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Russia & China Stand up for Iran Against Trump

They certainly won't be joining any new sanctions, to the contrary

The remarks on Monday by the presidential spokesman in the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov as well as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underscored that Moscow has a perspective on Iran that is diametrically opposite to President Donald Trump or his senior officials.

Referring to Trump’s description of Iran as the ‘number one terrorist state’, Peskov underlined that any improvement of relations between Russia and the US will be rooted in the reality that the two countries are poles apart on many issues and Iran is one of them:

We do not agree with the definition (by Trump). All of you know that Russia enjoys warm relations with Iran, we do cooperate on a range of issues, and we do appreciate our economic ties which, we hope, will go further. It’s no secret for anyone that Moscow and Washington hold diametrically-opposed views on many international and regional policy issues. Meanwhile, it can’t be and should not be an obstacle when it comes to forging normal communication and pragmatic mutually-beneficial relations between Russia and the US.

Lavrov lauded Iran’s role in the fight against terrorist groups: “Iran has never been complicit in any links to IS or Al-Nusra Front whatsoever. Moreover, Iran contributes to combatting IS. We have long advocated the idea of creating a unified anti-terrorist front. I am convinced that Iran must be part of our common effort if we evaluate potential contributors to such an alliance objectively.”

Indeed, Moscow will also closely monitor Trump’s foreign policy agenda on the whole. Following up on some strong condemnation of Russia by the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for the latest spurt of violence in eastern Ukraine, Trump telephoned President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev on Saturday and since also discussed Ukraine with NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday. The White House readouts (here and here) were carefully worded, but the NATO readout (here) mentioned that relations with Russia figured in Stoltenberg’s conversation.

Interestingly, at a press conference in Moscow on Sunday, Lavrov also spelt out that Russia’s expectations from Trump administration are rooted in realism:

We are willing to traverse our part of the road towards improving relations with the United States… At the same time, we understand that it will take serious efforts by both parties to make good the serious damage done to our bilateral relations… It would be premature to talk about the kind of relations we might have with the Republican administration. We need to wait… to make long-term conclusions… effective cooperation between Russia and the United States is possible, but only based on mutual respect for each other and each other’s interests.

Clearly, it is not as if the Kremlin sentries no longer bother to lock the main gates at the Spasskaya, Borovitskaya, Troitskaya and Nikolskaya towers.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry has voiced opposition to Trump’s sanctions against Iran. A Xinhua commentary also noted that Trump administration’s “unchecked diplomatic adventurism and unconstructive antagonism” toward Iran presage “an era of aggressiveness by the new U.S. top leader on foreign policies.” Moscow’s assessment cannot be very different from China’s regarding the erratic behaviour of the Trump administration.

All in all, even a good friend of Israel like David Ignatius of Washington Post admits that “he (Trump) has begun this confrontation without much preparation or strategic planning… Iran is a convenient enemy for Trump. Israel and the Gulf Arab states share the administration’s antipathy toward Iran.” Ignatius warns about the dangers:

The U.S. Central Command has thousands of troops in Iraq and the Gulf that could be vulnerable to Iranian reprisals… Iran is a hardened adversary… Any confrontation has to take into account Iran’s strong position in Syria and Iraq, and its ability to thwart Trump’s pledge to eradicate the Islamic State … Iran holds some choke points. Its strongest leverage is in Iraq… Iranians can mobilize thousands of Iraqi Shiite militiamen across Iraq. US advisers are vulnerable to attack by these Iran-backed militias, as happened a decade ago.

Iran is among the toughest foreign policy challenges Trump will face, and he should be careful to avoid ill-planned early actions that would make it his Bay of Pigs.

That’s a pretty stark warning, but eminently reasonable. In a speech in Tehran on Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani probably implied much the same thing in an involved Persian way when he pointed out that the “paradigm of negotiations” over the Iran nuclear deal “provided a model for the Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan”.

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