Iran’s insistence that Europe do more to preserve the nuclear deal suggests that it’s worried about becoming too strategically dependent on Russia in the coming future and is anxious to find a “balancing” partner before that happens.
Iranian President Rouhani is in Europe trying to get the three relevant signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal to offer more loans and concrete investment plans for enticing the Islamic Republic to abide by the terms of this agreement. The author wrote about some of Iran’s motivations for doing so in his earlier piece at the end of May about how “Iran ‘Blackmailing’ Europe Plays Right Into Trump’s Hands”, but the continued failure of this policy deserves a follow-up analysis to update the reader about the changing strategic calculations inherent to this approach. The original points from the aforementioned piece still stand, but what’s changed since then is that Iran is increasingly worried that it’s about to become more strategically dependent on Russia than ever before, hence its anxious search for a “balancing” partner to counteract any perceived (key word) infringement on its sovereignty that this forthcoming relationship might inadvertently lead to.
The Real Story About Russian-Iranian Relations
Theoretically speaking, the overreliance of any state on a single partner usually leads to a lopsided relationship between the two parties, whereby the weakest of them finds itself unable to resist the will of the other. Should Trump’s sanctions war on Iran lead to even “moderate” results, then the country will quickly find itself largely isolated in the economic sense, especially if the US’ new Indian ally abides by Washington’s warning to greatly scale back its relations with Tehran under pain of the same so-called “secondary sanctions” that the EU is also being threatened with. The only realistic “pressure valve” that Iran could turn to for across-the-board relief under these trying circumstances is nearby Russia, which would be more than eager to realize its centuries-long dream of establishing predominant influence over the former Persian Empire. Unlike the naked imperialist motivations of the past, the current driving force is to put Moscow in the driver’s seat of multipolarity and allow it to “manage” Iran on behalf of the world.
Although it’s “politically incorrect” to speak about and violates one of the “sacred” tenets of Alt-Media dogma, Russia is already “balancing” Iran in the Mideast, especially through the consequences of its game-changing military-strategic partnership with “Israel” which has seen Moscow quietly give Tel Aviv the greenlight to turn Syria into a country-wide bombing range against the IRGC and Hezbollah. Russia’s 21st-century grand strategy is to become the supreme “balancing” force in the Eurasian supercontinent, which therefore naturally necessitates playing the pivotal role in neutralizing the prospects of a Western-led War on Iran. Given its physical-military limitations and the prudent lack of political will for testing the boundaries of World War III in this regard, Russia’s “balancing” policy is complementary with the West’s in that it goes along with the notion that Iranian influence in the “Mashriq” (West Asia/Mideast) should be rolled back, though its multipolar twist is that it wants to redirect the country’s strategic focus eastward towards the Golden Ring in response.
Chasing Dreams Of Chinese Relief
It’s understandable why Iran would feel uncomfortable with seemingly being “downgraded” from an independent “subject” of International Relations to an “object” that can be “contained” and “corralled” in a certain direction like “cattle”, and it’s for that reason why it’s so actively seeking out a “balancing” partner. The first thought that most readers might instinctively have is for Iran to reach out to China, which is already its long-standing partner and extremely unlikely to bend to Trump’s will in abiding by his “secondary sanction” threats, unlike India. The challenge, however, is that Iran’s over-the-top rhetoric to raise the oil price has spooked the People’s Republic, which broke with its diplomatic custom of not openly trying to influence the affairs of other states by “chiding” the Islamic Republic after Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong said that it “should do more to benefit peace and stability in the region, and jointly protect peace and stability there. Especially as it is a country on the Gulf, it should dedicate itself to being a good neighbor and co-existing peacefully.”
Russia and China have both emphasized their commitment to fully implementing their responsibilities under the 2015 nuclear deal, but this in and of itself won’t be sufficient in compensating for the EU’s possible downscaling of its own under American pressure, which could deal a heavy hit to Iran’s budgetary planning especially in the context of Trump’s upcoming sanctions war against it. Unlike Russia, China might be reluctant to do more for Iran because of its new perception of the country as an increasingly irresponsible actor, to say nothing of Beijing’s needs to maintain a “balance” of interests between it and Saudi Arabia. Russia, too, is one of the Kingdom’s non-traditional but recently important strategic partners, especially as regards OPEC+, but the difference is that Riyadh understands the “containment”/”balancing”/”management” role that Moscow can play vis-à-vis Tehran which Beijing is unable to fulfill for simple reasons of geography and overall influence in the Mideast. Because of this, Russia can do much more for Iran as its “pressure valve”, which is accordingly why it’s received implicit “international approval” for this function.
Money Makes The World Go ‘Round
Another contributing factor influencing Iran’s strategic calculations regarding the “China card” is that the People’s Republic will probably limit its assistance to the economic sphere, which would surely be welcomed under the upcoming “Time of Troubles” but nevertheless has its risks in the sense that Beijing could essentially extend loans to the country at whatever interest rates and other terms that it wants, unless of course Russia was capable of presenting a competing offer. Encouraging “friendly competition” between Russia and China is a solid policy that would undoubtedly play out to Iran’s ultimate advantage, though provided that the two Great Powers don’t coordinate their economic approach to the country in order to keep rates artificially high in a relative sense, understanding that there aren’t any other realistic options available for the Islamic Republic. Europe, in this scenario, could be the perfect “third way”, which is why Iran is trying so hard to keep it committed to the nuclear deal so that it can “balance” out Russia and China.
In addition, despite prevailing Alt-Media wishes to the contrary and irrespective of wisdom, the euro is still very attractive to Iran, and the country’s decision makers would evidently prefer to conduct trade in that currency than Russia and China’s if given the choice (and all other factors being equal) for the very reason that they believe that it’s worth more in the global marketplace. It doesn’t matter that deal-signatory France hosts the MEK terrorist group that’s vowed to overthrow the Iranian government, because at the end of the day, “business is business” and “balancing is balancing”, and Iran is apparently willing to ignore the implications for its international image by trying to woo France as its much-needed “third partner” so long as this allows it to comfortably retain “equidistance” between Russia and China and therefore preempt any perceived overreliance on either (and especially Moscow). The pragmatism of this unofficial policy stands in stark contrast to the official “principle-driven” one that the state regularly promotes, but it nevertheless proves that all states are indeed guided by their interests first and foremost.
In order to avoid any deliberate twisting of the author’s words, it must be unambiguously stated at this point that no claim or suggestion is being made about Russia having any ill intentions in mind by advancing the policy that was described in this analysis, which is presumably understood in Moscow policymaking circles as the best strategy available to them for simultaneously securing their country’s interests in the Mideast and most “responsibly” maintaining its multipolar gains by “balancing” Iran for the reasons that were already mentioned. Iran, for its part, doesn’t have any “anti-Russian” motivation for seeking out a “balancing” partner for mitigating the country’s predicted overreliance on Moscow, nor does China have any “malicious” desire in potentially take advantage of the Islamic Republic’s situation in order to spin an impressive profit. As regards France, Iran isn’t “selling out” on its principles by courting it and the rest of the EU as the country’s envisioned “third balancer” but is simply pursuing the most pragmatic option available to it under the geostrategic circumstances.
The interest-driven interrelated dynamics of the aforementioned states may surprise those who had hitherto naively assumed that one, some, or all of those countries only try to “do the right thing” and don’t care about the advantages or costs that this brings them, but therein lays one of the fundamental takeaways from this analysis. The Neo-Realist (or one could even say, Hyper-Realist at this point) paradigm is the most accurate model for understanding the emerging Multipolar World Order in the New Cold War, with even friendly countries like Russia, China, and Iran competing with one another as they try to lock in their geostrategic positions at this pivotal opening stage of the global systemic transition. Chaos Theory teaches that the initial conditions of any complex system disproportionately influence their development and ultimate outcome, which is why every player so urgently wants to carve out their niche at this time, though with Russia having an unparalleled advantage in this regard. That’s precisely what Iran fears, however, and which is why it’s so desperately seeking a “balancer” in the EU.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.