When the head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Iran, Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, visited Moscow in October 2021, Gevorg Mirzayan, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and Mass Communication of Financial University and a prolific columnist was skeptical about Russian backing for Iran against Turkey. He claimed that Russia had sustained disappointments from Iran including canceled contracts. Now, Mirzayan in a column titled 'How Iran Can Help Russia Respond to the West' believes that recent events are creating a very favorable environment for next week's visit to Russia by Iran's President Ibrahim Raisi, who is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Russia wants to show the West that it means business about rolling back NATO's eastward expansion. If the West fails to respond positively to Russia's demands, upgrading ties with Tehran will show that Russia has ways to punish the West. Iran is worried about Turkey's rise in the Caucasus. Having signed a major deal with the Chinese, Iran want to use Russia to balance Chinese influence. Russia stands to benefit from economic agreements and arms deals with Iran.
Mirzayan's column follows below:
Putin expects Raisi next week (Source: News.cn)
"As a result of the Russian-NATO talks, Moscow warned its partners about potential diverse 'responses' to the alliance member-states' reluctance to take the discussion seriously. Some of the 'responses' are most likely to be implemented as early as January, when the Russian diplomatic 'marathon' will continue in talks with Iran. The Islamic Republic's new president, Ibrahim Raisi, is visiting Moscow.
"True, Iran and Russia have points of contention in their relation, for instance, the parties view themselves as competitors on the oil market; they also take a different view on the principles for settling the Syrian conflict. (While the Kremlin is ready to resolve the situation while taking Western and Persian Gulf states' interests into account, the Iranians don't intend to respect the interests of those, who sparked the civil war).
"However, the common interests of the two powers are so great and important that the main items on the agenda are, exactly, joint actions in a number of regions and on various issues. Thus, formally, the main goal of the trip is to sign an agreement on strategic Iran - Russia partnership until 2041. However, the Iranian side actually fervently desires to fill this partnership with practical content.
"First and foremost, this can be done in economic terms. It is no secret to anyone that considering today's level of political relations, the economy has always been a weak point in Russian-Iranian ties. Russian and Iranian companies didn't understand on what principles the neighbor's market operates, and were afraid to fall under US sanctions for working in such markets. According to some reports, the Ibrahim Raisi's government decided to seriously deal with this economic disparity and will bring to Moscow a series of proposals for consideration by Russian officials).
"Moreover, the two countries can obviously cooperate on the issue of energy transit. Just like China, Iran is very concerned about US maritime dominance. Thus, Tehran periodically has ideas to pump its gas through the pipe lines, for example, through Syria or even Russia (if we are talking about the Caspian gas fields).
"While according to local legislation all the infrastructure on the Iran's territory should be owned exclusively by the Iranian state, the pipe lines running through the neighboring countries may well be stretched by Russian companies, which have huge experience in this regard. In so doing, Russian companies will hardly be helping a competitor [i.e. Iran] thanks to the volume and due to the gradual disenchantment with the fairy tales of 'affordable and cheap green energy'. There is enough room in the European gas market for everyone.
"However, in addition to economy and energy, the Iranians are striving to enhance the already close military-political cooperation with Moscow. The Iranian elite comprises various factions with diverse viewpoints (sometimes even diametrically opposed ones).
"However, a consensus exists on certain issues, including the need to develop cooperation with Russia based on the principles, set forth by the Kremlin, of non-interference in internal affairs and opposition to Western attempts to save the unipolar world. Meanwhile, a number of recent developments have only intensified Tehran's desire to cooperate with Moscow.
"First of all, there is the 'contract of the century' signed between Iran and China, which provides not only for hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese investments, but also for a certain degree of dependence by Tehran upon Beijing. Unsurprisingly, the Ayatollahs want to diversify their ties by using Russia.
"In addition, the Iranian side is very disturbed by the changes in the South Caucasus following the second Karabakh war and the sharp rise of Turkey. True, the Iranians support the very same Turkish '3+3' initiative (which prescribes that issues in the South Caucasus are to be solved by Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia), but they strongly suspect that Turkey perceives itself to be 'more equal than others' within this format (or well stronger than the other parties). Iran is quite concerned with this, because Ankara has more than once tried to play games with Azerbaijani nationalism in the northern Iranian provinces.
"Finally, the third thing that encouraged Iran to cooperate with Moscow was, certainly, the tough, quick, decisive and firm completion of the CSTO operation in Kazakhstan. Russia proved that it's able to keep order in its periphery, including via military means, and (this is the most important thing) it is ready to do this together with allies and partners. Moscow and Tehran have a great deal of experience in jointly confronting terrorism in Syria, and it is possible that this experience will be repeated in other regions important to both states.
"Sukhoi Jets And Other Toys
"In fact, there is plenty of room for joint action, this includes Afghanistan, where Moscow and Tehran (perhaps even along with China) must decide how, when, and on what terms to recognize the Taliban government, and later, on how to define the terms of cooperation with the latter. Finally, there is also Syria, where Iran and Russia need to finalize the political settlement process and, more importantly, determine the terms of cooperation on Syrian territory after the war.
"Naturally, on the one hand, Iran perceives Syria to be its exclusive sphere of influence, where the interests of all other countries (not only of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but of Russia as well) should not exist. However, on the other hand, the Iranians have a sound understanding of the situation and understand that Moscow's and Tehran's interests on Syrian lands don't contradict each other.
"Moscow is not contesting Iranian control over Assad's preserve, nor does it intend to 'liberalize' the Syrian leadership and teach it who to make friends with. Also, Russia's long-term military presence in Syria complicates any of the Americans' and Turks' military and political plans in the Levant (and in the Middle East as a whole) difficult. Therefore, Russian military bases per se help and will help the Iranians neutralize external threats.
"However, one of the most important areas of cooperation [between Tehran and Moscow] is Russian arms, which, according to some reports, will be virtually the main objective of Mr. Raisi's visit to Moscow. The Head of the Iranian General Staff, Mohammad Bagheri, during his October visit to Russia, reportedly indicated his readiness to sign big defense contracts, including the ones on purchase of multi-role 'Su-35' jets, which are way superior to those in the service of the Israeli and Saudi armies.
"It seems, that Iran wants to pay for the Russian 'Sukhoi' jets and other military 'toys' with hydrocarbons. Russian companies can gain access to the Iranian gas fields situated in the Caspian Sea, in particular to the recently discovered Chalus.
"The prospect of Iran buying the Russian 'S-400' system is another topic. The Iranians are most interested in the system because it practically nullifies the prospects of Israel launching air strikes on the Iranian nuclear program facilities. However, up to now there has been no consensus among the expert community on whether Russia is ready to sell this system.
"Moscow's behind-the-scenes agreements with Tel Aviv and even Washington were cited as obstacles. Now the chances of selling the weapons have slightly grown, as Moscow has promised the Americans to respond to the refusal by NATO to take its concerns into account. It's possible that the Putin - Raisi meeting will be the first such response, and, definitely, not the last."
Gevorg Mirzayan (Source: Radiosputnik.ria.ru)
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9606, Russian Foreign Policy Expert Mirzayan: Despite Common Interests, Russia Has Been Burned By Iranian Ingratitude And Has No Interest In Acting As Iran's Spearhead Against Turkey, October 25, 2021.
 Vz.ru, January 14, 2022.