vienna involve the remaining parties to the JCPOA – Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – as well as Iran and the U.S., whose officials are engaging indirectly through the European Union convenors.

The talks have reportedly stalled over Iran’s demand that the U.S. provide a legal guarantee that it will not again withdraw from the JCPOA and reimpose sanctions. The Biden administration is unable to offer Tehran such a guarantee, as the nuclear deal is not a treaty and could therefore be ditched again by a successor.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an NPR interview last week that there were only a “few weeks left” to save the JCPOA, due to Iran’s violations of the agreement.

“Iran is getting closer and closer to the point where they could produce on very, very short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Throughout the drawn-out crisis and the marathon negotiations that produced the JCPOA in 2015, Moscow tended to side with Iran.

Earlier this month, Russia’s lead negotiator in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said Iran was “absolutely right” to seek additional legal guarantees from the U.S.

Still, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week expressed cautious optimism about the chances of reviving JCPOA, saying “good progress” had been made during talks.

The Russian and Iranian armed forces are working together in Syria to prop up the Assad regime, although Moscow in recent years has also sought to expand cooperation with Tehran’s main regional rivals, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Since taking office last August, Raisi has vowed to draw closer to both Russia and China. In September, Iran succeeded in its long-held aspiration to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian security bloc led by Moscow and Beijing.

The following month, the Iranian foreign ministry announced that it was working on a draft for a strategic partnership deal with Russia, closely modeled after a 25-year political and economic cooperation pact with China, signed in March 2021.

Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzade said at the time that “between Iran, China and Russia, the eastern axis is emerging.”

In an interview with the hardline Kayhan newspaper on Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign relations advisor to supreme leader Ali Khamenei, contended that increasing cooperation with Russia and China presented Iran with an opportunity to “lift” and “neutralize” U.S. sanctions.

Mahmoud Abbaszadeh-Meshkini, spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, told the state-run IRNA news agency that Iran, Russia, and China were creating a “triangle of three powers” in Asia.

“This new arrangement heralds the end of the inequitable hegemony of the United States and the West,” he said.

Russia, Iran, and China have been conducting annual joint naval drills since 2019. Russia’s Pacific Fleet announced Tuesday that the three navies would hold new joint exercises near the Iranian port of Chabahar.

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