The latest intensification of the US-Russian dialogue has revived speculations that Moscow could use Iran as a bargaining chip in its relations with US President Donald Trump. The argument usually goes that Moscow could withdraw its political support for Tehran in exchange for the ease of American political and economic pressure on Russia itself. Yet these suggestions should be taken with a grain of salt.
Indeed, the May 15 visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Russia was — without exaggeration — welcomed by the Kremlin. After the report to the commission by special prosecutor Robert Mueller in March, the Russian authorities expected the communication channels with the United States to receive a new boost. Pompeo’s visit to Sochi was meant to set up a "businesslike approach," and in the meantime have Russians and Americans more inclined to make compromises. To achieve such compromises the two sides should have bargaining chips. Iran was thus seen by the US authorities as one of such “exchange assets” in the Kremlin’s arsenal.