Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Russian and Iranian "friendship"


The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh arrived in Moscow today for a meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. The purpose of the meeting is primarily to “discuss ways of deepening and promoting mutual economic cooperation”.

Most people would look at this and think that Russia and Iran were cozying up to each other even more than they are now. Especially in the wake of the geopolitical shifts currently taking place in Eastern Europe. It’s easy to look at these meetings and think that. Especially if you’re basing your opinion on old and outdated geopolitics.

I believe Russia and Iran are nearing the end of the relationship they’ve forged over the past few decades. The relationship was based on a mutual understanding of one single principle. The opposition of United States economic and military domination in their regions of influence. However, that all changed when the United States took steps toward rapprochement with Iran. In doing that Iran and the U.S. effectively cut Russia out of the discussions and began a new relationship...rocky as it may be at the moment.

You see, the United States sees value in strong regional counters. A strong Iran can battle sunni insurgents in Syria, help stabilize Iraq, check Saudi influence, and provide energy diversification all across the World Island. The arguments that have been clung to for the past few decades are meaningless today as the geopolitical situation shifts. Don’t be surprised to see the President of the United States shaking hands with the President of Iran. We’ve seen similar developments in the past. Alliances that you thought were inconceivable were made possible in an attempt to achieve regional balance. Remember FDR and Stalin? Nixon and Mao?

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We’re now at a new phase in United States foreign policy. The alliances of the past will slowly be pivoted away from. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and even Israel will find themselves on uneasy ground. That’s not to say the U.S. will be hostile to these nations. Just...disengaged.

Without a mutual desire to oppose the U.S. Russia and Iran have absolutely no reason to be allied to each other. Their future strategic goals run straight into each other. They collide like two Siberian freight trains. It doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict the future here. Russia’s main cash crop is...natural gas. Iran’s path to economic stability is...natural gas.
Russia currently holds the monopoly on natural gas into western europe and they’ve been fighting alternative pipelines from the southern gas corridor for sometime. What happens when Iran can put their weight and gas into these pipelines?

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Completely dwarfing western Europe’s demand for natural gas is the combined market of India (with 1.3 billion people) and China (with 1.4 billion people). Russia has already made moves to diversify away from western europe. You can bet your hat that they see Iran doing the same. It’s a race to see who can make the agreements and build the pipelines. The casual friends of today will become major strategic competitors within 10-20 years.
Iranian sanctions are all that stands in the way.

A large part of the ongoing meetings between the Iranian and Russian energy ministers will likely touch upon their future relationship. Can they coexist friendly? They can do so currently but time is definitely running out. The cordial manner of these meetings today will no doubt not be so in the future.