Kourosh Ziabari: Iran has invested a lot in its relationship with China and Russia and considers them its strategic allies; however, both of these countries showed green light to anti-Iranian sanctions in the Security Council and facilitated the imposition of resolutions against Iran in an undeniable complicity with the United States. In the other words, Russia and China flagrantly betrayed Iran in time of need. What do you think about Iran's relations with China and Russia? Why has Iran trusted them several times despite the fact that it was cleared to Tehran that they're not loyal friends?
Abolghasem Bayyenat: I would look at the situation somewhat differently. In international relations states are loyal only to their own interests. Realism is still the dominant discourse in international relations and states view their relations with each other largely in realist terms. National interests defined broadly in terms of maximizing their own military power and economic well-being vis-à-vis other states is the guiding principle of the foreign policy of states. Seasoned Iranian foreign policy makers also understand the limits of Iran's bargaining power with regard to China and Russia, when other states, particularly Western powers, are competing with it for their loyalty.
While both China and Russia have important stakes in their relations with Iran, they also maintain by far larger interests in their relations with the United States and other Western powers. China and the United States are economically highly interdependent and the U.S. market serves as the single most important destination for Chinese exports. Russia has similarly important economic and security interests in its relations with the West. Both countries have tried to strike a fine balance between their relations with Iran and the West in order to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs. While their actions in betraying Iran's trust at some points may be morally and legally indefensible, it is not always possible for them to keep both parties to the conflict content and their interests may require that they sometimes lean toward one side at the expense of the other.
Both Russia and China have also significantly softened the language of the Security Council resolutions against Iran and have opposed certain harsh measures against it, a fact which shows that they still maintain important interests in their relations with Iran, which they are not willing to give up unless the West is prepared to pay the necessary price for that. This of course does not mean that Russia and China have no redlines in their foreign policies and are willing to prostitute out their loyalties to the highest bidder, but there are clear limits to the extent to which they can support their allies. The experience of Russian and Chinese inaction towards NATO strikes on Serbia and their no more than verbal opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq were enough to remind even the most optimistic Iranian policy makers that they cannot tie their hope to the support of these two countries under all circumstances.