Tehran and Moscow must step up cooperation to isolate the United States and help stabilize the Middle East, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
“Our cooperation can isolate America … The failure of U.S.-backed terrorists in Syria cannot be denied but Americans continue their plots,” Khamenei told Putin, according to Iranian state television.
Putin met Iranian political leaders in an effort to nurture a warming relationship strengthened since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened recently to abandon the international nuclear deal with Iran reached in 2015, Reuters reports. Since Russia’s military intervention in Syria’s war in 2015, and with stepped-up Iranian military assistance, Assad has taken back large amounts of territory from rebels as well as swathes of central and eastern Syria from Islamic State militants.
Moscow is now trying to build on that success with a new diplomatic initiative, including a congress of Syria’s rival parties it plans in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on November 18, though a major opposition bloc has refused to take part. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed Khamenei, saying Iran and Russia together could tackle “regional terrorism” – an allusion to Sunni Muslim armed groups hostile to Iran, Assad and many other Arab states.
“Our cooperation has helped the fight against terrorism in the region … Together we can establish regional peace and security,” Rouhani said in a televised joint press conference with Putin and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, who took part in a three-way summit in Tehran.
The rapprochement between Iran and Russia is worrying for both Saudi Arabia, Shi‘ite Muslim Tehran’s main Sunni rival for dominance in the Middle East, and the U.S. Moscow is also an important ally for Iran in its renewed confrontation with the U.S. where Trump broke ranks with major allies on October 13 by de-certifying Tehran’s nuclear deal with six world powers including Washington.
“America’s hostility is towards the Iranian nation … America is the number one enemy of our nation … We will never accept their bullying over the nuclear deal,” Khamenei said.
Since the deal was reached in 2015, Khamenei has continued to denounce the United States publicly, suggesting that the antagonism between the two countries since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Tehran would not abate because of the accord. Putin praised cooperation with Iran as “very productive”.
“We are managing to coordinate our positions on the Syrian issue. We oppose any unilateral change in the multilateral nuclear deal,” Putin told Khamenei.
During Putin’s visit, Russian oil producer Rosneft and the National Iranian Oil Company agreed on an outline deal to work on a number of “strategic” projects in Iran together worth up to $30 billion. The deal appeared to dovetail with Putin’s strategy to reassert Russian political and economic influence in the Middle East that faded after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.