Russia May Obstruct the Nuclear Deal with Iran

March 10 2022

On Tuesday, President Biden announced a ban on “all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy” in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Biden acknowledged that the ban is almost certain to drive up gas prices even further than they have risen in recent weeks, but blamed Moscow’s aggression for the harsh countermeasure. In response, the Kremlin has made forceful demands in the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, insisting that any trade with Iran be exempt from sanctions recently imposed upon Russia. Patrick Wintour reports:

The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov cited the “avalanche of aggressive sanctions [on Russia] that the West has started spewing out.” He went on: “We request that our U.S. colleagues . . . give us written guarantees at the minimum level of the secretary of state that the current [sanctions] process launched by the U.S. will not in any way harm our right to free, fully fledged trade and economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with Iran.”

The West is almost certain to reject [Lavrov’s] demand since it would open a huge loophole in the sanctions regime. It would then be up to Moscow whether to veto the nuclear deal altogether.

Russia also has a short-term strategic interest in scuppering or postponing the deal. Iran produces more than two million barrels of oil a day, and if these supplies were able to reach the markets, the upward surge in prices would be slowed. Russia, a large-scale oil producer, wants to drive the oil price up to turn the screw on Western economies but also to boost its own revenues.

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Read more at Guardian

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, War in Ukraine

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine