Military Review

Nuclear cooperation, gas rivalry

Little about Iranian motives

The idea that the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is a consistent ally of Russia in its opposition to the West and in this capacity Tehran should be supported by Moscow in all its endeavors, for a number of domestic politicians, political scientists, Orientalists, diplomats and journalists has become an axiom. However, what he needs does not necessarily make sense to us.

We are talking not only about the areas in which Iran and the Russian Federation are direct competitors, such as the global market for hydrocarbons, but also about the country's accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or support for "Iran’s right to a peaceful atom." Lobbying in Russia the interests of the Islamic Republic is a normal situation for a country open to the outside world. Iranian lobbyists are not necessarily the "fifth column." They can act disinterestedly, sincerely believing the use of Russia's resources in the interests of the IRI is going to the benefit of the Fatherland. But in reality, they are just as “foreign agents” as those who lobby in Moscow for the interests of Brussels, Washington or Riyadh.

However, on a number of issues the interests of the Russian Federation and Iran coincide. This primarily concerns the prevention of the spread of Afghan drugs (Iran accounts for up to 40 percent of Afghan drug trafficking), as well as attitudes towards the situation in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, Russia maintains strong relations with Israel, with which Iran is at enmity: the clash between the lobbies of Tehran and Jerusalem in Moscow is a constant factor in domestic domestic politics.

History Russian relations with Iran is no different from the history of relations with Turkey. Wars and annexation are, on the one hand, interpenetration of cultures and trade, on the other. At the same time, Moscow maintained its direct influence on Iran for half a century longer than on Turkey, up to the middle of the twentieth century, and the memory of this is alive in Tehran. Not to mention the Anglo-Russian agreement concluded in August 1907 of the year in St. Petersburg, which could destroy the independence of Persia - and end it if it were not for the First World War and the October Revolution. Recall that this convention, which put an end to the Great Game of the Great Powers in Asia, concerned not only Persia, but also Afghanistan and Tibet. As for Persia, in accordance with this document, it was divided into spheres of influence: the Russian (its southern border went along the Qasr-Shirin-Isfahan-Yazd-Zulfegar line), the British (southeast of the Bandar-Abbas-Kerman-Birzhand-line Gezik) and neutral in the center of the country. That is, northern Iran under this agreement was to become part of the Russian Empire.

Hence, the pathos of the words of the leader of the Islamic revolution, Rakhbar (supreme leader) Khomeini, is clear that America is a big Satan, and the Soviet Union is a small Satan. Independence of Iran is freedom from influence not only from the West, but also from the north. Especially since the constantly growing pressure of Russia, Iran experienced from the XVII century, right up to the conquest of the South Caspian Sea, whose territory - Gilan, Mazandaran and Astrabad - in 1723 – 1732 was part of the Russian Empire.

Trumpet playing

If we analyze the situations around which the campaign for the protection of Iran’s interests by Russia in confronting Iran with the West, it becomes clear: this is not about what Tehran is doing or intends to do in favor of Moscow, but so that it takes into account its priorities in its foreign policy. And this is not at all an indispensable condition for maintaining good-neighborly relations with Iran. Thus, the coincidence of interests of Moscow and Tehran to prevent the presence of armed forces of countries not having access to this sea basin in the Caspian Sea, confirmed at the fourth summit of the Caspian states 29 September 2014 in Astrakhan, does not mean that Iran will refuse to export energy to EU countries, trying to find an alternative to Russia.

The current leaders of the Iranian Oil Ministry, appointed after the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency of the Islamic Republic, are dissatisfied with the situation in the gas sector of the country's economy. They are not satisfied with the situation when owning 16 percent of world gas reserves and providing five percent of its production, Iran controls only one percent of the global market. The power engineers are tasked to bring this figure in the long term to 16 percent. To do this, it is necessary to develop new markets, as well as obtain the technologies required for the development of gas production and gas transportation infrastructure, including complexes for liquefying natural gas (LNG). The key role in this can be played by the European Union. On the one hand, the EU economy is able to absorb all the gas that Iran is ready to offer. On the other hand, the EU and the US can provide efficient technologies (primarily for the production of LNG), as well as the necessary finances. Moreover, the current leadership of the Ministry of Oil (B.N. Zangane and K.Vaziri-Hamane) belongs to the pro-Western grouping in the country's elite.

Iran can not only export its own natural gas to the EU, but also organize transit from the countries of Central Asia. True, Tehran, along with Moscow, opposes the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline (TCG), citing the uncertainty of the legal status of the Caspian Sea and the need to get approval for this project from all coastal states because of the risk to the biosphere of the region. However, this, in addition to the desire to oust competitors from the market (in this case, Turkmenistan), was caused by a confrontation with Washington, in which any initiatives supported by it were torpedoed. If anti-Russian energy projects are implemented by the Western community with the participation of Iran, the motivation of its leadership will change radically.

At one time, before the introduction of 2010 – 2012 sanctions against Iran, Tehran declared its readiness to join the construction of the Nabucco pipeline or other projects that allow Iran to enter European markets. Moreover, it was emphasized that Tehran could be a more reliable supply partner for Brussels than Moscow. The sanctions stopped the Iranian-European gas cooperation and slowed down the development of the country's energy sector. However, the situation has changed. Pressure on Iran weakens in parallel with the strengthening of EU and US sanctions against Russia.

In the event of a change in the TKG route, since it does not take place along the bottom of the Caspian Sea (which, among other things, complicates Ashgabat’s disagreements with Baku), but through Iran, Tehran will remove any objections to this project. At the end of 90, Iranian officials discussed with representatives of the West and the Central Asian republics the possibility of allowing hydrocarbon flows from the Caspian region to Europe, bypassing Russia. Today, nothing prevents us from returning to this topic at any time if the Western community makes an appropriate political decision.

The EU can use Iranian gas to revive alternative Nabucco or Southern Corridor pipelines to Russian projects or support relevant Iranian initiatives. The resumption of consultations on the Persian Pipeline or the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Mediterranean Sea pipeline is likely (after stabilization of the situation in Syria). Among other things, this could force Tehran to join Qatar’s position in the framework of the gas exporting countries forum: Doha actively and unsuccessfully lobbying for the formation of an “Islamic alliance” with the participation of Algeria and Iran. The postponement of the GECF summit, which was to be held in Tehran, to 2015 year, indicates serious contradictions in this organization.

Pulp & Nuclear Friendship

Relations between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran, contrary to press claims, cannot be called unequivocally stable. In the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008, Tehran supported Moscow, but in 2009 did not recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In turn, in 2010, Russia joined the US and EU anti-Iran sanctions, and also supported the criteria for the entry of new candidates to the SCO, adopted at the Tashkent summit, which complicated the integration of Iran into this organization.

Nuclear cooperation, gas rivalry

Bushehr nuclear power plant built by Russia

At the same time, for Moscow, Tehran is an important partner with significant potential and a developed domestic market. Despite the economic crisis and sanctions, Iran remained solvent. The bilateral trade between the Russian Federation and Iran in 2010 – 2013 ranged from 3,65 to 2 billions of dollars. The main articles of Russian exports to Iran are metals and metal products (about 65%), precious metals and stones (17,5%), machinery and equipment, ships and vehicles, wood and pulp and paper products. For Iran, in terms of sanctions on banking operations, the import of gold and precious stones is important. Counter deliveries include textiles, plastics, carpets, glass, chemicals, foodstuffs, as well as Samand cars.

The main object of Russian-Iranian cooperation is the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the construction of which was completed in 2008. In September, 2011-th it was commissioned. With the aggravation of Russian relations with the United States and the European Union, further development of cooperation between the Russian Federation and Iran in the field of nuclear energy is obvious, although the negotiations of the Six, of which Russia is a part, did not lead to any noticeable success. Iran, with the growing interest of the West in it, has greatly strengthened its position on them, having received both a head start in time and space for maneuver. As a result, if we take note of the point of view of the Israeli leadership on the level of development of the military component of the Iranian nuclear program, Russia should prepare for the appearance on the southern borders of a new nuclear power and the collapse of the non-proliferation regime as such.

In the area of ​​trade in weapons and military equipment, Russia fulfilled the contract for the Tor-M1 air defense system, but in 2009 it froze the supply of C-300 complexes to Iran, and in 2010 the president issued a decree banning the deal. An advance on the contract has been returned. However, restrictions on supplies of military equipment sensitive to the West to the Islamic Republic of Iran are unlikely to be extended: a new cold war, announced by Russia on the initiative of the US leadership, unleashed Moscow on MTC with Iran. Especially since its results for Iran are obvious: it was Russian planes that are in service with the Iranian air force that allowed the Islamic state to repel attacks on the holy cities of Shiites located in Iraq.

All roads lead to Russia

If we talk about the partnership of the Russian Federation and Iran, it should be recalled that 14 July 2010 in Moscow signed a “road map” of Iranian-Russian cooperation in the field of energy for thirty years. It provides for the exchange of know-how, technologies and experience in the extraction of oil and gas, their processing, research on wells, and exploration of deposits on the sea shelf. At the same time, cooperation between Iran and Russia in electric power projects, especially in distribution systems, does not fall under the sanctions regime.

The participation of the Russian Federation in infrastructural projects for the development of Iran is promising, including in the reconstruction and construction of the Astara - Qazvin - Rasht railway, which is part of the international transport corridor "North - South". Iran and Russia signed a bilateral agreement on the construction of steel lines and the implementation of a project for the electrification of the Tehran-Bandar Abbas railway. Russian Railways Corporation has a controlling stake in the Iranian-Russian company BFI (Black Sea Ferry & Investment), which transports goods using the ports of both countries.

Economic cooperation develops between separate regions of the Russian Federation and Iran: Tatarstan, Dagestan and Astrakhan - on the one hand, and Gilan, Western and Eastern Azerbaijan - on the other. In the Astrakhan region there are more than a hundred companies with the participation of Iranian capital. The agreements provide for the cooperation of the region with the free economic port zone “Enzeli” on the Caspian Sea, which is located on the route of the international transport corridor “North-South”.

The aforementioned decree of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on restrictions in Russian-Iranian cooperation from 22 September 2010 had a negative impact. Russian companies with interests in the USA and Europe began to leave the Iranian market. So, in October, 2010 about the termination of relations with Iran, said the corporation "LUKOIL". Has left Iran and Gazpromneft. However, Tatneft continues to work in the IRI, which has a joint company there with the Fund for the disadvantaged.

The crisis in Russia's relations with the West, which was triggered by events in Ukraine, contributed to Russian-Iranian economic cooperation. Since January, 2014 has been discussing a barter deal in which Moscow would buy up to 500 thousand barrels of Iranian oil per day (about 25 million tons per year) for two to three years in exchange for equipment and goods. The contract is estimated at 20 billions of dollars, but the parties have so far not agreed on the price of the supplies. 5 August 2014 in Moscow, Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak and Iranian Oil Minister Bizhan Namdar Zangane signed a memorandum of understanding between the two governments for five years. He declares the expansion of trade and economic cooperation between the Russian Federation and the IRI "in the areas of construction and reconstruction of generating capacity, development of electric grid infrastructure, in the oil and gas complex, as well as in the supply of machinery, equipment, consumer goods and agricultural products."

Caspian puzzle

Among the unresolved problems in bilateral relations is the status of the Caspian Sea, although for Russia this does not create complications with Iran because of disputed fields. Hydrocarbon reserves of the basin are estimated by the Statistical Review of World Energy in 36,2 billion tons of oil (21% of the world) and 84,9 trillion cubic meters of natural gas (46%). Regional competition for resources is exacerbated by the issue of jurisdiction over the fields of the southern part of the Caspian Sea - Alov, Araz, Azeri, Sharg and Chirag.

Turkmenistan advocates the delimitation of the bottom and the depths of the Caspian Sea into sectors or zones based on the principle of the median line by agreement with Kazakhstan, Iran and Azerbaijan. Tehran does not recognize the legitimacy of Russia's bilateral agreements on the Caspian Sea with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. He remains in opposition to the “median” model of solving the problem and stands for general ownership of the sea, including its subsoil, or for dividing the Caspian into five equal shares of 20 percent. Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan put forward a single proposal: to divide the bottom along the median line, and leave the water surface common. According to these proposals, when delimiting the seabed, Russia gets 19 percent of the bottom area, Azerbaijan - 18, Kazakhstan - 27. From 36 percent of the remaining bottom area, Iran will get from 11 to 14 percent.

Hydrocarbon reserves are divided between the Caspian states depending on the legal status of the sea. With a coastline in Russia, 695 has a billion tons of equivalent fuel for kilometers at the coastline of Russia, and 2 billion for the “median” model. Azerbaijan with 2,34 kilometers - 850 or 4 billion tons. Kazakhstan with 2,84 kilometers of coast - 2320 or 4,5 billion. Turkmenistan with 2,84 kilometers - 1200 or 1,5 billion. Iran with 2,14 kilometers - 900 or 0,5 billion tons. In accordance with the communiqué of the Astrakhan Summit, the final agreement on the division of the Caspian Sea should be signed in 1,94. Most likely, the parties will agree with the Russian proposal to allocate each country a 2015-mile belt off the coast (25 coastal and 10 fishing miles) while preserving the rest of the water area in common use. As for the subsoil, it is likely that they will be divided into approximately equal sectors with a common development with the neighbors of the disputed fields.

The Iranian Navy in the Caspian Sea is represented by the Army Navy Command in the Caspian Sea zone and the Command of the Naval Forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in the Caspian Sea zone. In the course of their integration, the Joint Operational Command of the IRI of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Caspian Sea zone with headquarters in Enzeli has been created and is functioning since 90's. The command of the Army Navy is represented by the 4-m naval region, which consists of a division of patrol boats (Enzeli) and a training center for technical specialists (Rasht). The command of the navy of the IRGC is represented by the coast guard battalion (Noushahr) and three training centers.

The main striking force of the division of the patrol boats of the Army Navy Command are two Sina missile boats of Iranian construction 2006 and 2010. In addition to them, the armed forces of the Iranian Navy consist of 15 patrol boats, the base mine sweeper Salman and the training ship Khamze. During the war, it is possible to transfer small rocket boats Peykaap to the Caspian Sea by rail and road transport from the Persian Gulf. Thus, the grouping of Iranian Navy missile boats on the Caspian Sea can be increased within a few days by twenty to thirty units.

As part of fleet Iran in the zone of the Caspian Sea may be two or three ultra-small submarines of Iranian type "Gadir", capable of taking on board a unit of combat swimmers. There is the possibility of transporting a submarine of this type to the Caspian by rail or road. In March 2013, the Jamaran-2 corvette of the Moud type of Iranian design and construction with a displacement of 1420 tons and a length of 94,5 meters was launched from the stocks of the shipyard in Anzali. A 48-meter-long Fateh-type diesel-electric submarine is also being built there.

To sum up the above, the interests of Russia and Iran coincide only partially. Moscow cannot consider Tehran to be an ally in the confrontation with the West, although it is a partner. With all the conventions of this concept in interstate relations - as the example of Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova, Turkmenistan or Georgia shows.

Subscribe to our Telegram channel, regularly additional information about the special operation in Ukraine, a large amount of information, videos, something that does not fall on the site:

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Vitaly Anisimov
    Vitaly Anisimov 29 October 2014 18: 18
    The article was already sort of ..
    1. Giant thought
      Giant thought 29 October 2014 19: 30
      The more Iran can be tied to the Russian economy, the better it will be first of all for us, and Iran needs to prove that it will only benefit from this.
      1. avg
        avg 29 October 2014 20: 36
        Yes, just need to negotiate with Iran. Collaborate, at least at the level of an average European country. The Iranians are well aware that the United States and the EU will benefit from the gas confrontation with Russia, and when we join, we will begin to dictate our terms to them.
        Therefore, the government needs to turn to Iran and begin to work closely, although they are more familiar in London.
      2. Lelek
        Lelek 29 October 2014 23: 06
        Quote: Thought Giant
        The more you can tie Iran to the Russian economy,

        It is necessary to "be friends" with Iran, but in one's own favor and "at a distance", as was done under the tsar-father and in the first years of Soviet power (although the shahs were different then). yes
    2. The comment was deleted.
    3. Oldwiser
      Oldwiser 29 October 2014 21: 35
      Quote: MIKHAN
      The article was already sort of.

      The article was already on the site - under the title "Iranian motives"
  2. Ordinary stock
    Ordinary stock 29 October 2014 18: 19
    Iran is undoubtedly a great country with a rich history and resources. We have common interests, in particular the fight against drug trafficking, against Sunni terrorism (they are not particularly fighting Shiite, Hezbola is fed by them), and finally, it is beneficial for us to buy cheap gas and food products from them.
    However, there is direct competition, especially against the backdrop of a softening of the confrontation between Iran and the United States. The Caspian Sea and its oil reserves are an unresolved problem. A reduction in hydrocarbon prices if sanctions are lifted is a serious problem for Russia. And finally, the Persians for thousands of years quite bloody defend their interests. Moreover, under the absolute authority of the ayatollah.
    In short, I would constantly strengthen the southern grouping of forces and the Caspian flotilla. Moreover, ships with cruise missiles. In order to moderate the possible ardor ...
  3. Alfizik
    Alfizik 29 October 2014 18: 33
    Good article, informative. And it is absolutely necessary to be friends (and work) with Iran, but not “in spite of”, but “for”.
  4. Stinger
    Stinger 29 October 2014 18: 37
    East is a delicate matter. This must not be forgotten.
  5. kirqiz ssr
    kirqiz ssr 29 October 2014 18: 43
    Russia once threw Iran without thinking about the future, now this Russian kidalavo will crawl out sideways.
  6. Lumumba
    Lumumba 29 October 2014 18: 47
    With all due respect to the Iranian people ... But countries in which women are hanged in the 21st century for resisting male rapists are somehow afraid to give their hands something more technological than a stone ax. I am not even talking about the "peaceful atom".
    1. Revolver
      Revolver 29 October 2014 20: 56
      That's for sure. Than mullocrates, so it’s better to check or any secular dictator. By the way, I am old enough to remember how Brezhnev with a pomp (not water - this is me in advance jokers) took the shah. And according to rumors, the shah handed over (and not seemingly cheaply) to the USSR a model of either an aircraft Sidewinder, or an anti-tank TOW of an American missile. So pro-American states are far from always anti-Russian by definition, and anti-American states are far from always pro-Russian, and in particular Iran.
    2. Dreamwriter
      Dreamwriter 29 October 2014 21: 39
      Can I have a reference about the hanged women? And then I already heard so many horror stories about Iran, and in 95% of them there was not a single gram of truth.
  7. zulusuluz
    zulusuluz 29 October 2014 21: 45
    Iran simply expects equal relations from the world. Until now, they have been looked down upon. If Russia shows prudence, then the Persians will meet, but if they put themselves above them, then the roads will diverge ...
  8. polkovnik manuch
    polkovnik manuch 29 October 2014 23: 23
    It is necessary to make sure that Iran becomes both an ally and a strategic partner, then it will become "quieter" in the Caucasus.
  9. galantmen1980
    galantmen1980 30 October 2014 12: 36
    everyone has their own interest and hoping for partnerships today is a crime. Another issue - drawing it into its orbit is an important task and there are prerequisites for its successful solution.
  10. Prager
    Prager 30 October 2014 13: 50
    Iran pursues its interests and will not give up on them. it is naive to think that he has fallen completely into the orbit of Moscow’s interests.