During his trips to Moscow and Brussels, Zarif repeated points he made in his recent opinion piece in the New York Times by personally lobbying officials of Russia and the EU3 (Germany, France and Italy). He stressed that it’s not enough for the international community to just speak out against “the irresponsible actions of the American administration.” Rather, he said, all JCPOA supporters should pressure the United States “to stop its disruptive actions.”
Zarif pointed out that this trip was his 21st to Moscow since he became foreign minister of Iran about four years ago — which, he said, proves the importance and scale of the relationship between Iran and Russia. Yet the “special relationship” with Russia puts the Iranian foreign minister in an uncomfortable position. Zarif was praised elaborately in 2015 for the nuclear deal but nowadays is heavily criticized by the Iranian public basically for the same effort.
The JCPOA, implemented in January 2016 with Russia’s involvement, hasn’t brought any substantial economic relief, which adds to a wave of unfulfilled expectations that culminated in the recent protests in Iran. This irritation now multiplies any suspicion the public holds about Moscow’s potential underlying intentions in interacting with Tehran. Zarif’s tweets about the trips received many angry comments in response, including some calling for the minister to answer for “being on Russia’s payroll” or “lackeying before Russia and China,” as well as some others addressing the Iranian public’s more historical grievances with Russia.
It’s not clear what developments might trigger Trump’s decision on the JCPOA in another 120 days, but Moscow and Tehran — fortified by their need of each other’s support on Syrian issues — will work to keep the deal intact. On Jan. 13, Ryabkov made it clear that Moscow “will counter US attempts to undermine the JCPOA.”