Russia Defends Iran’s Regional Role Against US Rhetoric

Washington and Moscow have differences in a number of areas, including on the role of Iran in the region
Vitaly Churkin
Vitaly Churkin

Moscow hopes tensions between the new US administration and Iran will not result in any serious international showdown, the Russian envoy to the UN said. He added that the current rhetoric appears to be an emotional response to reality.

Vitaly Churkin made the statements to RT in a talk published on Wednesday ahead of a planned meeting between the newly-confirmed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Commenting on recent remarks by US President Donald Trump, who branded Iran "terrorist threat number one", Churkin pointed to the active role the Islamic Republic is playing in the fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group. With Russia having close relations with Iran whose ties with the US are increasingly strained, Churkin acknowledged that Washington and Moscow "have differences in a number of areas, including on the role of Iran."

With that, Churkin believes that some of the recent US rhetoric on Iran might have been influenced by emotions rather than rational policymaking and hard facts.

"In international life, you have to differentiate between your emotions, what you want to see and what you have the right to expect from another country," he said.

  No Missile Ban  

"This outcry about Iran's ballistic missile launches. I was surprised to hear even American experts speaking on CNN and calling it a violation of bans by the UN Security Council. Those bans were there before, all those bans were lifted," Churkin said.

The Russian envoy explained that the UNSC resolution only "calls on" Iran not to conduct tests of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, but does not impose any ban.

"Any such capability has to be proven before accusations are voiced," he argued.

"So it's just a call, not a prohibition. Technically or legally, you cannot argue that they are violating any kind of a prohibition."

Following the test of a medium-range ballistic missile by Iran on January 29, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, decried it as "absolutely unacceptable" and vowed retaliatory measures.

"You will see us call them out as we said we would, and you're also going to see us act accordingly," she said.

For its part, Iran reiterated that it had not breached any of its international obligations, stressing that "it will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defense affairs."

Tehran says none of its missiles is designed to deliver nuclear payloads, and that its defense doctrine is based on conventional deterrence. Apart from the nuclear agreement with Iran, repeatedly labeled by Trump as "a really, really bad deal" which he says needs to be repealed, there are other contentious issues between Tehran and Washington, including Iran's support for Houthi fighters in Yemen fighting Saudi-backed forces, as well as Iran's links to Lebanese Hezbollah.

Churkin believes that the existing tension between the US and Iran would not result in a full-blown military conflict, although it could possibly influence US-Russian ties. "There are so many complexities, so many issues which can create additional problems, including problems which might affect our relations with the US," he said.

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