Good Question. This very useful Q&A put together by Reuters helps place Russia’s recent offer of cooperation with Iran in the energy industry into a larger context:
Russia took steps to soothe Tehran last week when Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi came to Moscow to meet Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and sign a “road map” for energy cooperation, preserving a key diplomatic link.
Closer to Russia’s own heart — and its state coffers — are Iran‘s gas reserves and its potential role as a rival supplier to Europe.
“As long as Iran remains in the corner, Nabucco cannot be implemented. But if things change on this front, that might be a major headache for Russia,” said Sergei Lukyanov, editor of Russian in Global Affairs magazine.
Russia, which supplies a quarter of Europe’s gas, has repeatedly said the European Union-backed Nabucco, a rival to Russia’s South Stream pipeline project, lacks gas to become a commercially viable project unless Iran joins it…
… If Iran’s Russian partners are looking far enough ahead, they may be contemplating a different political landscape and opportunities unencumbered by sanctions.
Russia may simply be hoping that, by maintaining friendly ties with the current political regime, as it tried to do with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, it might be first in line to develop Iran’s untapped resources when the sanctions threat lifted.