Could Iran play a role in trying to encircle America?

An anti-US coalition seems to be in the works

Tehran's expansionist ambitions in the region are likely to pose major headaches for those running Kremlin, given its budding relations with the Gulf countries. EPA

Freezing the Ukraine crisis temporarily seems to be the only way to avoid a military confrontation between Russia and Nato. This would amount to stalling for time until comprehensive security arrangements vis-a-vis Europe can be formulated and Moscow can reach a broader agreement with the US-led security umbrella.

This seems to be the logic as Russian and American diplomats work behind the scenes while maintaining their respective threats of military action and sanctions. Reaching an agreement on the Ukraine question, specifically its desired membership of Nato, remains a challenge and perhaps even out of the question at this stage.

Amid tensions in Eastern Europe, Russia is deepening its relations with Iran, possibly with the intention of using the regime in Tehran as a means to pressure the West in various ways.

Indeed, it is possible that Russian President Vladimir Putin felt compelled to host his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, last week – despite the ongoing crisis in Europe. Tehran, it is said, was keen to hold the meeting. True or not, the visit marked a milestone in Russian-Iranian relations. The two sides essentially agreed to take a strategic leap in their alliance and collaborate at all levels. As such, Russia will become a partner of the so-called Islamic Republic through a permanent, sustained and long-term procedural mechanism agreed upon by the two leaders.

The countries, it seems, have also resolved to co-ordinate their respective objectives in Syria, where both sides maintain close relations with the Assad regime. They are likely to jointly stand up to Israel, with whom Iran and Syria both maintain adversarial relations. Israel, which has a longstanding border dispute with Syria, has been conducting its own covert military operations against Iranian proxies on the ground. But these operations may also have inconvenienced Russia's military objectives in the country – although Moscow is unlikely to immediately act on Israel's activities, given its current focus on the Ukraine crisis.