In Tehran, concern is growing that tensions between Western capitals and Moscow over the showdown in Ukraine could undermine progress on resolving Iran's own standoff with the West over its nuclear program.
Several political observers worried about the possible weakening of Russian influence should it face sanctions or diplomatic isolation concerning in response to its challenging of the new Ukrainian government, and given its ostensible support for Iran in the diplomatic arena.
Tehran University lecturer Sadeq Zibakalam said that confrontation between Russia and the West would not benefit Iran since "Russia's position is weakening," and presumably, it could lose its ability to thwart Western pressures on Iran.
Nevertheless in comments published by the reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd, Zibakalam described the recent protests "boosting democracy" there as "very positive." He apologized to Ukrainians for official media's coverage of events with a distinct bias in favor of Russia, and deplored how "certain media" in Iran "take the Russians' side in every issue."
The daily cited a former reformist parliamentarian, Ahmad Shirzad, as saying "we shouldn't imagine all popular protests to be the result of Western maneuvering."
Commentators oberved that the issue was "big enough" to impact Iran's own talks with the West. Specialist Hassan Hanizadeh said that in any confrontation with the West, the Russians "will definitely use Iran's potential and move closer to Iran," and "stand up to America" in the context of the nuclear dossier. Still, in the short term, pressures on Iran would decrease while tensions in Ukraine remain high.
Former parliamentarian Shirzad said Iran may win "greater room to maneuver" on the nuclear dossier, but this should not be overestimated. Not for the first time, his comments showed one of the divisions existing among Iranian politicians, in this case in their attitude to Russia: Hardliners tend to favor Russia.
Shirzad cautioned against trusting Russia, saying it might "appear to move toward us" to "strike at America," but could later "come to an agreement" with the West just when Iran needed its backing.
"We have to be vigilant and make sure we do not become an instrument in the settling of accounts between them," he said. Iran needed "serious planning" he said, to duly exploit divisions between the world's major powers.
Another former legislator, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, also cautioned that the Russians had so far "played too much" in favor of Western interests when it came to Iran's nuclear program.
Separately, Russia's Deputy Prime-Minister Dmitry Rogozin stressed the importance of ties and continued collaborations with Iran, in a meeting Wednesday with Iran's ambassador in Moscow, Mehdi Sanayi. Rogozin deplored the "negative role of certain powers in raising tensions" in Ukraine and Afghanistan, and urged "vigilance against Western plots," the semi-official ISNA agency reported.
— Ahmad Shayegan
Photo: Iranian and Russian presidents meeting last September — Source: Kremlin.ru