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News Analysis

It was never clear how long Donald Trump’s honeymoon was going to last with Russia, but it seems the first hiccup to the relationship has already occurred. Iran which seems to be Trump’s bogey man is the cause of the friction.

Read more: What’s really behind the immigration ban on Iranians: Politics or terrorism fears?

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax agency that a Pandora’s box would open if the United States tried re-opening the nuclear deal with Iran.

Earlier Kremlin, that is watching the Us-Iran tensions with increasing concern had already made it clear that it did not agree with US President Donald Trump’s assessment of Iran as “the number one terrorist state” and wanted to deepen what it described as already good ties with Tehran.

“Don’t try to fix what is not broken,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

Under Trump, it seemed that the USA would improve relations with Russia, forgetting its annexation of Crimea and problems with Ukraine. Better relations with Putin as Trump put it could only be positive. It seemed that his ire would focus on China and the US trade deficit with it. However, by week two, Iran has become the burning issue for the Trump administration and now Russia is wading into it asking the US to be cautious about the path it is taking.

“Don’t try to fix what is not broken,” Rybakov advised the US. The comments came in response to Trump’s interview over the weekend to Fox News where he complained that Iran had “total disregard” for the United States.

By the end of week two the Trump administration had already exchanged a war of words over the banning of Iranian citizens to the country and the ballistic missile tests that Iran conducted last week.

Donald Trump on February 2, tweeted that Iran had been given a good deal by Obama administration and that they would not have survived if it was not for $150bn given by the USA the next day he went on to tweet ‘Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!’ and then later that day went on to say that

The US-Iran nuclear deal, officially called as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), was concluded in 2015, after prolonged negotiations of several years between Iran, US, Russia and several European countries including UK and Germany was considered a game changer.

Michael Flynn, Trump administration’s National Security Advisor, has said that Iran is ungrateful to US largesse given through the JCPOA deal. Flynn called Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile test and attacks by proxies on a Saudi frigate a ‘provocative’ act.

Read more: American NSA Flynn says we are “officially putting Iran on notice”

The US treasury on Friday announced sanctions against 25 individuals and entities associated with Iran’s ballistic missile program. Iranian Supreme council leader, Khatami said during the Friday Prayer in Tehran that “restoring sanctions would be a violation of the nuclear deal; there was not a word in the nuclear deal regarding plans for missile testing, however the US says it (the test) violates the nuclear deal while the US is the one who violates the deal,”

“Don’t try to fix what is not broken,” Ryabkov. The comments came in response to Trump’s interview over the weekend to Fox News where he complained that Iran had “total disregard” for the United States.

There is concern that Trump is being persuaded by the Pentagon, to go back to the traditional alignment of US foreign policy with Sunni leaders in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia as well as addressing Israel concerns over the Iranian deal.

Iran has condemned the moves with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying that it was a victory of hardliners. Liberals within the USA that support the Iranian deal also think that Trump’s move encourages Iran to be under pressure from its own hardliners. US’s European allies all support the deal. However Israel and its PM Netanyahu were vocal against the deal from the very beginning; this became the main reason for mounting mistrust and hostility between Obama and the Israeli PM. US’s traditional allies – Saudi Arabia and UAE – have also felt betrayed because of the US-Iran deal.

Read more: By targeting Iran Trump stokes sectarian fires across the Middle East

Russians who are are working closely with Iran over many issues including operations in Syria, already complained that Trump’s categorization of Iran as the “the number one terrorist state” was not correct. In a separate interview the deputy foreign minister also criticized the Trump administration’s move on Friday to impose sanctions on Iran after Iran’s recent ballistic missile test, saying the test did not violate existing agreements.

Disagreements on Iran, will now test the Trump administration’s repeatedly stated paradigm of international cooperation with Russia. This is first serious challenge – more may follow.

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