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Russia is planting flags in the Middle East

Pragmatism and a tolerance for risk are giving Russian energy interests an edge in the region

Sometime in 2024, capacity at Iran's sole nuclear power facility, at Bushehr on the Gulf coast, will double to 2 gigawatts. A couple of years after, another 1GW reactor is due online. If nothing else, Iran is coming good on its civilian nuclear ambitions. Russia, whose state atomic firm Rosatom is building the two new plants, is the enabler. Russia's and Iran's energy plans don't stop at reactors. Lukoil, a private firm but Russia's second-biggest oil producer, and state-controlled Gazprom both have Tehran's approval to bid for upstream projects. Lukoil, which hopes to develop the Abe Timur and Mansuri fields, in western Iran, says the country "is our target area at the moment". Gazprom, wh

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