What Can Be Expected from Iran-Russia Cooperation after the UN Resolution Expires?

October 14, 2023
Kicking off October 18th, 2023, Russia will be able to "legally" buy missiles from Iran as Resolution 2231 on Iran Nuclear Issue expires.
Photo credit: Defense Express

UkraineWorld asked Ilya Kusa, Analyst at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future and expert on international politics in the Middle East. Key points in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis:

1. Will the UN resolution prohibiting the purchase of Iranian missiles be extended?

It is unlikely that the resolution will be extended, because, at the very least, Russia will block any possibility of an extension. Basically, the current makeup of the international system makes it practically impossible to ban a state from trading.

Even when the resolution was in force, Iran could have potentially traded its missile arsenal. But, it just chose not to do so, mainly owing to the threat of sanctions.

This resolution's only redeeming feature is the automatic international mechanism for imposing sanctions. All sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council have a global effect and are damaging.

If it is not extended, Iran will have no incentive to exercise restraint. However, this does not mean Iran will rush to sell its weapons.

2. Will Iran export ballistic missiles to Russia?

Tehran is considering what Russia can offer in exchange. As with the drones supplied by Iran in exchange for increased quotas on Iranian military product imports, significant concessions in customs policy, and military technology - Russia was supposed to sell Su-35s.

Some Iranian politicians are dissatisfied that they have not yet received the Su-35 and believe that Russia cannot provide any guarantees. And so, with this in mind, no final decision has been made in Tehran.

The second factor is Iran's relationship with the United States. Iran is interested in markets, investments, and the financial system of the US and EU.

Iran must develop, as it did in 2015, when sanctions were lifted and an agreement on the nuclear program was reached.

Russia is a situational partner for Iran and so, as the confrontation with Washington grows, Tehran moves closer to Russia.

Iran feels insulted that the US was the first to withdraw from the nuclear deal under the Trump administration. And they believe that if the United States was the first to leave an international agreement, it should be the first to make the step.

Currently, this initiative is not supported by either the Republicans or Democrats. Accordingly, Biden cannot push any agreement with Iran through Congress, because congressmen and senators will not vote in favor of it. Thus, they cannot make any promises to each other.

Last month, Iran and the US reached a verbal agreement in which Iran agreed to release political prisoners – 5 US citizens of Iranian descent – and limit uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons in exchange for the US unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian assets in South Korean banks and releasing 5 Iranians detained in the US on suspicion of espionage. These spot agreements are unlikely to be agreed in a broader context.

If the Republicans win the majority in the US next year, the possibility of any agreements with Iran will be even less likely, as the Republicans take an even tougher stance. And the likelihood of Iran transferring missiles to Russia as a means of weakening the US will increase.

3. What could Iran expect in return?

Russia has the ability to offer Iran loans and investments in oil and gas projects. Russia signed an agreement with Iran last year promising to invest $30 billion in gas infrastructure and modernization of Iran, but has yet to do so. Furthermore, Russia may make concessions to Iran in Syria.

Between the two countries, there is no mutual trust.

The Russian Empire once occupied a portion of northern Iran, which the latter remembers. Iran, like Russia, backs Syria's government of Bashar al-Assad. However, Russia trades with other external actors. They support opposing sides in Yemen's conflict: Russia supports Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, while Iran supports the Houthi rebels in the north.

Daria Synhaievska, Analyst at UkraineWorld

Ilya Kusa, Analyst at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future and expert on international politics in the Middle East