Yassin Majeed, Researcher and writer in regional affairs

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran on the 23rd of November 2015 is considered an exceptional political event in light of international and regional transformations. What increased the importance of the visit, which is the second visit of President Putin to Iran in the past eight years, is that he overlooked protocols by which leaders of major countries abide by for many considerations, as President Putin headed directly from the airport to meet the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The meeting between the Supreme Leader and the Russian president took over two hours, which bore extra significance of the visit in political momentum adding in the importance of the visit that will shape (in its form and content) a dividing line between two phases whether in terms of the relationship between Iran and Russia or on the level of what is going on regional and international alliances which is moving rapidly and illustrating a picture of a multi-polar world and the end of the unipolar era that prevailed after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

          President Putin has been keen to direct political messages with distinction before heading to Tehran, as he issued a decree to lift the ban on the export of nuclear technology to Iran in a way that allows Russia to sell and deliver to Iran materials and equipment to help in the development of Fordow and Arak nuclear reactors. Additionally, Russia authorised an import of enriched uranium from Iran estimated at more than 300 kilograms in exchange for Iranian natural uranium. Iranian Ambassador in Moscow Mehdi Sanai announced that Russian measures already began to supply Iran with missile system S-300; an anti-missile and anti-aircraft system.

          If President Putin overlooked protocol in his visit to Tehran and thereby giving the visit remarkable symbolism, as the Supreme Leader’s praise of Putin’s policies was an extraordinary message too. Such praise exceeded political courtesies, given that as a religious leader and role model to religion, courtesies are considered a lie and haram in terms of legitimacy (Shariah), which means that the Supreme Leader choose careful praise for the president of a superpower on policies in phrases over a number of important issues, was in fact directed political messages for all whom it may concern regionally and internationally.

          The Supreme Leader addressed President Putin by saying [Russian decisions and actions in the Syrian matter contributed to increasing regional and global credibility of Russia, and President Putin personally] expressing gratitude to Russian efforts in the nuclear negotiations, and praising Russia’s role in face of American politics by saying that the stances of President Putin was very good and innovative. The Supreme Leader addressed President Putin in another strong gesture by saying that “The Americans are always trying to push their rivals into strain, but such an approach has failed them”.

          Apart from what happened between them during the summit meeting, careful analysis of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Putin’s statements can be considered as:

Firstly; Strategic partnership

          The Tehran Summit formed a cornerstone for the construction of strategic partnership between superpowers strongly recovering its loss and role for nearly two decades with rising regional states that have proven in practise their capabilities to overcome difficulties and serious challenges over three decades which can stand in face of world superpowers.

Some may draw a deluded comparison between the Tehran summit and the meeting of US President Franklin Roosevelt and Abdul Aziz Al-Saud in 1945 which drew the basis for the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. It is significantly different compared with the Tehran meeting in terms of form and content for the king of Saudi Arabia went with his entourage to what looks like a request by sea from the city of Jeddah on board the US destroyer (U.S.S.Murphy) to the lake in the middle of the Suez Canal to meet with President Roosevelt on a US destroyer (Quincy). It was agreed during the meeting that the United States to get what it wants in oil with its commitment to help about Jewish immigration to Palestine, in return for Washington to ensure the security of Saudi Arabia.

Secondly; a common vision:

          The partnership relationship between Tehran and Moscow in political, economic, military and security fields are based on a long-term vision with mutual interests and common challenges and not a dependency relationship; as it is the case with the majority of the region’s relationship with the United States. According to this new equation, Tehran and Moscow have managed in a record period of time to overcome past crises; whereby since the end of World War II the bilateral relations between the two countries was characterised by tense times which peaked during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and during the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, and apathy at other times in the post-disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. Although Iranian – Russian relations witnessed a marked improvement in the era of President Mohammad Khatami and Ahmadinejad, but with the spread of the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism in the Arab and Islamic region in conjunction with what has been called the Arab Spring, contributed significantly to the convergence of views between Tehran and Moscow; who have realised the early strategic goals behind the terrorist phenomenon. It is no secret that it aims to re-draw a new map of the area on a new basis that comprises a threat to the national security of Iran, Russia and countries allied to them a real risk.

          Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Putin’s remarks clearly reveal all of the common challenges facing the two countries, as we have noted great convergence in the visions between the Supreme Leader and President Putin with regard to the stance with the United States which leads the war against terrorism; which according to the Russians and the Iranians, strives to gain political gains in this attempt. Khamenei warned that [the Americans are trying within a specific plan in the long-term to take control of Syria and then to expand its control to compensate for the historical loss of its lack of control over West Asia. It is a scheme which is a threat to all the peoples and countries, especially to Russia and Iran]. In order to cut the road on US policy by exploiting wars, the Leader sent a meaningful political message when he said [We will not conduct any negotiations with the United States on Syria nor on any other subject, except in the nuclear issue]. To this message, President Putin responded in a similarly powerful manner and in an apparent reference to the United States, by saying [We consider you (Iran) a reliable ally in the region and the world, and on the contrary to some, we are committed to not stab our partners in the back nor to take any steps behind the scenes against our friends].

          US convergent attitudes of its policies in the region and the world to the Syrian issue, which was remarkably close reflected in the vision of the two countries in their statements; despite persistent attempts by Western media and the Arab diffusion about the existence of a hidden contradiction and conflict between the two countries over the war in Syria, as President Putin reiterated what the Supreme Leader said regarding Syria by saying [as you’ve kindly clarified, the Americans strive to achieve their goals, which have not been achieved in the Syrian battlefields, behind negotiating table.        We closely monitor this issue] he continued [the settlement of the Syrian crisis are only possible through political means, accepting the voice of the Syrian people and the Syrian demand of all its ethnic groups. No one is entitled to impose its opinion on the Syrian people or take decisions on behalf of them over the structure of governance and the fate of Syrian President].

Thirdly; the axis of defiance

          The Tehran summit sent a political message that the axis of resistance has become stronger with the accession of a superpower to it with the leadership of Putin’s Russia, which seems determined to achieve two strategic objectives of its military intervention in Syria:

Firstly: assurances to the safety of the national security of Russia. Putin is well aware of the foreseeable future to fight the fourth generation of al-Qaeda on the doors of Moscow if he doesn’t rush to intervene in the Middle East, particularly in Syria; which is the only outlet left for Russia on the warm water, to attack Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is the third generation of al-Qaeda who fought the Soviet army in Afghanistan under the auspices of the US and Pakistani intelligence services and Saudi Arabia. Without a shadow of doubt, the involvement of Iranian military advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas in the Syrian war, has encouraged Putin to intervene in the Syrian war following four years of solely providing military assistance to the Syrian army and the use of the veto power in the UN Security Council. There has been something like a coup in the Syrian war after planes of the (Khoi-C) and Russian air defence systems (S-300) and (S-400) as umbrella to protect Iranian military men and advisers and fighters of Hezbollah and the Syrian army in military operations on the theatre of military operations. This phenomenon did not occur in the history of the region since the end of World War II, with the exception of an airlift by the United States in the war in October 1973 during the reign of former US President Richard Nixon; although the US airlift cannot be compared in any way with the Russian military intervention in Syria. This means that the fear of a repeated Afghan experience with Russia with the presence of strong allies on the Syrian land has ceased to exist only in the minds of the originators of the Afghan jihad experience.

          Secondly: as for the second strategic objective which Putin seeks to achieve from participating in the Syrian war, is the restoration of the pivotal role of Russia in the world and the end of the era of unipolarity. President Putin is well aware that Europe is no longer the prime area of crisis for him as it was during the Cold War between the two competing poles, and that the Middle East, which has been under the American umbrella after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, today represents its new strategic region that it is supposed to already win in a round against the US after its achievements in record time in Georgia and Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula. President Putin as it is known has witnessed the emergence of a regional power – Iran – despite the harsh penalties that Russia participated in some in the gain of an important round in the game of conflict with Western countries led by the United States over its nuclear program. More precisely, Iran represents a strategically key focal point which helps Russia in its motivations towards the Middle East to restore its pivotal role in the region and the world. This means that the Syrian crisis will contribute to the transfer of the relationship between Iran and Russia from a (partnership) to an (alliance) which already seems to be weaving its yarns quietly, starting virtually from Syria to cover at a later stage the Middle Eastern region; which is witnessing a dramatic decline the role of traditional regional powers allied with the United States such as Saudi Arabia already sunken in Yemen and Turkey having lost its relations with most countries in the Arab region, and Qatar whose role was no more than a coin purse, and Israel that is no longer as in the past an invincible force.

Fourthly; the economic leverage:

          Although the political dimension was the most prominent in the Russian president’s visit to Tehran, yet the economic side was notable too. The impression among many is that Putin’s visit transferred bilateral relations to the stage of quality that was clearly evident in two major issues:

Firstly, is an Iranian decision to give priority to Russia to invest in larger Iranian markets in energy, industry, agriculture, transport, health and other areas, and not for France, Germany, Italy and Britain, whose foreign ministers rushed to Tehran after an agreement was reached in Vienna  in search of a stake in the Iranian cake.

Secondly, what was released in positions during the Third Forum of the exporting countries of natural gas, or what has become known as the (OPEC – gas) to emphasise on a point of significance posed by participating nations in this bloc at the level of energy policies. Iran, which participates in this economic regional meetings as an observer can now get full membership after the lifting of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council over its nuclear program. Iranian President Hassan Rohani has participated in the summits of the SCO and BRICS group, which were held in Russia in July.


          The Tehran summit between the Supreme Leader and the Russian President Putin on the 3rd of last November will represent a historic event with geopolitical implications for the region and the world. The Tehran meeting came in culmination of two very important events. Firstly, the Vienna agreement between Iran and the power (5 +1); which is considered a resounding success for Iran, and secondly, Russian military intervention in Syria; which came as a surprise to everyone and strengthened friendship as President Putin illustrates the strong man that can make tough decisions without the knowledge of Washington, and even not coordination with them.

          In face of these two major events, The United States appeared in front of public opinion in a state of retreat, confusion and loss of initiative on the international stage. US President Barack Obama also emerged in an appearance of a man impotent and hesitant in decision-making.

The same state applies to regional allies of the United States who have been unable to achieve any victory in all the crises that they have been involved in over the past years.

          On analysing this, that seems pessimistic, the region and the world is moving towards open confrontation at various levels, and that the Middle East will be a candidate for further conflict, in all the hot spots, whether indirectly between regional powers on their behalf or among major powers. Perhaps the incident of bombing down a Russian civil aircraft in the Sinai Peninsula and plane LCD Khoi bomber inside Syrian territory after twenty four hours of the Tehran summit one of the many indicators which calls for many to be concerned of the possibility of aggravation of the conflict in the Middle East that the Americans plan for gradual withdrawal and the trend towards South-East Asia and the Pacific. Among the Russian vision, which is based on the grounds that a serious threat to the national security of Russia stems from the Middle East; that twisted countries such as such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, which was has close ties with the former Soviet Union into headwaters of safe havens for terrorist organisations that continue to believe that the battle is not over with Russia in Afghanistan and that its chapters have already begun.