Talks between the leaders of Iran and Russia in Tehran on September 7 point to a new political alignment designed to counter U.S. moves in the Middle East.
Iranian Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, during a speech at a public forum in July 2018. Photo: Screen capture from YouTube video of the speech.
During meetings Friday between Russian President Valdimir Putin and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Iran’s leader said that now was the time for Iran and Russia to expand their already good relationship.
According to Khameni, Russia and Iran’s joint involvement in Syria represents one good example of how this works. He noted that the U.S. had already been defeated in multiple ways in Syria, leaving Iran and Russia’s mutual ally Syrian President Assad still in charge and rebel forces pushed back. The ‘bilateral cooperation’ between Moscow and Tehran had helped make that defeat possible.
Ayatollah Khameni said this defeat demonstrated it was “possible to contain” the U.S. with appropriate initiatives and resolve. In his public remarks he called the United States “a danger to humanity”.
In other comments from the same summit, Khameni expressed frustration with what had happened with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) agreed on with the P5+1 group of countries in 2015. While Iran has remained faithful in meeting all of its commitments to the agreement, he said, he called out the U.S. for having pulled out of the agreement and re-imposed sanctions. The Ayatollah also said that the European Union, which still claims it wants to honor the JPCOA, had not fully met its own commitments under the same agreement. In view of the U.S. pullout and the EU’s not conforming with the current agreement, Khameni indicated Iran would be shifting how it approaches to the JCPCOA to support its own national interests in the future. This could mean Iran might restart some aspects of the nuclear development programs it had put on hold when the JPCOA was signed.
Khameni was less harsh in his criticisms of the EU than he was towards the U.S. He implied by his comments that the EU was trapped in their actions because of their dependence on the U.S.
The Ayatollah also criticized the U.S. as using its control over the banking industry and financial transactions to leverage others to honor its sanctions on Iran. Calling it a “strategic mistake” for the U.S., the Iranian leader said this made it more important than ever for not just his country – but others as well – to expand the use of non-dollar transactions in international trade.
According to other comments from Khameni, Iran is seeking to expand the collaboration with Russia to include Turkey. With the U.S. and Turkey also at odds, an Iran-Russia-Turkey alliance could also get strengthened further.
U.S. geopolitical strategy – or the lack of it – has contributed to the strengthening of new alliances like this throughout the globe.
Trump’s attacks on the European Union have come in multiple waves, including complaints about insufficient military investments from NATO, the beginning trade wars the U.S. started with Europe, siding with Russia instead of the EU on certain issues, lack of consultation on military engagements in regions such as Yemen and Syria, and the unilateral dismantling of the JPCOA with Iran. These actions have pushed the EU closer together than in the past, even while other forces threatened to destabilize it from within.
In Asia, Trump’s moves have created similar havoc. Its threats with North Korea during 2017 and up until earlier this year were made with little involvement of other powers in the region, even including South Korea. Its seemingly positive summit with North Korea also appears to have folded with little accomplished since then. The U.S. withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement, which was to many more than justified for many reasons, was, it seems, unfortunately done by Trump more out of ego than as part of a deliberate plan. Rather than approach a new agreement, such as he has done with NAFTA, he simply dropped this. By doing so, he helped bring together the rise of multilateral banks such as the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The lack of consultation on any front, including trade sanctions now levied by the U.S. against both China and Japan, also helped make possible the forming of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) before the end of this year. The RCEP unites 16 Asian nations including China and Japan in a near free-trade agreement which accounts for about a third of the globe’s GDP.
U.S. bullying against China in particular has also created a much closer relationship between China and Russia. Those two countries are collaborating in what will be the biggest war games held between the countries since before the Cold War ended in the 1980s.
Now, with Iran, Russia and possibly Turkey forming yet another alliance, another wall of sorts is being built which will further isolate the U.S. It should also stabilize Iran at a time which is important to the country’s long-term economic and political future. Lastly, it also positions Vladimir Putin, whose own economy is not the strongest and who in the past had been lacking allies, as the unlikely peacemaker in a world increasingly threatened from the West.