As Russo-Iranian efforts to find a solution to the Syrian crisis unfolds, Moscow is looking south toward Tehran to create an old and rejuvenated alliance in order to give their mutual ally, President Bashar al-Assad, a way out. Russia and Iran’s partnership is based on a “tough rejection of the so-called Yemeni plan” for transferring power. Russia will brief Iranian officials on the details of an “agreement that the Russians are working on with the Americans” to find a way out of the current situation “without abandoning Assad,” while at the same time helping him overcome the crisis. This would bolster both Syria and Iran’s positions in upcoming negotiations with the “P5+1” group in Moscow, which will address Iran’s nuclear program as a reflection of its growing regional importance in the local and international spheres.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to arrive in Tehran on Wednesday to discuss ways of dealing with “the situation in the Middle East and North Africa” while also “focusing on the ongoing transformations in the Arab world and in Syria,” according to a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
An Iranian source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the visit would entail a “discussion of regional matters of common interest between Iran and Russia, including the Syrian situation.”
Another source in Tehran told As-Safir that the primary goal of Lavrov’s visit “focuses primarily on the Syrian problem. Iran’s nuclear issues are secondary.”
The same source said that “Lavrov will tell Iranians that Russia refuses to abandon Assad; that they will support him until the end. In return, Lavrov will ask Iran to support his country’s efforts to hold an international conference on Syria. Furthermore, Lavrov will discuss a proposal that [Russian] President Vladimir Putin will also present to US President Barack Obama in their upcoming meeting for reaching an acceptable solution to the Syrian crisis.”
A source close to the leadership in Tehran revealed to As-Safir that Saeed Jalili, secretary-general of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, “asked, during his latest visit to St. Petersburg, that his Russian counterparts remain supportive of President Assad and that they reject any solution or proposal to the crisis that resembles the Yemeni model.” The same source clarified that Jalili asked Moscow “to be tougher on this issue, since some Russian officials have approached it with a degree of leniency.”
Russia proposed holding an international conference on Syria aimed at salvaging UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s plan to solve the Syrian crisis. Meanwhile, Lavrov insisted that “Iran participate in the conference, despite the reservations expressed by Washington and Paris.” Observers here mention that “these capitals may overcome their reservations against Tehran’s participation in order to secure Turkey and Qatar’s participation.”
During his visit, Lavrov is also expected to discuss the negotiations — which will be held in Moscow — between Iran and the “P5+1” countries on June 18 and 19.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed hope that “all sides, including Iran, will hold fruitful negotiations that may result in positive outcomes and will overcome differences.” The ministry stated that it is unrealistic to expect “all parties to agree on Iran’s nuclear issue at the upcoming meeting” in Moscow, but it still believes that “negotiations must continue beyond the next scheduled round.”
The Ministry added that Russia’s proposal — also known as “Step-by-Step” — is premised on “Tehran’s acquiescence to some demands. In return, the “P5+1” group would also implement some measures.” This is what “Moscow hopes to discuss in detail” during the meeting.
The Ministry’s statement also affirmed that “Lavrov’s Wednesday visit to Tehran will serve as preparation for the upcoming meeting between EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Saeed Jalili, and the Foreign Ministry representatives of the “P5+1” countries.”
Iranian sources said that “[the start of US Treasury Department economic sanctions] was fast approaching, while world oil prices were dropping and Saudi Arabia was boosting its oil production” in order to compensate for the lack of Iranian oil. Furthermore, “US pressure on Tehran’s clients ‘to reduce their reliance on Iranian oil’ has caused Westerners to ‘believe that Iran is in a precarious position,’ and that ‘if it did not agree to concessions during the Moscow negotiations, then the enhanced sanctions — which include boycotting the central bank and banning oil exports — would be effective.’” This could “change the course of the negotiations to be in the West’s favor, and it could bolster Western hopes that Tehran will make significant concessions.”
An Iranian source told As-Safir that “the West is trying to prevent Iran from achieving a win-win situation by negotiating. It is also trying to prevent it benefiting from the fact that its Russian friends are hosting the meeting, which could strengthen its regional and international standing.”
The same source said that statements made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the positions espoused by Catherine Ashton’s team indicate that “Western parties are re-evaluating the approach that they used during the Istanbul and Baghdad negotiations in order to change the course and modify the results” that both Iranian and international sides can claim as gains.
Suspicion of the West drove Kazem Jalali, a member of the Iranian Shura Council’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee to affirm that the talks “in Moscow will be a test-run for the West’s intentions and seriousness in achieving results through negotiations.”
Jalali added, “Experience has shown that the West seldom abides by the results of negotiations,” pointing out that Western countries have obstructed negotiations and that they “ignored Brazil and Turkey’s mediation on providing nuclear fuel” to Iran for medical and scientific purposes.
According to Jalali, this causes Iran to “distrust the West and its strenuous negotiations, as well as its commitment to the content and results of such negotiations.”
The Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Tehran comes one week after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of a regional summit in Beijing, where Putin affirmed Iran’s right to have a peaceful nuclear program.”