While tensions between Russia and Turkey have surged after the Russian jet was shot down by Turks near the Syrian border last week, ties between Iran and Russia are going in the opposite direction.
Iran and Russia’s interests in the Syrian conflict, with both supporting Bashar al-Assad, has been a key element in their friendship.
As much as Tehran likes to showcase these good relations and advertise Russian changes in behavior, some other points speak differently.
During the time of the revolution in 1979, the most famous slogans being chanted included: “No East, No West. Islamic Republic!” Iran was not only shunning Western powers, but also major eastern players, such as the Soviet Union.
Of course, today the Soviet Union doesn’t exist and Russia is not a communist state any more, but core ideologies do remain. Naturally, seeing Iran getting closer to Western states makes more sense economically and politically, despite prohibitions against Western culture and the kind of democracy that is practiced there.
As much as Tehran likes to showcase these good relations and advertise Russian changes in behavior, some other points speak differently.Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
This is especially as many parts of Iranian society hold a sense of distrust towards the Russians. Iran oil and gas shares in the Caspian Sea have always been a source of disagreement between Iran and Russia, while several arms deals between both countries have not been smooth.
The S-300 defense missiles contract with Moscow, aimed at providing Iran with a capable defense system, has become a household topic which many Iranians mention when discussing how opportunistic the Russians can be.
Under an agreement that Iran and Russia signed in 2007, Russia was supposed to supply five batteries of S-300 PMU-1s to Iran according to the terms of a contract estimated at $800 million.
After Russia suspended the supplies in 2010, Iran filed a $4 billion lawsuit against Moscow with the international court of arbitration. The decision to suspend the supplies was taken by the then president, Dmitry Medvedev.
When the nuclear agreement was finally reached in Vienna on July 14, Moscow and Tehran again signed a fresh missile systems contract on November 9.
The new contract hasn’t come into effect yet and the S-300s are no longer as attractive as they were in 2007 since Russia now has a more advanced S-400 system, which is considerably superior to the S-300 in terms of its tactical and technical characteristics.
Beating the West
For many Iranians, it’s clear that the Russians are in need of some cash to boost their economy and are seeking to take advantage of Tehran in the post-sanctions era. The Russians want to grab what a piece of the action, before the West jumps in.
When Iran was under tight international sanctions with its nuclear program in full swing, Russia had been making money with a contract to finish the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant in southern Iran.
This was alongside Russia voting against Iran’s nuclear program at the U.N. Security Council.
Putin, who recently visited Iran, has said his country is committed towards its partners and wouldn’t “stab them from back.” But we shall wait to see whether their cooperation can last longer than their battle time in Syria.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard