Russian and Chinese Influence in Iran: Sources and Future Trends

February 2021 No Comments

Author | Editor: Bragg, B. (NSI, Inc.)

Questions of Focus

[Q3] What is the source of Russian and Chinese influence in Iran, and how have recent events (incl. COVID-19) changed this?

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Among all the experts interviewed for this report, there was a general consensus that relations between Iran and both Russia and China are driven by pragmatic considerations. Many described the Iran-Russia and Iran- China relationships as primarily transactional, with each having something concrete the other needs to meet their domestic economic growth and development needs. The experts did identify one interest that all three share: decreasing US global and regional influence (Goldenberg, Edelstein, Katz, Nephew). This interest, rather than any specific affinity for Iran, is what motivates Russian and Chinese actions to shield Iran from the US (Brewer, Ehteshami, Goldenberg, Katz, Markey, Spalding, Tabatabai), despite neither wanting to see Iran gain nuclear weapons (Goldenberg, Katz, Markey). Their willingness to continue to trade and engage with Iran, regardless of international and US censure underlies their influence with the Iranian regime (Nephew). This influence does not equate to trust or liking on Iran’s part, however, and while “Iran obviously detests and mistrusts the United States, I think we should also keep in mind that it’s quite skeptical of Russian and Chinese motives as well,” according to Mr. Eric Brewer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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