Russian president Vladimir Putin is arriving in Tehran on November 23 to attend one-day Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) to be held in Tehran on Monday. On Friday during a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Sheik Hassan Rouhani, Putin mentioned his desire to meet Iran’s Spiritual Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei. Last time Putin met Khamenei in Tehran was in in 2007.
Putin will also meet Iran’s president Sheikh Hassan Rouhani to discuss bilateral trade relations. Moscow is keen to boost its trade with Iran after the UN lifting of sanctions against Iran. Heads and high-ranking government officials from France, Germany, UK, Australia and Austria have already visited Iran earlier for the same reason.
However, Putin’s meeting with Khamenei is basically for Russia’s recent military involvement in Syria. For the last four years, Putin besides his pro-Assad rhetoric, never committed Russian boots in Syria. He left it to Syrian army, Hizbullah and Iran to defeat US-Israel-Turkey funded insurgency (ISIL). Once it’s almost achieved, Putin joined the war to take credit for that. Furthermore, during his recent meeting in Moscow, Netanyahu told Putin that a Syrian victory against ISIL would boost Iranian influence in the region which would pose a great threat to Israel.
Putin will take the opportunity to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, which though, doesn’t threaten Russia’s security as the latter hold world’s largest nuke stockpile. However, a nuclear Iran is sure to provide a booster for the Islamic Resistance group fighting to ‘wipe nuclear Israel off the map’.
“Putin has deplored Syrian Arab Army shelling of Israel and in some ways a bigger Russian presence in Syria may increase Israeli security. Putin has hinted that he thinks the al-Assad regime should concentrate on its extremist enemies within. i.e. a big diversionary attack on Israel by Syria or Hizbullah to gain street cred with ordinary Syrians is likely no longer a possibility, since Moscow would forbid it,” wrote Dr. Juan Cole, a CIA consultant and with Jewish family roots.
Khamenei, a poet and author of several books on religion and politics, is the most powerful Iranian leader under country’s Constitution. He is two-terms former president of Iran (1981-89). Before elected president, Khamenei srved as Defense Minister and commander of Revolutionary Guards. He assumed the position of Iran’s Supreme Leadership in 1989 after the death of Iran’s revolutionary leader Imam Khomeini. His name for the position was proposed by Imam Khomeini’s only surviving son Sheikh Ahmad Khomeini (d. 1995).
Khamenei during his presidency visited several foreign nations but not the Soviet Republic due to latter’s occupation of Iran’s next door neighbor Afghanistan and Moscow’s arms sale to Saddam Hussein during the 8-year Iraq-Iran War. After becoming country’s Supreme Leader, Khamenei has not stepped out of the country. In September 2015, both Khamenei and Rouhani declined Putin’s invitation to attend the opening of Moscow’s renovated Grand Mosque.
Moscow maintained good neighborly relation with Tehran during Pahlvi dynasty. Imam Khomeini was against both world superpowers, Judo-communist Soviet Union and Capitalist United States. He explained Iran’s foreign policy by saying: “Neither West nor East.” Iran-USSR relation hit rock bottom when on January 1 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini addressed Mikhail Gorbachev with a message in which he spoke of the necessity of learning about Islam and said that Communism should be looked for in museums of political history and that Iran follows the principles of being a good neighbor.