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MOSCOW, November 24. /TASS/. Iran, which is about to get out of the web of international sanctions, may bring about a considerable change to the line-up of forces in the Middle East and the world over in general. Quite naturally, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to that key country in the region, the first one over the past eight years, is of strategic importance for enhancing the effectiveness of struggle against the terrorist Islamic State and for the future of Syria and the development of bilateral trading and economic relations, polled analysts have told TASS.
On the eve of his visit to Tehran Putin signed into law a decree cancelling all restrictions on Russia’s cooperation with Iran in compliance with the joint comprehensive action plan for the Iranian nuclear program. Iran’s ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanai has said that Moscow has begun the procedure of supplying to Iran its air defense missile systems S-300. Until just recently the two countries had disagreements over the issue.
After talks with Ayatollah Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran Putin said that Russia and Iran were determined to enhance cooperation within the framework of the international group for Syria and in the struggle against terrorism. Putin also said that both countries would be stepping up industrial cooperation. Russia will be prepared to issue a $5-billion government export loan. A total of 35 priority projects have been selected in energy, construction, sea port terminals and railways. Russia will help Iran reconfigure its nuclear facilities to manufacturing products for research purposes.
Senior research fellow Vladimir Akhmetov, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that coordination of efforts in the struggle with the Islamic State was the focal point of Putin’s talks with the Iranian leadership.
"Strikes by Russia’s air group against Islamic State positions and operations by the Syrian government army and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have not yet changed the balance of force between the terrorists and Damascus in favor of the legitimate Syrian authorities yet. Positional warfare is in progress at the moment, and neither party to the conflict has achieved a decisive breakthrough. The talks in Tehran surely concerned the need for stepping up the ground offensive against militant positions by the Syrian army and the Iranian commandoes with active support from the Russian air and space group," Akhmetov told TASS.
Although Moscow and Tehran are unanimous the future of Syria’s President Bashar Assad and the country’s political future is to be decided by the Syrian people without any outside pressures, some latent disagreements remain," Akhmetov believes. "The Iranian army professes Shi’ite Islam. At a certain stage the question will arise whether the Islamic Revolutionary Guards will agree to support a secular regime in Syria," Akhmetov said.
He believes the worst problem of Syria’s government army is until just recently it saw its main task not in protecting the nation’s borders, but in support for internal security and in staying loyal to Bashar Assad. "It is important to breathe a new life into Syria’s political institutions and to create civilian bodies of power. But there is a big question mark over whether the Syrian and Iranian armies will agree with the need for such political reform," Akhmetov said.
In order to enhance the effectiveness of joint operations by Russia and Iran against the Islamic State Moscow is keen to encourage Tehran by supplying its S-300 air defense systems, issuing an export loan and launching joint projects in energy and construction.
Akhmetov does not rule out that Iran in the near future may try to increase its oil quota on the world market of fossil fuels, which will push oil prices down, thereby harming the interests of Russia and other oil-producing countries. "It is not accidental that the United States has prolonged its 30-year-long anti-Iranian sanctions, including the freeze of all Iranian assets in the US banks and their foreign divisions, outlawed export from the US to Iran and embargoed the import of any goods from Iran to the United States," Akhmetov said.
Russia’s leading expert on oriental affairs, leading research fellow at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, Georgy Mirsky, has told TASS that the countries competing on the world market of hydrocarbons might cooperate successfully along strategic lines. "Surely it would be utterly wrong to prohibit Tehran from resuming oil export after the nuclear program-induced sanctions have been lifted," Mirsky said.
"As for Syria’s political future, Iran, where Shi’ite Muslims are in the majority, believes that only a state run by theologians is the right type of state. But at the same time Tehran maintains constructive relations with many countries that have secular authorities. Iran’s cooperation with Russia, including interaction in the struggle with terrorism and in the energy sphere is a bright example," Mirsky said.
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