Russian President’s visit to Tehran: Supply and demand

By Elmira Tariverdiyeva

Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to take a Caspian tour in mid-August. Tehran officially confirmed the Russian president's visit to Iran, but it is possible that Putin will visit more than one Caspian littoral country.


The visit to Iran immediately after president Hassan Rouhani's inauguration is an unambiguous signal to the West. Despite the unequivocal commitment to the Ayatollahs' regime, Rouhani's position is softer in relations to the West than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Despite Rouhani's position towards the West, his capabilities are limited by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who, in fact, is the top politician in Iran. The West's promises to remove tough sanctions are required to persuade him to compromise.


> Map of Iran


That is why today, disputes over whether or not to impose new sanctions or, as President Obama's administration advises, to try to establish a dialogue with the new government are gripping the U.S. Congress.


Indeed, it is necessary to try to negotiate with Iran's new authorities. Western sanctions against Iran devastated the country's economy. The new administration can try to build a "favor for a favor" relationship with the West.


The weakening of sanctions by the U.S. and Europe may be used as a reward, for example for the Iranian gas in the "Southern Gas Corridor" project which finally came true and through which gas will be supplied from the Caspian region to Europe. Perhaps, that's why it is so important for the Russian president to manage to visit Tehran before other presidents. It is necessary to determine milestones of the future cooperation for Rouhani's administration not to have any doubts that cooperation must be first established with Russia. In exchange, Moscow could propose, for example, to provide Asian countries with Iranian (rather than Russian) gas and for the Russian gas to remain the main source of gas for Europe.


The Russian leader may finally solve a long-standing dispute over the anti-aircraft S-300 which Russia was to sell to Iran at first, and later (during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev) refused due to sanctions. The misunderstanding between Moscow and Tehran can be solved in many ways. For example, Russia is ready to provide the Iranians with other missile systems, namely, the "Antey-2500", rather than C-300. Moreover, according to Russian observers, there is a relevant agreement. There are absolutely no obstacles for Moscow as the international sanctions do not prohibit supplying defensive weapons to Iran. Putin was not too upset about the West's discontent. In the end, this is a symmetrical response to the fact that the Intelligence Committees of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate approved a CIA operation on weapon delivery to Syrian insurgents by allowing President Obama's administration to resume the suspended program.


Moreover, Putin may promise to simplify Moscow's deal on the construction of new nuclear power plants by Russian experts. Tehran has recently spoken about the need for facilities, but Tehran simply has no money.


Moscow may also stake out a claim to be a chief negotiator - a country empowered to act in nuclear program between Iran and the West. According to Iran, changing the agenda of the talks between Tehran and the G-6 countries will be one of the main topics of Putin-Rouhani talks. It is always useful for any country to have such a trump card as trust of a less convenient country for a meeting.


But the West will have to accept the fact that Russia can meet Iran's demand.