In this article we will present an interview with Shuaib Bahman, Iranian expert focusing on Russian and Eurasian affairs, head of the Institute for Strategic Researchers in the contemporary World, on Iran’s approach to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, the possible impact on Iran-EEU cooperation in the South Caucasus and on the possibility of renewing the nuclear deal.
-It’s been more than a month that the world’s attention is drawn on the Ukrainian crisis. Turkey is very active in these developments, trying to play the role of mediator between Russia and the Ukraine. How does Iran react to such kind of activity of Turkey in the region? And what is Tehran’s approach to the Ukrainian crisis?
—Ukraine doesn’t play a special role in Iran’s national security and national interests. Iran and Ukraine are geographically far apart and there are no ethnic, racial, linguistic or religious ties between the two countries, so that Tehran wants to play an active and special role in this war. Besides, Iran doesn’t view the Ukrainian war as a Kyiv-Moscow war, but rather believes that this war is because of the US policy of escalating tensions in Eastern Europe. Actually, according to Iran, the main confrontation is between Russia and the West, particularly the United States. And this in the case, that a country like Turkey is both geographically closer to Ukraine and has special geopolitical interests in the Black Sea. At the same time, the level of economic ties between Turkey and Ukraine is noteworthy. Turkey also sought to create new leverage to play a role in the Ukrainian crisis through ethnic issues (such as the issue of Crimean Tatars) in recent years.
— Azerbaijan has intensified its provocations in Artsakh against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis. In your opinion, what are the possible scenarios in the Caucasus under these conditions and how will Iran react?
— From the Azerbaijani viewpoint, what happened in the Second Artsakh War is still incomplete. Since, the main goal of Baku was to create a corridor through the south of Armenia to join Turkey. Of course, by saying a corridor, Baku’s aim was not only the means of communication but rather having a control over some southern parts of Armenia. Given the fact that the plan of Baku and Ankara failed due to the clear position of Russia and Iran, it can be expected that Russia’s activities in Ukraine and Western economic and political pressures on Russia will motivate Azerbaijan and Turkey to provoke a war in the Caucasus as well. Of course, Iran has repeatedly warned that any kind of change in the internationally recognized borders of its neighboring countries is a red line for him. Currently, Iranian officials have a better understanding of the essence of the policy of Baku and Ankara on the country’s northern borders than during the Second Artsakh War. If at that time, Iranian officials viewed the war in the region as a Karabakh issue, now they have realized that Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel, together with Great Britain and the United States have considered far-reaching plans.
— How does the situation around Russia affect the EEU-Iran cooperation? What opportunities and problems arise in this direction?
— Previously, Western sanctions against Iran were serious obstacles to the development of Iran-Russia relations, however currently Russia itself has been subjected to the most economic sanctions. As a result, the West itself has removed many obstacles to the development of relations between Iran and Russia, as Russian companies and banks no longer have previous concerns about cooperating with Iran. On the other hand, there is a customs agreement between Iran and the EEU, which can be a good basis for the development of trade relations between the parties. Of course, there have been numerous issues related to it in recent years that need to be addressed quickly. One of the issues is the lack of convenient transit routes. In this regard, Armenia and Iran can overcome many problems by supporting each other.
— The Vienna nuclear talks are currently suspended, although the parties state that they are too close to the agreement. How do you assess the possibility of an agreement? What opportunities are opened for Iran in case of renewal of the nuclear deal?
— The Vienna nuclear talks have reached their end. All that is necessary for the agreement has been discussed and negotiated by the parties. The effectiveness of negotiations largely depends on Washington’s political decisions. Biden’s government is not strong enough to make a decisive decision over the renewal of the agreement. However, if the white House is willing to do so, the other sides, including Iran, have no problem reaching a final agreement.
With the renewal of the nuclear deal, Iran will be able to expand its oil exports, as well as to spend the funds blocked in foreign banks in various economic sectors inside Iran. The renewal of the deal will greatly contribute to the normalization of economic relations between Iran and its neighboring countries. Currently, Iran pays great attention to the development of economic ties with neighboring countries and the resumption of the nuclear deal can be influential in this issue.