Explainer: Iran cozies up with Russia, but cracks down on its own.


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DUBAI – Iran is being backed into a corner and increasing its uranium enrichment. It also clamps down on dissent. The West is challenging the US and Europe by strengthening its ties with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin heads to Tehran next week to meet with Iran’s leader — his second trip abroad since sending troops into Ukraine. Surprise announcement was made a day after White House stated that Tehran had prepared to send armed drones from Iran to Russia to be used in Ukraine. Joe BidenGoing to Israel or Saudi Arabia.
Tehran is seeking to demonstrate that it can do better than being cut off from the international banking system by Western sanctions. Talks to revive 2015’s nuclear deal are deadlock. This agreement, which allowed Iran to relax sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, is now in ruins.
With the Islamic Republic’s economy shrinking and its people suffering, pressures are growing on it. There is no relief.
Here’s a look at Iran’s challenges and what they mean for the rest of the world.
A nuclear crisis is brewing
Former US President Donald TrumpWashington withdrew from the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers in 2018. They also sought to squeeze Iran economically, until it returned to negotiations. Defiant Iran resumed prohibited nuclear work.
Biden entered office promising to restore the agreement. Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric, became Iran’s leader and the nuclear talks fell apart.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog group, reports that Iran now has 43 kilograms (over 94 1/2 pounds) of uranium enriched to 60% — a short step from weapons-grade levels. This is enough fissile material to make a weapon if Iran chooses to pursue it. Iran would still have to develop a bomb or a delivery system. This would take many months. Tehran is currently spinning more advanced centrifuges, and has decommissioned over twenty-four IAEA cameras to monitor its progress.
Iran insists that its program is only for peaceful purposes. Experts from the U.N. and Western intelligence agencies claim that Iran had an organized nuclear program throughout 2003.
Experts claim that Tehran sees a better future without the nuclear agreement (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA), setting the stage for a potential crisis.
Ali Vaez (International Crisis Group’s Iran project Director) stated, “The Iranians have reached the conclusion that JCPOA is not longer serving their interests.” Iran cannot promise that the US won’t withdraw from the pact and impose sanctions if it is elected president in 2025.
Vaez said, “That is a political risk that no one wants to take.”
The stakes go beyond Iran. Israel, Iran’s archrival, is the only nuclear power in the region and has threatened military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
John Krzyzaniak (an Iranian proliferation expert at The Wisconsin Project), said that Iran could enrich to 90%. However, that would be a dramatic escalation and that would trigger a (military). reaction. He was referring to weapons grade enrichment levels.
Iran’s growing crackdown
Some believed that Iran’s 40 year-old revolution could be overthrown by a 50% increase in fuel prices. The country’s security forces responded violently to protests nationwide.
Iran is still under severe sanctions nearly three years later. The inflation has shot up, consuming workers’ wages. The Iranian currency has plummeted, wiping out savings. The government cut subsidies for food staples, sparking public outrage. A 10-story building collapsed in Iran’s southwest, killing at most 41 people, and exposing corruption.
Authorities have arrested protestors who were upset about high prices, teachers union activists, well-known filmmakers, and a prominent reformist politician to stop unrest.
Two of the dissident filmmakers detained had allegedly supported demonstrations against building collapse.
Faced with pressure from Iran’s failure to fulfill its commitments to sanctions relief, “the system is directly signaling the Iranian people they are not going to tolerate any dissent,” Sanam Vakil, Chatham House deputy director of Middle East and North Africa Program said.
That message has gained momentum as a kind of shadow war between Israel and Iran moves into the open — on the high seas and on Tehran’s streets.
Vakil stated that “Ordinary Iranians lobbying to improve rights are going be more persecuted as the crackdown is now for the sake of national security.”
Russia: Alliance
Moscow regards Tehran as a key partner, and potential source of arms, despite the Western economic backlash for its actions in Ukraine. In the midst of increasing diplomatic isolation, Iran has found more common ground with Russia. This includes a shared adversary in Washington.
Biden is visiting the Middle East this week — first to Israel, Iran’s biggest foe, and then to Saudi Arabia, another Tehran rival — and it was no coincidence the White House said Iran was preparing to provide Russia with drones and training just days before the trip.
Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser said, “We believe that this is of value, to put it mildly,”
Interfax, citing a Russian Foreign Ministry source said that drone deliveries were “disinformation” to “further encourage anti-Iranian sentiments within the Arab states.”
Biden’s trip has as its goal encouraging Arab nations strengthen security alliances based on their shared fear about Iran.
Yoel Guzansky (a senior fellow at Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv) said that “we see the emergence two opposite blocs.” “The US is trying the Arab world to unite with Russia, Iran and possibly China.”
Moscow and Tehran have intensified military coordination since they joined forces in support of the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government during the civil war.
Krzyzaniak stated that Iran’s drone capabilities are a potential asset for Russia. According to Western officials, U.N. experts and others, some Iranian aircraft are modeled after US military drone designs.
However, the Iran-Russia relationship has its share of friction.
Their former empires were centuries-old rivals, and Russia’s occupation of Iran during World War II — and its refusal to leave afterward — bred decades of distrust.
These old differences are being reinterpreted in new ways. Experts say that sanctions on Russian oil are now less expensive than Iranian crude oil and that it is affecting Tehran’s share in the vital Chinese market. This is causing Tehran to reduce its prices.
Another difference is Putin’s friendly ties to Israel. The Kremlin has made deals in Syria as part of a delicate balance act. For example, in 2018, Moscow requested that Tehran keep its fighters from the Golan Heights in order to address Israeli concerns.
However, with the pressure mounting on both countries their bond seems certain to grow.
Russia considers Iran a resource of knowledge on how to avoid sanctions and gain access to the world’s dark markets. According to Saeed, a Tehran-based political analysts, bilateral trade is booming. Russia has increased its Iranian produce imports and seeks trade routes with India.
Vaez of the International Crisis Group stated that Iran’s foreign policy is determined based on the system’s best interests for survival.


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