Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin cancelled his trip to Iran, initially scheduled for February 13, and according to Russian media, a breach in secrecy was the cause for the trip's cancellation – while Russia requested confidentiality, Iran disclosed the information about Rogozin's visit. According to some reports, Rogozin was going to discuss the subject of Iran's acquisition of technology from countries that had imposed sanctions on Russia. According to the Russian media outlet Vzglyad, the cancellation of Rogozin's visit is "a direct and open" message to Tehran. Vzglyad explained that the last few years were marked by Iran’s return to the forefront of world politics, regaining the status of a key regional power. Concerning Russian-Iran relations, Vzglyad stressed that Iran possesses "trump cards" that until recently it could play in order to empower itself to talk with Moscow from a position of strength. However, with the new Trump administration in power, Iran's status changed, since Washington declared Tehran as public enemy number one.
These circumstances create conditions under which the Kremlin's position in the Iran-Russia dialogue is being strengthened. Vzglyad explained: "Given the current position of the U.S .administration, the Kremlin will have to do even more to provide political (as well as military) cover for Tehran, at a serious risk of jeopardizing its own relations with Washington." Hence, Russia expects to be compensated by Tehran for the costs it will incur in providing it with "geopolitical cover," and that this compensation should start with aircraft purchase.
The media outlet Rbth.com further reported that a high-ranking Russian official complained that despite Russia's "enormous help," Iran still buys technology from those "who belittle them with sanction." Rbth.com added: "In December, state-owned Iran Air signed a contract with Boeing to purchase 80 planes, and the company also has a contract with Airbus to buy 100 planes. The total value of these two contracts is close to $30 billion. Economic cooperation with Russia, however, when compared to that with the West, is much more modest. In 2016, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft signed a memorandum of understanding with one of Iran's airlines to supply the Sukhoi Superjet 100, but the document is not binding. Russian experts believe the Iranian market can accommodate 100 such planes. Cementing a full-fledged contract, however, depends not only on corporate negotiations but also on the U.S. Treasury Department. Its approval is needed to finalize the deal because American parts are used in the SSJ-100." Rbth.com also mentioned that Iran is interested in military planes, such as the Sukhoi Su-30SM, but they are restricted by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that controls the supply of conventional weapons to Iran. The sale of military planes would therefore only be possible with the UN Security Council's permission."
Following are excerpts from Vzglyad's article, titled "Russia Defines The Price Of Its Political Support For Iran":
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Source: Kremlin.ru)
'There Is A Window Of Opportunity For The Reconfiguration Of The Iran-Russia Relations, And Moscow Is Taking Advantage Of That In Order To Reshape These Relations In Its Favor'
"The Media has learned that Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin canceled his visit to Iran at the last minute. According to the official explanation, the visit was canceled due to 'technical reasons.' It was leaked, however, that the actual circumstances are far more complicated. Unofficially, the cancellation was described as being caused by Iran disclosing information on the upcoming visit despite Russia's request to keep it confidential; and it was stressed that the planned discussions involved 'sufficiently sensitive issues,' such as Iran's focus on purchasing aircraft from Western countries. 'We provide tremendous support to Iran, but they buy technology from those who humiliate them by imposing sanctions,' a senior official asserted.
"However, it appears that even unofficial explanations, and there is no doubt that it was a well-organized 'leak' and was sanctioned from above, do not tell the whole story, and the situation is in fact more complicated. There are indications that due to a number of circumstances, there is a window of opportunity for a reconfiguration of the Iran-Russia relations, and Moscow is taking advantage of that in order to reshape these relations to its favor.
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"As we know, the last few years were marked by Iran's return to the forefront of world politics, especially in the Middle East, where it is successfully regaining the status of a key regional power. The decades-long sanctions were lifted, and as a result, Iran's room for maneuver increased dramatically.
"Today, Iran and Russia are both interested in mutual cooperation, which leads to a steady strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries. At the same time, Iran possesses certain trump cards that until recently it could play in order to empower itself to talk with Russia from a position of strength.
"First, there is a frozen agreement to supply Iran with the S-300 [surface-to-air] missile systems. Even with the deal eventually unfrozen and the missiles actually delivered, the matter still presents a convenient argument for Iran to press Russia... [by saying:] 'you are not a very reliable partner,' thereby achieving additional benefits. Second, Moscow needs Tehran's assistance in its military operations in Syria, and not only with regards to activities 'on the ground.'
"Iran's airspace is no less important for the success of the Russian mission. For instance, the flight paths of Russian strategic bombers pass through Iran. On one occasion, this even caused a public quarrel over the use of an Iranian military airbase by the Russian Air Force."
"The Kremlin's Position In The Iran-Russia Dialogue Is Being Significantly Strengthened"
"However, in the past few weeks, the situation changed significantly as a result of Donald Trump becoming the U.S. president. It is clear by now that Iran was selected by the new American administration to play the role of 'public enemy number one.' The rhetoric of the new president and his team towards Iran is extremely harsh. And even though the threats have not yet been implemented, we cannot discount the possibility of their words being put into action sooner or later. Furthermore, it is no secret that the new American administration considers depriving Iran of Russia's support and driving the wedge between the two countries an important goal of its foreign policy. If the White House succeeds in that, even at some cost for the Kremlin, the consequences for the Islamic Republic will be far more serious. Iran's geopolitical achievements will be set back decades.
"In this context, the cancellation of Rogozin's visit is seen as a direct and open message to Tehran (to the extent possible in Middle East diplomacy). Moscow has contributed a great deal to Iran's return to the world scene as a full-fledged geopolitical actor. Given the current position of the U.S .administration, the Kremlin will have to do still more to provide political (as well as military) cover for Tehran, at a serious risk of jeopardizing its own relations with Washington.
"These circumstances in effect create conditions under which the Kremlin's position in the Iran-Russia dialogue is being significantly strengthened, thereby neutralizing the past factors favorable to Iran. Therefore Tehran will be expected to compensate Moscow for the costs it will incur in providing the geopolitical cover for Iran. By way of mentioning Iran's preference regarding aircraft purchases, Moscow provides a clear hint as to where it intends to start discussion on this matter. The ball is now in Iran's court. As experience shows, bargaining in the Orient is a slow but at the same time an exciting process."