Iran’s missile launch gives the Russian-U.S. honeymoon its first crisis

February 2, 2017 Igor Rozin, RBTH
On Jan. 29, Iran conducted a test launch of a mid-range missile, which the U.S. considers a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. Russia, however, might not back its new American friend on this issue, say experts.
 Iranian flag
Experts say that Russia may not join U.S. efforts to contain Iran, despite the formal improvement of Russian-U.S. relations. Photo: A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign representatives during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center. Source: Reuters

While Trump's arrival in the White House has led to an improvement in Russian-American relations, there are certain issues where the countries have significantly different positions. 

The most obvious one involves the future of Barack Obama’s U.S.-Iran nuclear deal, which Trump often criticized during his election campaign. Then, as if probing Trump’s resolve, Teheran this week tested a mid-range missile, which Fox News reported flew 360 miles.

Washington views the missile test as proof of the fact that Iran has violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which bans Iran from testing missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, writes (in Russian) the newspaper, Vzglyad. Experts, however, say that Russia may not join U.S. efforts to contain Iran, despite the formal improvement of Russian-U.S. relations.

The Syrian gambit

Today, Russia will probably not support the U.S. and Israel in their harsh position toward Iran, even though in 2010 it supported sanctions, writes Vzglyad. Although it seems that Russia and America's leaders favor closer cooperation in key issues of world politics, Trump's strident criticism of the U.S.-Iranian deal worries Russia's leadership.

"The Syrian gambit, in which Moscow actively cooperates with Teheran, is still not finished," political analyst and Middle East expert, Tofik Abbatov, told (in Russian) Vzglyad adding that Moscow will unlikely want to worsen relations with one of the major players in the Middle East. Iran has significant influence on resolving the Syrian crisis.

Empty hopes

Abbatov also noted that Iran never had hopes that relations with Washington would improve. "Immediately after concluding the nuclear deal with the Americans there was the opportunity to continue discussing regional problems," writes (in Russian) Vzglyad, citing Abbatov. "Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei said there’d be no further agreements with the U.S. and that the nuclear deal is a maximum concession."

Moreover, anti-Iranian sentiments are prevalent in all groups within the American establishment, writes (in Russian) Vzglyad.

Abbatov believes that Iran's political leadership was very disturbed by "Muammar Gaddafi's unfortunate experience," and therefore does not intend to normalize relations with the U.S., and does not really care about Russia's reaction. Iran is ready and able to act alone, without relying on anyone.

It’s still not clear whether Trump will rescind the U.S.-Iran deal, but if he does as a reaction to Teheran's missile launch, it may be the first serious test of not only his Middle East policy, but also his policy towards Moscow.

Read more: Russia takes center stage as arbiter of peace in Syria>>>

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