- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has floated a 20-year strategic cooperation agreement with Russia on the first day of a two-day trip to Moscow, Russian news outlets reported Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting the Iranian leader at a time when both countries are in a tense standoff with the Biden administration — Russia over its massive military buildup on the border with Ukraine and Iran over the stalled talks to resuscitate the 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump exited.

The visit also showcases the increasingly deep links between major U.S. adversaries in recent years. Both Tehran and Moscow have intensified cooperation with China, whose bilateral relations with the U.S. have deteriorated as well.

The high-powered delegation led by Mr. Raisi is getting a warm reception in Russia. In addition to talks with Mr. Putin, Mr. Raisi is scheduled to address the State Duma, the national parliament, on Thursday.

It is only the third trip abroad for Mr. Raisi, considered a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, since taking office in August, following trips to the Central Asian states of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Still hobbled by economic and secondary sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, Iran is looking for new markets and investment on the Russia trip, Mr. Raisi said Wednesday.

“We handed over to our Russian colleagues a document on strategic cooperation between our countries which can determine prospects for at least 20 years,” he said, according to an account from the TASS news agency. “The current level of trade and economic relations is not satisfactory. … We can increase the level of our trade and economic cooperation by several times.”

The Iranian leader said he would like to establish deeper, long-lasting ties with Russia, which like the U.S. is a signatory to the multinational nuclear deal and has pressed for its revival.

“These relations won’t be short-term or positional but long-term and strategic,” Mr. Raisi said.

Iranian hard-liners often criticized the government of former President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate in the Iranian political spectrum, for reaching out to the U.S. and Europe and spurning opportunities from Russia and other non-Western states.

Bilateral trade between Iran and Russia is about $2 billion — a fifth of Russia‘s trade volume with Turkey, a NATO member.

The Iranian delegation to Moscow included the foreign minister and ministers for energy and the economy, Iran‘s Tasnim news agency reported.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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