Iran’s foreign policy shifts to strengthened ties with Russia, China

(VOVWORLD) - The Islamic State of Iran is said to be overhauling its long-established foreign policy of non-alignment with world powers as Iran is under tremendous pressure from the changing global geopolitical landscape and the serious economic and social challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has been fostering “unprecedented close-knit ties" with Russia and China, the two powerful UN Security Council permanent members.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin hold telephone talk on July 16, 2020. (Source: Oana)

Ambitious deals

International sources say Iran is seeking to extend a 20-year cooperation agreement with Russia and is also negotiating a 25-year deal with China.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif on July 21 visited Moscow to negotiate extending the historic deal on oil, weapons, and nuclear cooperation which was signed by President Vladimir Putin and President Mohammed Khatami in 2001. The agreement renewal was discussed  during a July16 telephone conversation between President Putin and President Hassan Rouhani, in addition to issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and the war in Syria. The Iranian Foreign Minister said both sides "agreed to finalize the agreement" but details were not disclosed.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov (right) during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, on July 21, 2020.

(Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry)

Just a week earlier, an detailed 18-page document outlining an ambitious cooperation plan between Iran and China was leaked online. The text of the document from an  unknown source was completely in line with what Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced at a recent Iranian Parliament meeting. He said the Iranian government is "very confident" in the talks on a 25-year partnership plan with China, focusing on China's 400 billion USD investment in Iran's infrastructure construction and energy.

These moves are viewed by analysts as a part of efforts Iran is making to build an international coalition to resist heavy economic and political pressures from the US.

"Golden opportunity" for Iran to deal with US sanctions  

In the context of a series of sanctions imposed by the US, Iran is seeking to get closer to Russia and China, who are influential globally and  share a similar viewpoint. Iran’s relations with Russia and China warmed up years ago. Late last year, the three countries conducted their first joint naval drill in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. The 4-day drill drew close public attention as it took place amid mounting tensions with the US, raising speculation about the possibility of a new Iran-Russia-China military coalition or a new form of tripartite cooperation to counterbalance the US.

Analysts say the ongoing China-US confrontation and the fact that Russia-US relations are "at their lowest" is a golden opportunity for Iran to take sides with China and Russia to resist US pressure and reset its economy ravaged by international sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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