Trucks are parked at a container terminal at the port of Astrakhan on Russia’s Caspian Sea coast. REUTERS/Svetlana Burmistrova
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When sanctions on Iran were lifted in January, Russia might have expected to be near the front of the queue for business opportunities.On the evidence of the commerce passing through the Caspian Sea port of Astrakhan, the main jumping-off point for Russian seaborne trade with Iran, it's not playing out like that.Some Iranian officials are wary of getting too close to Russia, which occupied Iran twice in the 20th century. Russia for its part is wary of Iran becoming too powerful and of alienating Iran's rivals in the Middle East.In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Zhilkin, the Astrakhan region governor, said grain exports this year would be lower than in 2015 because Iran was enforcing temporary grain import restrictions.But he said he expected trade to double within 18 months of all the international sanctions being lifted on Iran.With sanctions gone, businesspeople in Astrakhan predict that big global grain traders will now move into the Iran market, squeezing out Russian players.
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