The US Department of Treasury last week hit Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company with economic sanctions because of its links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saidin a statement: “This action is a warning that we will continue to target holding groups and companies in the petrochemical sector and elsewhere that provide financial lifelines to the IRGC.”
Also last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping and issued a statementmaking it clear that both powers will be backing the Islamic Republic. “The parties emphasize the need to protect their mutually beneficial commercial and economic cooperation with Iran and firmly oppose the imposition of unilateral sanctions by any states under the pretense of their own national legislation,” it read.
Conventional wisdom dictates that Iran and Russia are natural allies. And, on the surface, it might appear that there is indeed some truth to this statement. First of all, both countries share a common interest in counterbalancing and scuttling US foreign policy in the region.
Russia’s ties with Tehran extend its regional influence and give it leverage that can be used to push the West and the US in particular to lift sanctions against Moscow. Since Iran’s 1979 revolution, improving ties with Tehran has been a major part of Moscow’s foreign policy, as it has been using Iran as a bargaining chip to reassert its global leadership. Iran’s revolution tipped the regional balance of power in favor of Russia, as it provided Moscow with critical strategic advantages over its superpower rival, the US. Prior to the revolution, Iran was one of the staunchest US Cold War allies in the Middle East, acting as an instrument for Washington against the spread of communism in the region. As a result, the Iranian revolution and the rise of the clerics was a significant strategic blow to the US, as it lost its former friend to the Soviet Union.
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