Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, July 16, 2018 - Last week, Ali Akbar Velayati, the advisor to the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, traveled to Moscow for talks with Russian authorities as international pressure and sanction on the regime ratchet up. But whether he achieved his goals or not is up for debate, inside and outside the regime.
Velayati himself has declared nothing, and neither has he issued any statements on the matter. But Khamenei’s entourage has highly publicized Velayati’s trip, claiming that he has clinched a major success by striking a $50 billion oil deal with Russia, protecting the regime and dealing a strategic blow to Washington’s plans.
But the regime’s own officials are divided on the matter, with some media outlets calling Velayati’s trip controversial and ambiguous since Moscow never confirmed the Iranian regime’s claims. Etedal, a newspaper that has close ties to the regime’s president Hassan Rouhani, described it as “Oil for goods, Velayati’s confirmation, Moscow’s silence.”
After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Velayati declared that one of Russia’s important oil companies signed a $4 billion deal with the Iranian regime’s oil ministry that will soon come into effect. He also added that two other important Russian companies have initiated talks on contracts with a $10 billion ceiling.
Also in his remarks, Velayati said, “Putin stressed that the oil relations between Iran and Russia will continue to the $50 billion ceiling,” concluding that this initiative will replace the western countries that leave Iran’s market.
However, Dimitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, stipulated that he can’t confirm Velayati’s claims.
Oil for goods
Another controversy that surrounded Velayati’s trip was the rumors about an oil-for-goods deal with Russia. Some Russian officials described it as “oil for food,” which further accentuates the Iranian regime’s predicament in its inability to make monetary transactions. The issue has caused the regime’s own officials have mocked the notion of Velayati’s oil-for-goods achievement.
But aside from the infighting among regime officials surrounding the outcome of Velayati’s trip, even an oil-for-food agreement couldn’t be implemented without the consent of the U.S. The U.S. government is denying any kind of dealing with the Iranian regime, and the fact that the Kremlin’s spokesperson didn’t confirm the Iranian regime’s claims further highlights this reality.
Behind the scenes
Velayati’s trip to Russia coincided with that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In this regard, Hossein Malaek, the Iranian regime’s former ambassador to China and one of the regime’s senior international experts, said, “At present, the influence that Israel has in the relations between Iran and Russia is much more important than Israel’s influence in the relations between Iran and the U.S. Iran’s conservative rulers usually avoid creating any illusions in their foreign relations, but in this specific case, they’ve accepted to send the supreme leader’s advisor to Russia at the same time that Netanyahu is present in the country, and this further proves the importance that Israel has in the relations between Iran and Russia.”
What we can conclude is that the top priority of Velayati’s trip to Moscow was discussions surrounding his regime’s presence in Syria, which in recent months has become the main point of contention between Iran and Israel.
Shortly after Velayati’s trip, France’s RFI reported, “Following his meeting with Vladimir Putin, Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s advisor in international affairs, said Iran is ready to immediately withdraw its forces from Syria.”
Malaek, who was interviewed by a state-run newspaper, added in his comments, “Since the presidents of the United States and Russia will be meeting in Helsinki on Monday, July 16, everyone is waiting to see what they will decide and what deals will be struck in this meeting.”
One of the other controversies surrounding Velayati’s trip to Moscow was that he took with him two missives to the Kremlin, one from Khamenei and one from Rouhani, which is against international and diplomatic norms which rule that governments send a unified message to their counterparts.
There’s still no clue of what the letters contained, but there are two possibilities for the duality of the messages:
- The rift among different factions in the regime has grown so wide that the regime’s leaders can’t agree on a single mission and are sending a different missive to convey their differing opinions.
- Another possibility is that both Rouhani and Khamenei have sent similar messages to Moscow to give them assurances that they agree on the topics that Velayati will discuss. This again shows how divided and disarrayed the regime has become that it has to send several confirmations to its counterparts.
Further highlighting the chaos that riddles the regime’s echelons of power is the fact that officials close to Rouhani played down the importance of Velayati’s trip by saying that Russia can’t be trusted and the real way to save the regime is to approach the West.
Ali Khoram, one of the experts of Rouhani’s faction questioned Russia’s honesty and truthfulness in abiding by its promises, reminding that, “In the past, Russia has time and again reneged on its commitments before they come into effect. Russia has stabbed Iran in the back and we did not see a positive outcome.”
Khoram suggests that instead of negotiating with the Russians, the Iranian regime must immediately approach Americans. “Given the current international and regional situation, negotiations are necessary and inevitable, before the country becomes deeply damaged.”
Khoram warns that U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats that his government will pressurize the regime until they step forth for negotiations must not be dismissed.
“Given the current situation, we must choose the best course of action before we find ourselves in dire straits,” Khoram concludes.