In its steps to mark Army Day this month, Iran paraded the anti-aircraft missile launchers sent by Moscow.
Tehran got a reason to celebrate: the Kremlin’s decision a year ago to press ahead with the stalled sale of the S-300 system was the first clear evidence of a growing partnership between Russia and Iran that has since turned the tide in Syria’s civil war and is testing U.S. influence in the Middle East.
But implementation of this deal has delayed and this points to a limited Russia – Iran alliance that is born out of interests being converged. Iran is divided due to ideology while Russia is probably reluctant so that the collision can develop further.
Some Iran officials are after a deeper relationship than it is now. But due to the Syrian Conflict, Kremlin may settle for an ongoing cooperation.
“We are continuously developing friendly relations with Iran, but we cannot really talk about a new paradigm in our relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last month.
In the year 2007, Russia accepted to sell to Iran the S-300 system after the Tehran sanctions due to its nuclear program.
In 2015, Moscow lifted the self-imposed ban as Iran and world powers approached a deal that would eventually cause the nuclear related sanctions to be lifted for which Tehran was required to curb its atomic program.
Russia now has to gauge the financial and diplomatic gains and the possibly of making other countries such as the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia upset. It has to weigh all these against making Iran more powerful.
“There is a military-economic aspect to this alliance which is beneficial to both sides,” said Maziar Behrooz, associate professor of Mideast and Islamic history at San Francisco State University, who has studied Iran’s relationship with Russia.
“But on a geopolitical level, Iran and Russia can only form a tactical short-term alliance, not a strategic one. I think the ideological differences between the two are just too deep.”
Ever since the Cold War, Russia first intervened into the Middle East through numerous secret meetings in Moscow between Iran officials and Putin.
Russia suit Iran’s most powerful figure, Khamenei, to implement the “Look Easrt” policy.
But this policy is against that of Iran’s government that Rouhani leads. The country has courted Western delegates as often as they can in a week ever since the implementation of the nuclear deal by the world powers.
Rouhani has Western education and he inclines less toward Russia while his relationship with Putin remains uneasy.
“Rouhani and Putin don’t get along that great,” an Iranian diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Russia is holding talks so as to facilitate the upgrading of Iran’s dilapidated air force. It intends to sell Sukhoi Su- 30 fighter jets but such a deal requires an approval from the UN Security Council. There is also the possibilty of the deal straining how Moscow relates with Saudi Arabia, Israel and US.