Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani in Moscow this week, promising closer ties between two countries that the U.S. wants keep from becoming too friendly.
Despite differences over Syria policy, Putin and Rouhani emerged from their talks with specific measures designed to enhance cooperation between Moscow and Tehran on a range of economic and military issues, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“Our governments are fully striving toward multidimensional, mutually beneficial ties and are aiming…at boosting our bilateral cooperation,” Putin said at a news conference following the meeting, and Russian and Iranian officials later signed agreements on oil production and arms sales.
Russia and Iran have grown closer since relations between Moscow and Washington soured in the wake of the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Iranian diplomats had been concerned President Donald Trump would establish a more conciliatory bilateral relationship with Putin, driving a wedge between Moscow and Tehran. With a potential U.S.-Russia rapprochement on hold due to anti-Russian sentiment in Congress, Moscow is now moving even closer to its Iranian ally. (RELATED: Iran Opens The Door For Russia To Challenge Washington)
At their meeting, Putin and Rouhani agreed to strengthen defense ties and align themselves against Western interests in the Middle East. In addition to light arms and air defense missile sales, Russian Helicopters, a top Moscow defense contractor said it was considering a joint venture with Iran to build light civilian helicopters, the WSJ reported.
“(The) decline of the West and the end of capital monopoly have provided a historic opportunity for establishing a new world,” Rouhani said on Tuesday, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. “We need a global determination to uproot violence and extremism.”
One sticking point between the two U.S. adversaries is over Syria policy, particularly the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Both countries would like to see the al-Assad regime prevail, but Russia wants power decentralized away from Damascus while Iran, which is much more supportive of al-Assad personally, wants him to have more control over Syria’s warring ethnic and religious groups.
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