What can Russia learn from Iran that has been subjected to Western sanctions again? How can Moscow and Tehran help each other? Pravda.Ru asked expert opinion from deputy chairman of the Institute for forecasting and resolving political conflicts, famous Iranian scholar Alexander Kuznetsov.
"Why has United States imposed new sanctions on Iran?"
"On August 29, the US State Department and the Federal Treasury announced new sanctions against firms and companies, which, as they believe, are involved in the Iranian nuclear program, its financing and provision, although no one can prove that. The sanctions also affected several Iranian banks, a number of airlines, several shipping firms and companies. One of them is officially registered in the United Arab Emirates, the other one - in Thailand, that is, they are not legally Iranian companies.
"Of course, this is more than just surprising, because the negotiation process has recently intensified and required the removal of old sanctions, rather than the introduction of new ones. The talks were supposed to end in July of this year. It was said that it would be the final line, which would follow to the settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue. But everything was delayed until November 24, new claims were set forth, and they are not even related to the Iranian nuclear program and the defense industry at all. In particular, the program of rocket engineering is not correlated with the nuclear program. What's the point of all these talks?"
"What is the situation in Iran after the leadership has been changed? Can the actions of the United States be explained by power struggle?"
"Expectations that were pinned on Hassan Rouhani, were quite overestimated from the start. Rouhani promised to take Iran out from international isolation, lift the sanctions, make the country a full player in world politics. The longer the negotiation process was going, the smaller Rouhani's ranking was getting. Conservative elements in the Iranian establishment criticized his excessive pliability at the talks. Iran's concessions are not accompanied by reciprocal steps from the West to lift sanctions. Generally, in their opinion, the negotiation process stalled. In late July, in response to questions from opponents, Rouhani said that "we are sending to hell those of our opponents, who do not believe in our foreign policy." Of course, his opponents took advantage of that, especially Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, as a representative of the interests of the conservative faction. They said that "even the Shah would not send his enemies to hell, he would expel them from the country." Of course, this undermines the position of Hassan Rouhani. Covert struggle in Iran is not always visible to outside observers. Nevertheless, the Minister of Science and Technology - a person from Rouhani's team - has recently been fired. Definitely, conservatives and neo-conservatives, supporters of former President Ahmadinejad use the situation to regain lost ground.
The internal political situation in the United States, of course, affects the external course. The American establishment is in a struggle over Iran's problem. It is quite possible that Obama wants to increase the rating of the Democratic Party in the run-up to elections in the United States Congress. Yet, in the American elite and in the expert community, there are different points of view on issues concerning relations with Iran. The Republicans are not always hawkish at this point in comparison with Democrats. For example, Reagan's former national security advisor Alexander Heike was lobbying the normalization of ties with Iran in late 1990s and in early 2000s. The Rockefeller clan also has great interests in Iran. They also advocate the normalization of relations with Iran.
"The problem lies much deeper. If the United States improves relations with Iran, it will thereby spoil relations with old strategic partners - Israel and Saudi Arabia. Washington is not ready to turn 180 degrees and drastically ruin relations with old allies. If Saudi Arabia eventually goes out of the American control, unpredictable consequences may follow. This may destroy architecture of security in the Persian Gulf, which the Americans have been building during the last 30 years.
The Americans still try to keep the Persian Gulf under control. There are US army bases in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait. Saudi Arabia said that the bases were closed, but no one could control it. The Persian Gulf is a region of highly important communications, oil transportation corridors, including to Europe and China.
"How do the Chinese treat all that?"
"China's policy in the Middle East, as elsewhere, is rather mysterious. In my view, China tries to maintain good relations with all major actors of Middle Eastern politics. As for Iran, China has excellent trade relations with the country - the turnover exceeds $50 billion. Saudi Arabia reached the first place in the export of oil to China. A variety of joint projects is discussed - from the construction of refineries to the line of high-speed railways in Saudi Arabia that China is going to build. China supplies a significant share of arms to the Saudi army. With Israel, China also has very good relations. China has been building up its economic weight in the Middle East, but it tries not to go too deep in Middle East politics."
"Does Russia do anything?"
"Unfortunately, Russia does nothing. I would say that Russia was acting silly in the period of sanctions. Russia should have come and take everything while the Iranians got the Europeans out. Of course, there was no political will, but Russian business was not very eager to come to Iran. Iran is a very complicated partner in trade and economic spheres. Yet, the experience of countries such as China and Turkey shows that one can work with Iranians.
"Tehran has been getting better and better with every year. In the last five or six years, Tehran has changed a lot for the better. Many new parks appeared, there is intense construction going on. I was very surprised, I started asking questions: "You live under sanctions. Where does the money come from to build all this?" They said: "In fact, the sanctions produced a beneficial effect." Outflow of capital decreased many times, many Iranian businessmen began to invest their money in the country, including in construction."
Interviewed by Sayeed Gafurov
Prepared by Yuri Kondratyev