The ongoing crisis in the Caucasus, sparked by Russia's incursion into Georgia, can open new diplomatic opportunities for Iran. Officials in Tehran are currently treading cautiously, however, keeping their options open as they seek to maximize the benefits of renewed confrontation between the United States and Russia.
Conventional wisdom holds that the breakdown in US-Russian relations could bring immediate benefits for Iran's nuclear program. Given the fallout over Georgia, many US experts believe Russia will now obstruct American-led efforts in the UN Security Council to expand sanctions against Iran that aim to pressure Tehran into giving up its nuclear aspirations.
But while Iranian officials certainly would like to see Russia veto any proposal to tighten the sanctions regime, they are not counting on Moscow to do so. Iranian experts say Russia in the past has proven to be a fickle friend. Thus, many in Tehran do not believe the Kremlin's policy on the Iranian nuclear issue is necessarily linked to the twists and turns of US-Russian ties. While Moscow may be intent on tweaking Washington, Russian leaders may still see it as in their best interests to maintain solidarity with the other members of the so-called 5+1 group, comprising the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Russia, in any event, cannot be considered an inveterate friend of Iran. In several notable instances, in particular in the ongoing process on the territorial division of the Caspian Sea, the Kremlin has acted more like an enemy than an ally of Iran. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. "Relations between Iran and Russia can best be described as a
Kamal Nazer Yasin is a pseudonym for a freelance journalist specializing in Iranian affairs.