While President Trump was welcoming the bloody demonstrations on the streets of Iran, the Russian press remained vociferously silent. This is scarcely surprising. The New Year does not look so welcoming. A key piece on the geopolitical chessboard in the Kremlin is in danger of being lost: the Islamic bishop.
Moscow has stuck its neck out in Syria acting in close concert with Iran. Over the last decade it has staked so much on its near neighbour. Whereas any rational Power would take alarm at seeing a régime dominated by Islamic fanatics acquire nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them, Russia has under President Putin become so obsessed with American predominance that it has welcomed any port in a storm, however dubious. But what if a nuclear-armed Iran joined the American camp?
Evidently Putin’s advisers have now given the all clear for public comment. Today an unusually well-informed and balanced analysis appeared in the authoritative daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda, under the signature of Mr Shamir (“Liberal’nye reformy i finansovye piramidi doveli Iran do protestov”.)
This piece necessarily opens by inveighing against the negative impact of the “liberal” economic reforms that were pressed on Iran by the United States under President Obama; or so it is claimed. All a part and parcel of American subversion of healthy authoritarian régimes. The reforms have apparently enriched the kind of people Moscow hates, who brought about unrest in Ukraine and overthrew its government: the wearers of Gucci shoes. At the expense of the workers, who have faced unemployment and, where employed, low wages plus high prices. Having got over the tiresome business of blaming easy targets, Mr Shamir gets down to business with an analysis that would not have shamed an official in the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The plain fact is that Iran is now overstretched, backing Palestinian terrorists against Israel, the Yemenis against Saudi Arabia, the Assad régime in Damascus, the Shia in Iraq, doing goodness knows what in Afghanistan against the Americans and living on the edge as Trump decides what to do about it all. Shamir emphasises the restricted nature of the protests in Iran and the fact that they are fundamentally about standards of living. On the other hand, he is not one to take any chances. “If events evolve in an undesirable direction,” he concludes, “all Russia’s achievements in Syria could become vulnerable. And if Iran is shifted into the American camp, the consequences for Russia will be as grave as after the Kiev events. It is for the time being too early to say last rites. But it doesn’t hurt to recognise a growing menace.”