The Trilateral Summit in Tehran between Iran, Russia, and Türkiye left many questioning the credibility of the meeting and its underscored agendas for the region and the globe.
Although the summit was a part of the 2017 Astana Format among Iran, Türkiye, and Russia for the peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis, many have seen this meeting as a parallel effort against US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East.
Yevgeny G. Popov, a member of the Russian Parliament while commenting on the event, called the alliance ‘Axis of Good’ against the term proposed by US President George Bush i.e. ‘Axis of Evil’ in 2001.
It is perceived that the exchange of warm greetings between the three leaders is a strong impression on the West. Two heavily sanctioned states making alliances with an influential regional state is equivalent to using the Queen to break the stalemate in the game of chess.
Russia used the meeting to symbolize that its conflict with Ukraine has not been isolated. Moscow and Russia still hold grounds for dialogues and agreements in the Middle East. It was primarily a power show for Russia, but it had many secondary interests regarding its sanctioned oil market and wheat trade.
Russia being cut off from Western markets has tried to bring Iran; another sanctioned but major oil producer, into an economic partnership. After invading Ukraine, Russia has been trying to get as many partners in its basket as possible.
This summit was the follow-up of ‘The Caspian Littoral states Summit’ held in Turkmenistan, where Russia tried to cement support from Caspian states.
Russia wants to convey the message that it can be sanctioned but not ignored. It is still a major player both in the West and East. Moreover, this also presented that Russia still holds ground in the resolution of key international issues i.e. either the global food crisis or Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran however, a country already struggling with a sanctioned economy, and facing an economic meltdown due to the Ukraine conflict, has tried to earn big from this meeting.
Iran welcomed Russia with a warm endorsement of war in Ukraine, stating that if Russia had not used the opportunity to attack Ukraine and counter expanding NATO influence, the opponent would have initiated it first.
Iran’s supreme leader offered his staunch support Tuesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country’s war in Ukraine. https://t.co/29GkZFZhv9
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 20, 2022
Iran is trying to capitalize as much as possible on Moscow’s tilt toward Tehran. The foremost need that Iran needs from Russia is Wheat-the critical economic lifeline, to uphold the Islamic regime.
Like many other countries of the world, Iran is also facing wheat shortages hence a rise in the cost of living. Hence, by getting closer to Russia by sharing encouraging remarks, Iran has tried to fit into Russia’s friends’ list only with whom it has announced to share its Wheat.
Notably, Russia signed a worth $40 billion investment in Iran’s energy sector. Gazprom and Tehran signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop Iran’s North Pars Gas Field.
Moreover, Iran has rejected to cap its nuclear program and accept IAEA protocols until the JCPOA Nuclear Deal is revived. This has provided Iran with sufficient time to gallop ahead with its nuclear program.
Moreover, ex-FM Kharrazi claimed, “We have technical abilities to make an atomic bomb.”pic.twitter.com/HkoUUWhiMY
— Iran News Update (@IranNewsUpdate1) July 18, 2022
Joe Biden’s visit to Israel where it ensured joint efforts against Iran’s nuclear pursuit and solidified the anti-Iran regional block by bringing in Saudi Arabia as well, Iran is trying to get one of the P5 at its back.
If the Nuclear Deal finally dies, Iran still wants to be on Russia’s good side so that Moscow will veto any new actions against Tehran by the United Nations Security Council.
Skilful Turkish moves
Unlike Iran, Türkiye is making diplomatic moves to pursue an open foreign policy giving it leverage with both Moscow and Washington. Being a NATO ally it chose to sell weapons and drones to Ukraine and recently allowed the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO. However, it does not want to isolate Russia and Iran, the two big oil and gas-rich countries.
By shaking hands with Putin, Turkiye has conveyed the message not just to the United States but also to Russia as well that the country has its independent foreign policy and will play a role of a moderator and balancer in this entire political wrangling.
Moreover, Turkiye being a supporter of the Anti-Assad regime and planning a military offensive in Northern Syria against Syrian Kurds oppose Iranian interests in Syria.
However, by making a $30 billion deal with Iran’s energy and trade sectors in this meeting, Turkiye has demanded its share from this summit i.e. no unnecessary confrontation from Iran and Russia during its military incursion in Syria.
According to the official statement from Moscow, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Putin in August at the Russian resort city of Sochi along the Black Sea.
Ironically, a meeting to resolve the Syrian Crisis did not address any Syrian issue, leaving the format largely defunct. Rather it served as a platform for a new alliance, serving old interests. It also posed many questions on the ‘goodness’ of this Axis of Good as well.
Despite having contradicted interests in the region and all three states being involved in clashing alliances, this triad has been perceived as strong enough to eye the US-led global status-quo.
The Ukraine conflict has not just smacked the delusion that war is not inevitable any more but also shattered the post-cold war western global order. As new patterns of the multipolar world are emerging, this alliance of the Axis of Good can be expected to yield the best interests.
This alliance is also foreshadowing some grave regional consequences. Other than Ukraine, another conflict is looming i.e. Turkish military excursion in Northern Syria for securing its borders against Kurds. This can have domino effects along Syrian borders i.e. Iraq and Lebanon.
Other than that, an uncapped Iranian nuclear program poses a great security dilemma for Saudi Arabia and Israel, which can lead to massive weaponization of the Middle East. This can also encourage Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels, who further sponsor Palestinian liberation forces against Israel.
These forthcoming conflicts possess a great capability to force the White House to revise its policies against Russia because still recovering from the Afghan dilemma, the United States would not be able to cater to the war on two fronts.
*The writer is a student at the Department of International Relations, Kinnaird College Lahore.
*The views expressed and research done in this article are the writer’s of and do not necessarily reflect the position of the staff or The Diplomatic Insight Magazine.