The Russian-Iranian Alliance that wasn’t

By Hamidreza Azizi, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Oct. 28 in Moscow hosted his Iranian and Syrian counterparts, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Walid Moallem, respectively, to discuss the latest developments regarding Syria and to coordinate action to resolve the crisis there.

The meeting, the latest sign of Russian-Iranian cooperation and coordination on Syria, took place as debate on the nature and level of Tehran-Moscow relations and the prospect of the presently close relationship continuing has again been raised in the media. In another sign of warming relations between the two countries, it was announced Oct. 24 that Russia plans to lift visa requirements for Iranian citizens.

Furthermore, Russia has over past months declared its willingness to back Iran’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and to increase cooperation between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union. Given these developments, one key question is whether it is possible to speak of an “alliance” being formed by Iran and Russia.

At the international level, it could be argued that a major part of Moscow’s current foreign policy conduct stems from its confrontation with the West, especially the United States, that began in 2014 over the Ukraine crisis and has since been intensifying over other heated issues, such as Russia’s military campaign in Syria and NATO’s plans for further eastward expansion.

Within this context of being under pressure by the West, Russia has been trying to increase its weight in international equations and balance against the United States by putting itself at the center of a series of counter-hegemonic bilateral and multilateral partnerships, building cooperation and partnerships with a range of regional and global powers.

Russia’s agenda on its eastern front therefore includes cementing ties with China, and in South Asia, expanding and reinforcing relations with India. Meanwhile, at the institutional level, Moscow is trying to further activate and reinvigorate the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS.

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