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A look at the middle east country of iran

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Each side in the rivalry is often unhappy about Russian cooperation with the other side, but what Putin seems to bank on is that each side fears not cooperating with Moscow will result in Russia aiding its rival even more —thus giving each an incentive to continue or even increase its cooperation with Russia. Moscow has valued good relations with Iran for several reasons.

First and foremost, Moscow sees Tehran as a strong ally in opposing American foreign policy. But in addition to seeing Iran as an ally against the US, Moscow also regards it as an ally against two other common threats: Moscow in particular has been grateful that the Islamic Republic chose not to view the Chechen rebels as aggrieved Muslims whose cause should be supported.

At the same time, Moscow has valued good relations with Saudi Arabia for several reasons. Moscow has long sought to increase trade and investment relations with the Kingdom.

Balancing Act: Russia between Iran and Saudi Arabia

Russian petroleum, arms and atomic energy firms among others all hope to benefit from this. Moscow also seeks good relations with Saudi Arabia so that it will not support Sunni Muslim opposition forces in Russia like it did in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Syria more recently. Further, Moscow values Riyadh for being a close ally of the US that does not follow Washington in everything, including its sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. For the most part, Moscow has attempted to keep its relations with both Riyadh and Tehran on a bilateral basis and not choose between them.

Moscow sells arms to Tehran, but it is also willing to sell arms to Riyadh.

Moscow has completed a nuclear reactor for Iran and is willing to build it more but is also willing to build nuclear reactors for Saudi Arabia. Russian petroleum firms have long been active in Iran and seek to increase their involvement in Saudi Arabia.

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Moscow, though, cannot completely compartmentalise its relations with Tehran and Riyadh since the Saudi—Iranian rivalry is actively being played out in other countries in the region, including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. But Moscow has not allied so closely with Iran in other conflict situations. In Yemen, Moscow recognises the Hadi government which is supported by Saudi Arabia, but also has good relations with its Iranian-backed Houthi opponents as well as its UAE-backed southern ones.

  1. But if Moscow attempted to remain neutral, this could make it look unreliable both to Iran and other governments seeking Russian support against the US.
  2. Moscow has long sought to increase trade and investment relations with the Kingdom.
  3. This dynamic could well change though, if the Saudi—Iranian rivalry boiled over into open conflict between the two.

But far from posing a problem for Moscow, the Saudi—Iranian rivalry has actually been useful to Russia in the sense that it has motivated both Riyadh and Tehran to court it more actively than may have been the case otherwise.

This dynamic could well change though, if the Saudi—Iranian rivalry boiled over into open conflict between the two.

  • But if Moscow attempted to remain neutral, this could make it look unreliable both to Iran and other governments seeking Russian support against the US;
  • Other posts in this Series:

If this occurred, the US probably under any president, but especially under Trump is highly likely to actively side with Saudi Arabia against Iran. This could lead to a situation in which Moscow could no longer retain good relations with both sides. But if Moscow attempted to remain neutral, this could make it look unreliable both to Iran and other governments seeking Russian support against the US.

It could even conceivably result in Iran concluding, like Sadat, that since Moscow could not or would not enable it to prevail militarily against its American-backed opponent, then rapprochement with the US as a means of restraining that opponent is a preferable option. Still, while Moscow has benefited from the Saudi—Iranian rivalry resulting in both Riyadh and Tehran courting Moscow, Russia does not want their rivalry to escalate into an open conflict that poses difficult choices for Russia which Putin would prefer not to be confronted with.

  1. But Moscow has not allied so closely with Iran in other conflict situations.
  2. For the most part, Moscow has attempted to keep its relations with both Riyadh and Tehran on a bilateral basis and not choose between them. But in addition to seeing Iran as an ally against the US, Moscow also regards it as an ally against two other common threats.
  3. Moscow sells arms to Tehran, but it is also willing to sell arms to Riyadh. Moscow has long sought to increase trade and investment relations with the Kingdom.
  4. Other posts in this Series.
  5. Each side in the rivalry is often unhappy about Russian cooperation with the other side, but what Putin seems to bank on is that each side fears not cooperating with Moscow will result in Russia aiding its rival even more —thus giving each an incentive to continue or even increase its cooperation with Russia.

Other posts in this Series: