Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Moscow, Russia December 7, 2023.

Iranian Lawmaker Urges Review Of Ties With Russia

Monday, 12/25/2023

Reactions in Tehran to Moscow's support for Arab claims over three Iranian islands continue, with a lawmaker suggesting that Russia prefers Iran to remain isolated in the world.

Referring to the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa in the Persian Gulf, MP Ahmad Avaei, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said President Ebrahim Raisi's reaction to Russia is weak. “It is surprising that Iran does not exhibit a strong reaction to Russia's actions," he said.

Avaei demanded a serious review of Iran's foreign policy and a more thorough examination of the possible damages inflicted by such political maneuvers by Russia.

Meanwhile, former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated during a gathering that it is natural for Russia to act according to its own interests. "If we offered excessive concessions to Russia with the wrong mindset, we should not expect similar behavior from Moscow," he said.

In spite of Iran and Russian getting ever closer since the Ukraine war, Avaei said Iran could not expect loyalty from Russia, which has historically been a fair-weather ally, from the Iran-Iraq war when it sided with Iraq to the latest dispute. “The Russians have always been the way they are, and one should not think that they have changed," he said. "They feel that this move contributes to their income, given Russia's strong interest in petrodollars, surpassing even their interest in dealings with Iran."

Lawmaker Ahmad Avaei

The issue is a recurring controversy in Iran as Russia endorses the UAE’s claim whenever there is a joint summit between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Russian Federation within a framework called the Russian-Arab Cooperation. Like all previous meetings, Moscow and the GCC issued a joint declaration in Morocco last week, reaffirming support for the United Arab Emirates which claims sovereignty over the islands.

The declaration has dozens of articles, most of which are merely repeated from one event to the other, calling for "bilateral negotiations or the International Court of Justice, in accordance with the rules of international law and the United Nations Charter, to resolve this issue in accordance with international legitimacy". 

Iranian media, opposition activists and ordinary Iranians usually view the regime’s reactions as not strong enough. On Friday, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian held a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, who reportedly reassured Iran that "The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been respected by Russia and Moscow's official policy in this regard should never be doubted."

A plenary meeting of the 6th session of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, Marrakesh, Morocco, December 20, 2023

The three Persian Gulf islands have historically been part of Iran, proof of which can be corroborated by historical and geographical documents. However, the United Arab Emirates has repeatedly laid claim to the islands, describing the situation as “the continued occupation by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The three islands fell under British control in 1921 but on November 30, 1971, a day after British forces left the region and just two days before the UAE was to become an official federation, Mohammad Reza Shah sent the Iranian navy to secure all three. Iranian forces remain on the islands, with only Abu Musa having a civilian population which is less than two thousand.

During the past few years, each time Russia declares its alignment with the Arab states, the domestic political scene in Iran is abuzz with comments about how Moscow exploits its ties with Tehran. 

Avaei also pointed to Iran's economic interests in relation to Russia and said that the relationship with Moscow not only does not have economic benefits for Tehran but also harms Iran because Russia sells goods at a higher price to Iran."

The lawmaker also referred to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, saying that Russia is not aiming for the resolution of issues or the enhancement of Iran's global relations. “Russians prefer an isolated Iran that only has ties with them,” Avaei underlined. 

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