Update: Since Putin’s first visit to Iran, he has routinely met with Ali Khamenei in Tehran.
What a lovely smile you have, said the old man. The better to eat you with!, responded the wolf.
[picture: November 2017, Tehran]
When Russia was called the USSR, the Iranian Shiite hierarchy could not contain its fury against the atheists and the communists. They loved Khomeini’s slogan in 1979: “Neither the West, nor the East, only the Islamic Republic.” – نه غربی، نه شرقی، جمهوری اسلامی.
Things have changed; USSR is now Russia, and the West only a hesitant elder clinging to the technocracy to save face.
One thing has not changed though. That is the hypocrisy of the Shiite hierarchy that has been poisoning Iranian politics for many centuries and has gained momentum since they began to rule the country all by themselves, with no Shah to get under their feet.
Visiting Russia, First
Ever since the Iranian nuclear issues made the headlines, more than a decade ago, Iran and Russia have “strengthened their friendship”.
The first visit abroad of a new Iranian president selected by the Leader is to Moscow. Even in 2009, when the rigged elections were contested in the streets of Tehran and the protesters were crushed, Ahmadinejad, the chosen son of Mohammed (as it pleased the ayatollahs to call him then) flew to Moscow for a break.
In 2013, H. Rouhani visited Moscow, only a couple of days after his rigged elections.
When Putin, visiting Tehran in November 2015, presented an old Koran to the supreme guide, Ali Khamenei, the latter was ecstatic, and had not enough words to praise him and his friendship.
Just in the last 2-3 years, Iran’s army authorities, at the highest level, have season tickets for flying to Moscow.
Today, Russia and Iran have many reasons to strengthen their relationship. They have so many things in common that totally escape the wishy-washy West’s politics (if they had any).
Keeping Bashar al-Assad in power in Damascus at all costs is one of the reasons. The battle for Aleppo is not just over the fate of the citizens; the balance of power in the region is at stake. Conveniently, the ayatollahs have forgotten that they did not want interference in their politics from “the East”. (Actually Russia is to the north of Iran. Seen from Tehran this was a detail and needed no adjustment – USSR was the Eastern Block during its cold war with the West).
In fact, the ayatollahs, despite all their rhetoric and bragging, are enslaved to Mr Vladimir Putin, with chains, golden for Russia. The Russians are selling the parts needed to build and beef up Iran’s nuclear plants; they also supply S-300 missiles and some other weapons to the Pasdaran. There are talks about the prospect of Iranian oil and gas being sold through Russian companies for a fee.
Iran can afford paying cash on the nail to Russia since the Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) has financially given Iran a breath of fresh air and the ransoms received in exchange of dual nationals are buttering its bread. The ransom money tasted so good that, a few months ago, Tehran began making a new stock of British/US/Canadian dual nationals for future use.
By fueling the hubbub on the nuclear deal (JCPOA) Khamenei minimises the relations with Putin’s Russia and stays mute on the Aleppo-Syria catastrophe.
The Russians, in their fight to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, are using their air force, blessed by the West.
The ground operations are contracted to the Iranian force, Ghods, which operates alongside Assad’s army. Since the bassidjis are not enthusiastic about dying in Syria, they refuse to serve or ask for hefty wages, too expensive for the ayatollahs. Hence Ghods is “recruiting” young men among the Afghans and Pakistanis (preferably Shiites) by cooing (promising Iranian nationality, education) or constraint (pressuring the families).
Iran, as an ally and friend might do, has to facilitate Russia’s task. For a start, the Russian long-range missiles targeting Syrian territories were launched from the Iranian waters of the Caspian Sea.
The ayatollahs remained very discreet about it, till an unfortunate missile hit an Iranian county and they had to cover the bad business and divert the domestic and international public attention, which they did beautifully.
The Leader’s Men
As from a couple of days ago, the Iranian air-base in Hamadan is used by the Russian air force to carry out the bombarding in Syria. The Iranian media and authorities kept mum about it, while the international outlets were reporting it. Now that the cat is out of the bag, the Iranians play it down.
For now, only Ali Larijani, the Parliament Speaker, has spoken: “No Iranian military base is given to any country”, adding “We have only cooperated with Russia as one of our allies in regional issues, particularly in regard to Syria. This cooperation by no means entails that our military base is under their control.”
This remains to be seen. If anyone from the Larijani family says something, start by not believing it.
The other Larijani, brother to Ali, Sadegh, is the head of the judiciary power. This is the one that accuses the dual nationals of spying or being enemies of Islam, and gets their confessions under duress.
Another brother, Mohammad Javad, is the head of “The Islamic Human Right committee”, a downright bad joke considering Iran’s bleak records on human rights abuses.
Iran and Russia in Future: Putin holding Khamenei
In the coming days, some things are sure enough: over this issue and the thousands of others, the dogmatic Iranians will be quarrelling among themselves, till a statement from the Supreme Leader tells them to shut up first and then what to do and what to think next.
The Russians will follow their blueprint, decades old; that is, making Iran their satellite. They have great experience of dealing with the Muslim countries in Central Asia. Mr Vladimir Putin smiles.
The Vali-e Faqih, Ali Khamenei, rewords the slogan from 1979: “Yes to the East, No to the West, and only my words count.”
And he takes the oath on the gift from Mr Putin: the old Koran.