It is two decades since U.S. President George W. Bush coined the phrase “axis of evil” to describe the rogue states that threatened the well-being of the West. And, to judge by last week’s Russo-Iranian summit, an equally deadly alliance is being formed between two states determined to undermine western values.
The White House claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been forced to embrace the ayatollahs because he finds himself totally isolated on the global stage following the invasion of Ukraine. The countries that have so far remained loyal to Moscow — North Korea, Eritrea, Belarus and Syria — can hardly be said to uphold the principles of democratic rule.
But while Putin’s courtship of Iran is undoubtedly a consequence of Moscow’s diplomatic isolation, the summit last week is of much greater significance than that.
Closer relations between Russia and Iran need to be seen within the context of the broader geopolitical realignment taking place in world affairs — one that directly pitches the liberal values of western democracy against the tyrannical instincts of despotic autocrats.
In what amounts to the formation of a new “unholy alliance,” the deepening bond between Russia and Iran provides Putin with the confidence to believe that he can avoid the worst effects of western sanctions and persist with his aggressive policy of restoring the Russian empire to its former glory.
The new spirit of co-operation between Moscow and Tehran, which was reflected in the warm welcome that Putin received from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is certainly a change from the Iranian regime’s longstanding hostility towards Russia.
I vividly recall visiting Tehran in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, where the hotel had three doormats at the entrance depicting the flags of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union. Guests were invited to wipe their feet on them as a gesture of contempt.
Today, Iran considers itself to be locked in the same existential struggle for survival against the West as the Russians, to the extent that the Iranian leadership is prepared to set aside its usual disdain for non-Islamic regimes in its haste to welcome Moscow’s embrace.
Iran’s willingness to engage with the Russian infidel was evident in Khamenei’s comments after meeting Putin. He declared: “If you had not taken the initiative, the other side would have caused the war with its own initiative. If the road is open to NATO, it knows no boundaries, and if it was not stopped in Ukraine, it would start the same war some time later under the pretext of Crimea.”
Iran’s paranoid attitude is the same as Putin’s, which is why the fledgling pact between Russia and Iran could prove to be a potent threat to the western alliance.
This happened, after all, in the week in which a senior aide to Khamenei boasted that Iran already has the ability to build an atom bomb. It is a claim that completely undermines the Biden administration’s preoccupation with forging a new nuclear deal with Tehran, one that limits Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Kamal Kharrazi, a former Iranian foreign minister, said that Iran was technically capable of making a nuclear bomb, but had not decided yet whether to build one.
As the nation that boasts the world’s largest nuclear weapons arsenal, the possibility that Moscow might help Tehran to fulfil its long-held nuclear ambitions is a truly alarming prospect.
Russia has already played a key role in frustrating the Biden administration’s attempts to revive the nuclear deal with Iran by drawing out the process, to the extent that most diplomats involved in the talks in Vienna believe now that there is little chance of securing a new agreement.
Iran’s response has been to help Russia evade sanctions, using the complex financial structures that it has put in place to defy the West to enable Russia to export its oil on international markets via a “ghost armada” of oil tankers, which switch off their GPS systems the moment they put to sea.
The knowledge that he has the active support of rogue regimes such as Iran will undoubtedly encourage Putin in the belief that, despite the military setbacks he is suffering in Ukraine, he can still cause difficulties for his western adversaries.
It is unlikely, for example, that Putin would be so willing to cut off gas supplies to Europe — a threat that he issued immediately after returning from Tehran — unless he was confident he could make up the revenue shortfall by using Iran’s oil-smuggling network.
It is a similar situation with Putin’s insistence on holding the world to ransom on the crucial issue of grain exports from Ukraine.
Significant parts of the world face the prospect of starvation this winter unless Putin relents. But this is unlikely so long as he can count on the support of his newfound friends in Tehran.
Source » trackpersia