Will Iran Accept Russia’s Ideas for a Middle East Regional Security Process?

April 8, 2021
Hanna Notte

The following was originally published at Valdai Discussion Club.

At first sight, Russia and Iran seem to have compatible – or even similar – approaches to the JCPOA and regional security. Moscow’s emphasis on the need for all parties to return to the nuclear deal in its original form and avoid raising new demands at this stage is in line with Tehran’s view that the JCPOA is “concluded and sealed” and cannot be renegotiated. However, the more Russian officials elaborate on their views on regional security, the less attractive they appear to become to the Iranian side, Valdai Club experts Hanna Notte and Hamidreza Azizi write. The article was prepared following the results of the Tenth Middle East Conference of the Valdai Discussion Club and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Amid the enduring US-Iranian back-and-forth to determine the choreography of a return to the Iran nuclear deal (“JCPOA”), Russia is positioning itself as indispensable interlocutor and creative intermediary. On the nuclear issue more narrowly, the Russian Foreign Ministry recently put forward an informal roadmap of “concurrent steps” to be undertaken by Tehran and Washington in order to return to implementation of the JCPOA. Yet, these novel suggestions merely add nuance to an old Russian argument: that it is vital both sides initially return to the nuclear deal as is, before attempting to negotiate additional elements – be it longer sunset provisions, stricter verifications, or the missile and regional proxy issues, which are currently outside the scope of the agreement.

On the non-nuclear elements of a future deal with Iran, which loosely fall under the rubric of “regional security”, Russia’s diplomats have recently upped the ante. On his visits to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, Foreign Minister Lavrov was not shy in promoting Russia’s “Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf”. That concept has been floated repeatedly by Russian diplomats and even presented at the UN Security Council last fall in the presence of a disinterested, outgoing Trump administration. More recently, in the context of the Valdai Club hosting its 10th Middle East conference in Moscow, the concept received greater specificity, with Russian diplomats revisiting an approach championed thirty years ago: the multilateral track following the Madrid Peace Conference, which was modelled on the Helsinki process leading to the establishment of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).

Continue reading at Valdai Discussion Club.

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