Russia, Iran barter deal revives sense of Cold War

Putin had previously expressed pain over the collapse of the Soviet Union

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Reuters reported that “Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal sources said would be worth up to $20 billion,” prompting two U.S. senators to call on President Barack Obama to impose more sanction on Tehran if it pursues the barter deal with Moscow.

This is like recent history, a cold war déjà vu, and who knows maybe the world will once again be divided into two camps.

It is too early to draw such a conclusion but it does explain the crises-laden political situation. Russia has over the past two years rejected all proposals made by Arab countries that oppose the Assad regime in Syria. Why did Russian President Vladimir Putin reject Gulf reconciliation proposals in exchange for halting his support of one worthless regime - that is the Assad regime in Syria? Moscow was offered economic and political benefits on a silver platter yet Putin rejected them! The developments in Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea show that an adventurous Putin has one project in mind - Russia’s rise as a superpower and Russia’s confrontation of the Western camp

The pain of collapse

Putin previously said that he feels the pain of the Soviet Union’s collapse, blaming his predecessor Gorbachev for what happened. He wasn’t talking as a communist but as a Russian who believes in his country as a superpower that shares the world with the United States.

If in fact Russia wants to use Iran to complicate the nuclear negotiations with the West, then it would be allowing for the resumption of competition between the two parties. This means that Moscow would build its new camp which would be made up of a number of countries that currently revolve in its orbit. It would also mean Russia’s geographic expansion.

Political bloc

For Putin, this is a major adventure given the difficult competitive circumstances resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite that, all stances which Moscow adopted in Syria, Iran and other countries give the impression that it’s building an allied political bloc. Otherwise, what pushes Moscow to sabotage the negotiations? Or, what makes it push the Iranian regime to toughen its demands in exchange of signing some sort of nuclear agreement with the P5+1 group? Russia has gone as far as signing a cooperation agreement with Iran at this critical time. If this is true, then it weakens the Western position.

Russia’s position on Syria confirms that we are not facing a political maneuver but the beginning of a battle on a chess board

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Moscow signals readiness to confront the West in restive regions and to buy loyalties which are hostile to Washington. This justifies the stance of Egypt, which under the current administration, has resorted to Moscow in response to Washington which sided with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Russian president, in an unprecedented move, sent his foreign affairs minister and his defense minister to Egypt to strengthen ties with the military leadership in Cairo.

Russia’s position on Syria confirms that we are not facing a political maneuver but the beginning of a battle on a chess board. This brings back memories of the Cold War. Unless Washington reaches a political agreement with Moscow regarding Ukraine, the struggle will deepen and old camps will be redrawn.

The statement that “Russia has proven it stands by its allies during their crises” has been repeated a lot in the Middle East region. What has the American government done in Syria against the Assad regime? It took a seat to watch the biggest and worst massacre in the region.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 10, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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