Although Iran had declared a pro-East policy in 2018, its reliance, particularly on Russia became more evident during a visit by Vladimir Putin on July 20.

Following the visit, which Washington said "proves Moscow's isolation," and some Iranian analysts characterized as an indication of Iran's isolation, reformist daily Arman Emrooz in Tehran summarized both sides' arguments in a Saturday, July 23 report that called Iran's move an unwelcome development.

Nonetheless, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s supporters have exhibited endless fascination with Russia and Putin's charm offensive during his latest visit.

The Supreme Leader's senior international affairs adviser Ali Akbar Velayati, who was dozing off while Khamenei and Putin were talking through interpreters, has said: "What do reason and wisdom tell us? Should we go toward the West that has always been our enemy? Or should we go toward the East that has always helped us as much as it could?"

Velayati claimed elsewhere: "Putin believes in spirituality. Previous Kremlin leaders were Godless, but now from Putin to lower officials are either Christian or Muslim."

As if this was not enough, Assembly of Expert member Ahmad Hossini Khorasani said: "Putin's modest gestures in front of Khamenei was like a pupil's sitting in front of his teacher, and that is an honor for Islamic Iran."

International relations expert Ali Bigdeli, however, told Arman Emrooz that that Iran's reliance on the East is a strategic mistake and certainly against Iran's national interests. However, he noted that anti-Americanism has always been part of Tehran's policy since the 1979 revolution, but the government of President Ebrahim Raisi has escalated the anti-US policy.

Iranian analyst Ali Bigdeli. Undated

Further evidence of Bigdeli’s criticism emerged Sunday when two hardliner media outlets called for “pre-emptive” defense against the West and in support of Russia in the Ukraine war.

Referring to Russia's track record of broken promises and hypocrisy in its relations with Iran before and after the 1917 Russian revolution, Bigdeli said that Iran should have taken a lesson from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Bigdeli warned that Russia is not capable of meeting Iran's economic needs and noted that Moscow has already failed to fulfil its commitments in nuclear, air defense projects and other projects. Bigdlei said that the latest visit by Putin simply showed that he was isolated in the world following the invasion of Ukraine and was pretending that he has found a major ally in Tehran.

He warned that Iran should not land in Russia's lap as a result of its enmity with the West. He noted that Iran currently needs $200 billion to reconstruct its oil industry but Russia and even China are incapable of providing funding for that project.

International relations expert Hassan Hanizadeh told the daily that "Iran's ‘Looking East’ policy was a choice between bad and worse." However, he justified the move as "an outcome of broken promises on the part of the United States" and said that "Iran started to seriously align its policy with those of Moscow only after former US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018."

"As the Vienna talks ended in a deadlock, the current government of Iran is now keener to follow the Looking East policy as US sanctions badly affect the country's economy, and the West's broken promises have pushed Iran to get closer to Russia and China," Hanizadeh said.

Ultraconservative analyst Foad Izadi on the other hand argued that getting close to Russia can serve Iran's major national interests. He said pro-Western analysts describe the current situation as Iran's reliance on Russia and China, but he claimed Iran is simply maintaining relations with them and is not building reliance.

However, Izadi warned that Iran should not get itself entangled in dichotomies such as choosing between reviving the JCPOA or relying on Russia.

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