Russia sees Iran as a strategic partner within the context of her geostrategic interests. In order to stop eastward enlargement of NATO and the US, Russia prefers a close strategic cooperation with Iran. In contrast with the perspective of the United States, Russia does not evaluate Iran as a country that threatens the international security and stability. According to Russia, Iran is a powerful regional country that must be cooperated within the Middle East and Eurasia. These two countries share same views on the status of Caspian Sea, world trade, cooperation in nuclear technology field.
Given the reasons of its rising economic, scientific, technological and military potential, high literacy rate (81 %), possession of important natural gas and oil resources and its location in the centre of Eurasian geography, Iran is candidate for becoming a regional leader. Due to this reason, Russia sees the necessity of having close cooperation with Iran in terms of her geostrategic interests. In addition to this, Iran is a profitable and lucrative market for Russia. Today, current trade volume is about $2 billion. It is planned to reach $10 billion trade volume between these two countries in the near future. Russia sells consumer goods, food, equipments for oil and natural gas industries.
It is a reality that Russia assists Iran’s projects with the $800 million dollar Bushehr power plant according to an agreement signed in 1995. Iran continues weapons transfer from Russia. The purchasing of war planes, submarines, tanks, land weapons, mines and S-300 air defense missiles of Iran from Russia constitute the concrete examples of this partnership.
People’s Republic of China
A fact equally important is that China supports the nuclear program of Iranas well and does not see Iran as the country that threatens international peace and security. Iran is not the one who destabilizes the Middle East region, rather the American administration. In contradiction with the US positions, Chinese officials evaluate the possible US military intervention to Iran as a threat that may destabilize the region. Due to concerns of disturbing the oil flow and the rising of oil prices, the Chinese administration opposes the military option of the United States. Chinese officials allege that ex-president George Bush’s policies have directed the Iranians to follow this kind of approach.
According to Chinese officials, the presence of 140.000 American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan within the context of George W. Bush’s policy of constituting democratic regimes through the US military intervention, have caused a mistrust among Iranian officials and in return for these steps, Iranian officials have needed a nuclear deterrence capability in order to able to feel secure themselves against the American threat. In order for the establishment of a multi-polar international system, China perceives Iran as an important supporter and ally in the region and she would like to advance relations with Iran in the fields of trade and energy. Iran finalized a huge contract with Sinopec, a major Chinese energy firm in November 2004 for $100 billion for development of a major Chinese Gas Field and delivery of Liquefied Natural Gas. Within a 30 year period, China plans to import 30 million tons of natural gas from Iran.
The countries of the region and the Arab public have different opinions with regard to Iran’s development of the nuclear program. On one hand, the countries of the region have concerns on the negative effects of the initiatives taken by Iran on the regional policies and on the societies of the region. On the other hand, they think that Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons may counterbalance the US and consequently Israel in terms of regional policies. The Arab League countries do not back the views of US and Israel; however they demand a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.
This means of course the destruction of Israel’s nuclear missiles. The leaders of the region, who think that nuclear researches conducted by Iran do not pose a direct threat against them per se and they also believe that these efforts do not constitute an important threat for the regional peace, however they are concerned about collateral effects of Iran’s possession of the nuclear technology. In other words, they suggest that antagonist policies which are or will be carried out against Iran are a threat for the region’s already fragile stability.
It is widely said that a nuclear-armed Iran might start the armament race in the region. For instance, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and some Gulf states may increase their efforts for obtaining nuclear weapons. If that happens, the governments in these countries, which feel under threat, will want to benefit from the nuclear deterrence opportunities against Iran or other countries by showing Iran’s attitude as an example. Should Iran seek about to test a nuclear weapon, or tests one, Israel or Saudi Arabia may attack it, with or without American permission. That, in turn, might trigger a regional conflagration.
Since its establishment, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been living with the notion that its territory is surrounded by hostile countries. Therefore, the Iranian state evaluates its security and threat perceptions in a fearful context. The supporters of Iran’s nuclear program mention that the nuclear program and the armament of Iran are its legitimate rights when the threats posed against it are taken into consideration. According to this argument, Iran is threatened by the United States and Israel through several ways such as the regime change and both of them are nuclear powers. Iran also lives in an unstable region and most of the powers around her such as Pakistan and India already have the nuclear technology.
Given their anti-American sentiment and opposition to their own governments, some part of the people in this region openly supports Iran’s endeavors. President Ahmadinejad has a great popularity among the public opinion in the region in which this public opinion feverishly condemns and criticizes their governments’ corruptions, their administrations’ authoritarianism and also their dependencies to the West. Public opinions in Arab countries think that Iran is the rival of Israel and is only country that can balance Israel. Arab society also advocates that thanks to this, the double standard policy followed by Western states toward Israel may disappear.
Russia’s policy of supporting Iran’s nuclear program can be explained within the context of her national interests. On the one hand, Russia perceives the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of the strategic allies in the Eurasia region. Due to Russia’s status as permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Iran hopes that Russia will help it to ease the international pressure. Moscow tries to develop relations with Tehran in various fields and in this context; it also assists the Islamic Republic of Iran to push forward its nuclear program. Kremlin underscores that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program does not constitute a threat for the world. Both these states are worried about the US Foreign Policy in the Eurasia and the Middle East regions. Eastward enlargement of the NATO or the United States’ policy of supporting alternative energy supply routes are not welcomed by Russia.
Russiaalso wants to establish a zone of influence in the Middle-East region which will eventually counterbalance the US’ influence. On the other hand, Moscow’s policy of backing Teheran may change at any time. If the mullahs’ regime’s constant refusal of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency about the inspection of her nuclear program continues, Russia might give up supporting the Islamic Republic of Iran and might also join the group of states that are applying economic sanctions against Iran.
People’s Republic of China does back Iran’s nuclear program. The Beijing regime does not perceive threat from Iran. Furthermore, just like the policy followed by Russia, China would like to ameliorate her relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in every field. Given Beijing’s high demand of oil resources, China tries to develop its economic relations with Iran, especially in the energy field. Mainly because of this reason, China is strongly against an eventual military intervention of the United States toward the Islamic Republic of Iran should the latter do not suspend her uranium enrichment program. China’s presence as a permanent member in the United Nations Security Council is also important for Iran in order to get the support of China in terms of the policies followed against them in the international scene.
Nonetheless, China’s policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran can change at any moment. If the unwilling policy of the current regime in Iran of sharing information about its nuclear program and also of allowing the inspections of International Atomic Energy Agency persists, the People’s Republic of China may stop supporting the Islamic Republic of Iran and may back up the sanction decisions that are adopted in the United Nations Security Council against this country.
There exist divergent views between the countries in the region and the Arab countries’ public opinions. On the one hand, the countries of the region, such as Saudi Arabia, fear that a nuclearized Iran may trigger the nuclear armament race in the region. On the other hand, they think that an eventual military intervention against the Islamic Republic of Iran if the latter does not suspending her uranium enrichment program will create more problems for the region. For instance, in any case, an attack against Tehran may trigger a war in the region. If such a war occurs and if the Sunni Arab states back the United States or Israel up, this may also trigger sectarian wars between the Sunnis and Shies’ of the region. The Arab states also fear that in any case of attack against Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran has the capacity of provoking its neighbor countries’ populations against their governments. In fact, the Arab public opinion supports the development of a nuclear program by the Islamic Republic of Iran due to their anger toward their own administrations’ pro-US positions.
It seems that the divergence of opinions between the Arab governments and their public opinion is hard to reconcile. Due to this factor, the Arab world fails to constitute a unified front against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.
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 Stephen Kinzer, RESET: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future,New York: Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2010, p. 209.
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