How Russia’s War with the West Could Bring Iran and the West Together?
Farhang Faraydoon Namdar
Farhang is opinion editor at Kurdsat News. His works have been published in many prominent international and local media.
Moving Tehran away from Moscow could be a game-changer in the Russian-European conflict.
Kremlin’s war in Ukraine has prompted Europe to seek alternative energy sources. Iran is in dire need of exporting its energy as inflation and discontent mount at home. The Iran nuclear deal has the potential to weaken Russia and strengthen both Europe and Iran. Moving Tehran away from Moscow could be a game-changer in the Russian-European conflict.
Recently Iran tacitly expressed its support for Russia after it invaded Ukraine. Iran-backed Iraqi militia in Baghdad protested in support of Moscow and raised images of Vladimir Putin. Iraq abstained from a UN vote demanding Russia to halt its offensive in Ukraine. From its soil, Tehran fired 12 missiles at Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, targeting an Israeli intelligence base near the American consulate in the city. Tehran also halted the talks in Vienna and threatened to undo a year’s worth of negotiations.
The Iranian nuclear deal is possibly the most potent tool Washington has to stop Russia. Iran could become an exit route for the Russians and a route to transport volunteers from Syria and the rest of the Middle East to Russia. Already about 40,000 Syrians have signed up to volunteer. There is also an Iranian-backed Shia militia who have signed up. The deal could help the United States regain its dominance over the Middle East, focus better on the war in Ukraine and protect NATO’s integrity and values.
As energy prices have passed 100$ USD, Tehran seems the only option that could mitigate the ongoing energy crisis. Iran’s re-entry into the global energy market would drive the price down. Although Iran’s re-entry needs months to take its full effect. Iran has the fourth-largest energy reserves while Russia eighth. Russia supplies almost a quarter of the world’s energy; a role Tehran could fill. Tehran has already moved its floating stocks of condensate from anchorage to its oil terminal on Kharg Island for immediate export.
Data firm Kepler estimates that Tehran has close to 100 million barrels of oil in storage, enough to supply the world’s 1 percent energy needs for a month. Enough to bring down energy prices by several necessary dollars. Iran could sell its energy prices at a rate that would help it stabilize its economy and domestic affairs. The circumstances have made Iran deal a win-win situation for both the West and Tehran.
However, Europe would not transfer its dependence from Moscow to Tehran. Iran would be allowed to supply only a fraction of the West’s energy needs, which would be sufficient to revive Iran’s economy and enough to move the deal forward.
The war in Ukraine has obliged the West to come to terms with Iran and concede some terms it previously demanded from Iran. Decoupling Tehran from the Kremlin would be a significant diplomatic victor for the West. Like decoupling Beijing from Moscow in the early 1970s, the Kremlin began to lose its clout after losing Beijing to Washington.
The West has been trying to bring back Iran to the western led international community for the last 43 years. “Parking” Iran in a stable neighborhood and deriving it away from Moscow, and eventually Beijing could help the West realize this policy. Tehran is now the center of arbitration in the Middle East. Its proxies are either challenging the governments of the Middle East or are the government.
However, from Tehran’s perspective, Iran is going through its worst times. Stagflation has become a norm eating up the Iranian economy. It needs investment as the heart needs oxygen, and it only comes with the lifting of the sanctions. It is allies and proxies are losing. Iran-backed political factions failed miserably in the Iraqi general parliamentary elections of 2021. Washington-backed parties are working to form a government excluding Iran-backed groups. Having a Taliban Afghanistan to its Immediate East and an American-dominated government in its immediate West would undo Iran’s past adventures. Adventures Iran has paid for with what and an Iranian paper called the mother of all sanctions.
Iranians are facing one of their worst times since the Mongol invasion. Food and energy prices are soaring and, at times, lacking. Now one out of every two Iranians lives below the poverty line. Its best escape route would be through the release of sanctions. Its comprehensive 25-year-long deal with China has not rescued Iran. Tehran has understood that China would not sacrifice its relations with Washington to assist Iran. The West should be worried that a weaken Iran would leave a dangerous vacuum in the Middle East.
The war in Ukraine has sped up the talks rather than stalling them. Russian foreign minister declared that the Americans have assured him that their sanctions against Moscow would not impede its role in the Vienna talks in a written statement. The Kremlin would not want to become irrelevant as currently it is isolated internationally. After a week of pause, the negotiations have resumed with promising results. Both Tehran and Washington made it clear that with or without Moscow’s presence, the talks would resume.
The U.S. state department has declared that the Russians have not added any new terms to the talks. “The ball is now in Washington’s court,” Iran’s foreign minister implied as a sign that they are open to signing an agreement. Tehran released two British nationals that it had arrested on spying charges. Washington returned the favor by working to remove Iran’s IRGC from the terror list. An omen that the deal might be signed before Russia could make any more significant advances in Ukraine.
The only obstacle might be the Iranian new year that began on 21st of March, taking diplomats back home. As the new Iranian year begins, the policy makers in Tehran would try to make the deal a gift to the burdened Iranians.