National Security

Iran Strengthens Relationship With Russia Amid New Pressure From Washington

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov / Getty Images

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with senior Russian officials in the Kremlin last month to tighten relations between Moscow and Tehran, Al-Monitor reported Thursday.

While Iran and Russia have cooperated extensively to support the Assad regime in Syria, Zarif's visit—his third in six months—marks a growing effort between the two countries to counter the United States. 

The report comes as the White House is all but doubling down on its tough sanctions regime toward Iran. On Thursday, Washington announced the replacement of U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook with recent Venezuela envoy and Iran hawk Elliott Abrams. 

Abrams's appointment "appears to bury any remaining chance of a diplomatic initiative with Iran before the end of Mr. Trump's term," the New York Times reported Thursday.

In recent months, Iran has looked to Russia, along with China, for support against Washington's "maximum pressure" campaign. As the United Nations arms embargo on Iran reaches its final months before renewal, U.S. officials are not hopeful about cooperation from U.N. Security Council members China and Russia in renewing the sanctions.

"The strategy in a perfect world will always be to have them abstain and obviously not veto" the embargo, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft said earlier this week.

"However, let's be realistic here. Right now the strategy is working with other members of the Security Council" to put China and Russia "in a corner and shine a light on them," Craft said. "Everyone is going to know this is a choice between tyranny and freedom."

In the case that the U.N. embargo fails come October, Abrams and Washington's Iran shop are expected to reimpose all sanctions on Iran in a process called the "snapback."