Iran is moving a step closer to Russia and China as nuclear talks falter

Tehran has hailed it as a successful entry into a “new stage of economic cooperation”, as hopes for imminent accession to revive the 2015 nuclear deal are dimming, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has polarized the world. Not seen since the Cold War.

Formed in 2001, the Asian bloc accounts for almost a third of the world’s economy. It includes the former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and more recently India and Pakistan. Iran has been an observer state since 2005.

Although Iran’s bid for full membership was accepted last year, Wednesday’s decision comes at an awkward time, as both Iran and Western leaders had hoped there would be an agreement to revive the nuclear deal by then, said Trita Parsi, the vice president. Quincy Institute in Washington, DC.

“Iran has managed to start coming out of its isolation,” Parsi told CNN, noting that as the world becomes more multipolar, the West is now losing a key card it has used to pressure Iran for a long time, namely the role of the United States. “gatekeeper of the world economy”.

Western sanctions have been a major pressure point to draw Tehran to the negotiating table, some of which should have been lifted if the nuclear deal had been revived. The talks, however, have again stalled and analysts say both Iran and the West are preparing for a no-deal scenario.

While little material relief will come from SCO membership, Iran may use the optics of Wednesday’s signing to show the world it is not alone, said Alex Vatanka, director of the Middle East Institute’s Iran Program.

“The symbolic aspect is undeniable”, he said, but in practice, it means very little for Iran in the short term.

On the sidelines of the summit held in the city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Thursday and Friday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“In the short term, [Ebrahim] Raisi will get another smile from Vladimir Putin and extend his hand,” said Vatanka. “But in economic terms it means nothing.”

The alliance thus appears to be mostly political, especially as Russia and China move away from the West and closer to the Middle East.

“Iran interprets its membership to reduce US regional influence and aggression within the framework of its regional security agenda,” said Fardin Eftekhari, an expert on Iranian national security and foreign policy, noting that the SCO should not be compared to Western security blocs. NATO, especially because of “the diversity of its members and its sustainable agenda”.

Thus, Tehran is “testing a new model of multilateral security relations within the SCO”, he added.

Some attribute Iran’s growing alignment with Russia and China to the US’s failure to leverage its influence as effectively as it could.

A majority of UN Security Council states opposed the use of sanctions as a strategy to discipline Iran in 2020. Many states feared it would only drive Tehran into the arms of Russia and China, Parsi said.

But with former US President Donald Trump withdrawing from the deal in 2018 and launching a “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, the Persian Gulf state began looking for new alliances.

In June, Iran applied to join a group of emerging economies known as BRICS, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It has been selling its crude to China in an effort to cling to its latest economic lifeline as Western countries refuse to buy its oil.

Iran is also selling what U.S. officials believe are weaponized drones to Russia at a time when Moscow is waging Europe’s biggest war since 1945.

Iran’s relations with Russia and China are not, however, uncomplicated. Iran has a bitter history with Russia and has looked west as an economic partner for the past 150 years, according to Parsi.
Besides being competitors in the oil market, Russia and Iran have little in common other than their anti-Americanism, Vatanka said.

The famous slogan of the 1979 Iranian revolution, “Neither East, Nor West” indicates the degree to which both the Iranian people and the ruling elite wanted to avoid a scenario where subordination to Russia or the US was necessary.

However, attempts to isolate Iran from the West have taken it in a direction that analysts say could be harmful to Tehran in the long term, even if there is little short-term relief for its crippled economy.

“If it wasn’t for the 30 or 40 years of sanctions against Iran, I think we would have seen a very different orientation in Iran,” Parsi said, adding that he would not necessarily be fully allied with the West, Iran’s foreigners. at least the policy would be balanced, where there is less dependence on the East.

“Russia and China alone cannot compensate for what Iran could have had a slightly more dominant foreign policy,” Vatanka said.


US Secretary of State in Tel Aviv for the two-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday to mark two years since the signing of the Abraham Accords, the Emirates state news agency WAM said.

  • Background: Israeli Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah will meet Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid at his residence in Jerusalem on Thursday, the Israeli government said. The visit will last several days to celebrate the normalization agreement, which was signed two years ago after the UAE formally ended its boycott of Israel for almost half a century. This is the second official visit of the top Emirati diplomat to Israel. His first was to attend a meeting in March in the southern Israeli town of Sde Boker in the Negev desert.
  • Why it matters: The agreement opened the door to bilateral economic activity and security cooperation. Thousands of Israeli tourists visit Dubai and other Emirati cities, while trade between the two countries has grown steadily. The countries continue to cooperate on security and at a major meeting hosted by Israel in March, the UAE joined other Arab countries in demonstrating their newly formed close partnership.

The Saudi crown prince will travel to London to pay his respects, but will not attend the funeral

Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) will travel to London on Sunday to pay his respects to King Charles III and offer condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, but the Saudi king will not attend the monarch’s funeral on Monday. , a source close to the Saudi royal family told CNN.
  • Background: The crown prince will return to Saudi Arabia after offering his condolences, the source added. Another senior member of the Saudi royal family may attend the funeral, according to the source.
  • Why it matters: MBS has avoided traveling to Western states since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in October 2018. In July, he visited Greece and France, his first trip to the European Union since his death. The Crown Prince last visited the UK in March 2018.

Five more Lebanese banks held up by customers demanding access to savings

Customers held up at least five banks around Lebanon on Friday in an attempt to retrieve their frozen savings, just two days after the latest such hostage situation, a Lebanese army official told CNN. In one incident, an armed man entered a bank and poured gasoline on the floor, threatening to burn down the branch unless he was given access to its funds, state news agency NNA reported. He recovered about $19,000 and gave it to someone waiting outside the bank before turning it over to authorities.

  • Background: Since October 2019, Lebanon has imposed severe restrictions on cash withdrawals as the country faces economic collapse. On Wednesday, there were two hostage situations in different banks in Beirut. In one incident, a woman managed to withdraw a total of $20,000 from her account after holding a bank hostage with a toy gun.
  • Why it matters: Hostage-taking is becoming more common in armed Lebanon, as banks say citizens whose savings have been frozen are left with no chance of recovering their funds. In some cases, hostage takers have said they did this to pay for their loved ones’ medical treatment.

What to see

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s relationship with the Middle East changed significantly, as colonial structures collapsed and strategic partnerships emerged, some of which remain to this day.

Watch the full report with CNN’s Becky Anderson here:

Around the region

Rare 2,000-year-old Jewish coin returned to Israel by US authorities.
A coin from a Jewish revolt against Roman rule nearly 2,000 years ago has been returned to Israel by the United States following a joint smuggling investigation.

Created in AD 69, the “extremely rare” quarter shekel is estimated to be worth more than $1 million, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which hosted a repatriation ceremony in New York on Monday.

The move comes 20 years after Israeli authorities learned through whistleblowers that the silver coin had been found by ancient looters in the Ella Valley south of Jerusalem. It is believed to be one of the stashes of coins found by thieves, as there are many important archaeological sites in the area.

Investigators say the product entered the black market before being smuggled into the UK via Jordan. It was then exported to the US using false papers. In 2017, Homeland Security agents seized the coin in Denver, Colorado, which was to be offered at auction.

The kingdom of Judea came under Roman control in 6 Co., although resistance to imperial rule led to a series of rebellions known as the Jewish-Roman Wars. The coin dates to the fourth year of the First Jewish Revolt, also known as the Great Jewish Revolt, which began in AD 66.

By Oscar Holland

Photo of the day

Lebanese citizens celebrated Thursday after the local Mayyas dance troupe won the America's Got Talent competition on US television, winning a million dollar prize.  Lebanon has been in economic decline since 2019, seeing the local currency lose more than 90% of its value due to repeated power cuts and fuel shortages.