Within the international community, Iran has long counted on the backing of Russia, which proved to be a buffer between the regime and its opponents in Europe and the United States. However, there are signs that Russia may be considering a shifting of alliances, which could negatively impact Iran’s influence in the region and on the international stage.
In mid-July, Russia finally accepted the Yemen ambassador proposed by Yemen’s Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has ramped up its lobbying to the Kremlin, hoping to persuade them to accept Hadi’s choices.
What makes this concession from Russia even more interesting is that Moscow and Saudi Arabia’s relations have been rather frosty as Russia opposed Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen. Even though Russia is not officially involved in the conflict in Yemen, it has backed Iran’s efforts to support the Yemen Houthi rebel forces.
Russia has even indicated that it would not allow the conflict in Yemen to escalate into a war against Iran, but that support may be waning a bit. There have been multiple developments that signal the relationship between Russia and Saudi Arabia may be thawing a bit.
The two countries have worked together to push for further cutting of oil production in an attempt to bring prices back up. Both countries have economies that are built on energy production and exports. This issue seems to be drawing the two countries together, as in late May, a representative from Saudi Arabia went to Moscow to meet with Putin regarding the oil market, but also to discuss the situation in Syria.
Additionally, the countries have signed a preliminary military cooperation agreement worth $3.5 billion. The Saudis have also requested transfer of technology to accompany the signing of this deal.
They also seem to be working together to address the situation in Syria, as the civil war continues and decimates the resources of the Syrian people.
All of these moves seem to indicate a change in their relationship, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that Iran and Russia have completely parted ways. Russia hasn’t seemed to back Iran or Saudi Arabia in their actions within Yemen, but this isn’t the first time Iran and Russia have appeared to diverge in terms of policy. This is because while Russia might be on the same side as Iran, its reasons for backing that side could be substantially different.
When it comes to Syria, Russia backs Assad for security reasons and confrontation with the West, while Iran backs Assad to cement its regional foothold. The issues between these two countries could resurface as the Syrian conflict approaches a settlement, but for now, the two nations have found a way to work together.