Moscow certainly doesn’t think America’s problem with Tehran is really Iran’s national nuclear energy program, but rather Iran’s influence in the region and concern that sanctions relief might provide Iran with resources to expand. Thus, Russia has even more motivation to stand united with Iran, to prove Moscow’s crucial role on the ground and in diplomatic processes in the Middle East, even if it might disagree with Iran on certain issues in Syria.
At the meeting with Zarif, Lavrov reiterated that the main authority in this regard — the International Atomic Energy Agency — certified Iran’s full compliance with the JCPOA.
Russia also seeks to remind everyone of the pivotal role it had in resolving the international impasse with the JCPOA in 2015.
Besides their ability to develop close cooperation on Syria, which many analysts called “strategic” despite all odds, Russian and Iranian officials tried to maintain at least the appearance of close cooperation in many other fields. For instance, at the Jan. 10 meeting, the foreign ministers agreed that the Russia-Iran bilateral trade commission would meet early this year.
On another thorny issue beyond the JCPOA, Russia was critical of the United States’ call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to get the council to weigh in on the recent uprisings in Iran. Even EU representatives, including France and the United Kingdom, opposed the idea. Russia’s UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, was harsh in his remarks about US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s accusations against Iranian authorities. Nebenzya described the US attitude as “an irrational allergy” to Iran that “precludes sober assessment of the real events.”