Facing renewed economic sanctions from the United States and the possible knock-on collapse of its business dealings with Europe, Iran is looking to Russia and China to expand trade. And Moscow and Beijing, embroiled in their own economic disputes with Washington, are well-positioned to oblige.
U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran bars U.S. firms from dealing with the Islamic republic and promises penalties against European companies that choose to continue to do business in Iran past a 90- to 180-day "wind down" period.
But economists say that Moscow and Beijing are less exposed both to sanctions tied to Iran's contentious nuclear program and others linked to the country's human rights record, alleged support for terrorism, and ballistic-missile program.
The departure of Western competition in a lucrative export market could essentially be viewed as a gift by Iran supporters Russia and China, UN Security Council members that helped negotiate the nuclear deal under which Tehran agreed to curtail nuclear activities in exchange for UN and U.S. sanctions relief.