Russia and Iran The Growing Partnership

While it got almost no attention from the Western mainstream media, a recent meeting in Moscow between Russia and Iran looked at the current status of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) better known as the Iran nuclear deal and how both Russia and Iran viewed the United States withdrawal from the deal just over two years ago. 

Here is how Radio Farda (the Iranian branch of the United States government's Radio Free Europe) reported on the meeting:

Here is how the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on the meeting:

Let's look at the statement made by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well as the question and answer period that followed his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Mohannad Javad Zarif.  Here are some key quotes from Lavrov's statement:

"Today we agreed that our trade and economic ties are developing vigorously, despite, and contrary, to the unilateral sanctions and Iranophobia the United States is fanning. Washington’s goal is clear to us – they are trying to intimidate other countries and blackmail them into ending legitimate cooperation with Iran. In Russia’s view – which is supported by the absolute majority of the members of the international community – this policy runs counter to international law and the principles of free trade, and is a manifestation of flagrant unfair competition….

We welcome Russian regions’ interest in expanding cooperation with Iran and plan to strongly encourage it.

We also approve the interaction developing between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU)…."

In case you were not aware of the EAEU, here is a map showing the member states:

"We note a unanimity or proximity of positions on key global and regional issues. In particular, we have both expressed support for strengthening the legal framework for interstate communication enshrined in the UN Charter, reaffirming that it is unacceptable to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states.

We discussed the situation with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. Despite the frankly destructive policy pursued by the United States, we agreed on the importance of keeping this agreement as a major factor in maintaining international security….

Today we are signing an important document – the Declaration of the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran on enhancing the role of international law. We consider this declaration highly relevant in the context of a number of countries making constant attempts to promote the flawed concept of a “rules-based international order,” which undermines the cornerstones of justice and mutual respect that our predecessors laid as the foundations for international law and the UN Charter." (my bolds)

Now, let's look at two key questions and answers which focus primarily on Washington's use of "bully tactics" to get the other JCPOA signatories to bend to its will regarding Iran with all bolds being mine:

"Question (retranslated from Farsi): Mohammad Javad Zarif mentioned the United States’ efforts to renew the arms embargo on Iran by pressuring the UN and the IAEA Board of Governors. How would you describe US actions in this area? What can Russia and Iran do together within international organisations to counter the United States’ unfair and illegal actions?

Sergey Lavrov: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to settle Iran’s nuclear issue and UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which approved it, are a single whole.

When our American colleagues officially terminated their participation in the JCPOA through respective instructions and executive orders, they also forfeited the signatory countries’ opportunities and rights that are based on honest compliance with the JCPOA and sealed in Resolution 2231. While trying to prevent the other JCPOA countries from fulfilling their obligations to Iran, the United States also wants to punish Tehran by promoting illegal and absolutely unjustified initiatives, including those related to the arms embargo. I believe that this is a futile attempt and that it has no future in the context of international law. We are using every available opportunity offered by international law to ensure that justice is served.

The entire set of obligations of Iran and the other JCPOA countries are an integral whole. This package cannot be divided, leaving only Tehran’s obligations and trying to prevent Europe, Russia, China and all the other countries from maintaining legitimate trade and economic ties with Iran. I am sure that this is obvious to anyone who has even the most rudimentary knowledge of international law.

I can assure you that we will do everything in our power to prevent the destruction of the agreements incorporated in the JCPOA. If the plan does not fit in with the logic of the current US administration, which considers it to be a “bad deal,” it has a right to think so. But Washington has no right to punish Iran by speculating on the authority of the UN Security Council or trying to gain leverage over it, as well as, to a degree, over the UN Secretariat….

Question: Mr Lavrov, have you received any response to your letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council members, in which you urged them to prevent the Americans from using the available mechanism to reintroduce tough sanctions against Iran? Does Russia believe that the JCPOA countries, in particular the UK, will act together to disrupt the US plans?

Sergey Lavrov: I have not yet received an answer to the letter I sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres or the letter to the President of the UN Security Council for distribution among the member countries. I believe that the arguments put forth in the letter are quite serious. The letter is five pages long. I hope they are analysing the letter and that the substantiated arguments and facts included in it will be thoroughly scrutinised and supported.

I cannot vouch for the other JCPOA countries, primarily the European countries which are being pressured by the United States, whose pressure includes unfair methods such as threats in the spheres of trade and economic cooperation, as well as in other areas of ties between NATO countries. It is a fact obvious to everyone that those who are siding with the United States, even if partially, have no legitimate arguments to justify their actions. I am sure that regardless of whether any more JCPOA countries decide to stand up against the US plans, these plans will not be implemented because they have no grounds in international law."

As you can see, Moscow is firmly on the side of Tehran when it comes to the imposition and expansion of sanctions against Iran by the JCPOA signatories and the pressure that Washington is putting on other nations and regions, Europe, Russia and China among them, to cease trading with Iran.  Washington's goal is to prevent any nation from developing economic ties with Iran despite the fact that there is no proof that Iran breached its obligations under the July 2015 P5+1 agreement.

Despite what Washington might want or believe, Iran does not stand alone.

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