How Russia and Iran’s enmity turned into friendship

Norbert Paradise, BBC News World

Russia, which is being rejected in many parts of the world after the attack on Ukraine, has started focusing on new alliances. Russia would hardly have attempted such a new alliance if the timing had been good. Its newly developing relations with Iran are mentioned in this connection.

Russia’s relations with Iran have been complicated. The two countries have historically differed on many issues. The repression of Iranians during the days of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union is still fresh in Iran.

Russia and Iran have been rivals in economic and energy matters. But the conflict between the two countries with the Western world often brings them closer to each other.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has traveled abroad five times since the attack on Ukraine. All these visits of Putin have been to Russia’s neighbors and former constituent countries of the Soviet Union.

But Iran is an exception to this. Putin was on a visit to Tehran in July. During his visit, many people were surprised when Putin mentioned Syria there.

Putin called for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict within the basic principles of sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.

Putin, during his visit to Iran, tried to show that Russia still has allies and is heard in international forums, despite isolated attempts.

But in reality, many saw it as another proof of Russia’s political and diplomatic isolation.

Iran’s military aid to Russia

John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said: “It shows how isolated Putin and Russia are. Now they have turned to Iran for help.” Recently some reports suggest that Russia is getting military aid from Iran.

Iran-made Shaheed-136 drones were used in Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s capital Kiev on Monday. ‘Martyr-136’ is called ‘Geranium-2’ in Russia. This is actually a flying bomb which can cover a distance of two thousand kilometers.

Although Iran has denied supplying these drones to Russia, US officials say that the first consignment of ‘Shaheed-136’ was sent to Russia in August itself.

A recent report by the American think tank ‘Institute for the Study of War’ has said that it is possible that a group of Iranians went to Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories to train Russian soldiers in the use of ‘Martyr-136’ Are.

Current status of the war between Russia and Ukraine

  • Russia is evacuating thousands of its citizens and officials from the Kherson region of Ukraine. This information has been given by a local official appointed by Russia. Vladimir Saldo said that 50 to 60 thousand citizens would gradually leave the four cities on the west bank of the Dnieper River.

  • Russian-appointed regional officer Kirill Stramosov warned people living in Kherson that very soon the Ukrainian army would attack the city.

  • Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that Israel does not want to supply weapons to Ukraine, but it could help improve Kiev’s missile attack warning system.

  • Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian cities of Kiev and Vinnitsa. The mayor of Kiev has said that his air defense system destroyed several missiles on the way towards the city. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order imposing martial law in four Ukrainian territories, including Kherson, which Russia formally merged with itself a few days ago.

friendship and enmity

Vladimir Putin and Ibrahim Raisi are currently leading the two most banned countries in the world.

However, Syria, Belarus and Venezuela are also subject to heavy international sanctions, and governments there also face opposition from Western countries. But relations between Russia and Iran are far more complicated.

Hamid Raza Azizi, an expert on Iran and Russia at the German Institute for International Security Affairs, says Moscow and Tehran have been both enemies and friends of each other. There have been ups and downs in their relationship.

“The current leadership of Russia and Iran wants to show that the two countries have a strategic relationship and are allies,” he told BBC Mundo.

“But on the other hand, if we look at what Russia and Iran are doing in Syria and how the two countries stand on energy issues, we will find that there is also a rivalry between the two.”

Although Russia and Iran agree that Syria should be headed by Bashar al-Assad, the interests of the two countries do not coincide.

The two countries are facing each other for control over some areas of Syria and there are differences between Russia and Iran on the question of what will be the future of Syria if the war ends.

historical rivalry

The rivalry between Russia and Iran has been historical. “The Iranian people view Russia with suspicion because of the long and long history of Russian interference in Iran’s domestic affairs,” says Hamid Reza Azizi.

In the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Iran faced several Russian attacks.

Russia’s efforts to control Iranian territories and its domestic politics were successful at times. One of the goals of the 1979 Iranian Revolution was to oppose the Soviet Union.

But after Putin’s visit to Iran in 2007, relations between the two countries started heating up. This was the first visit by a Russian leader to Iran since Joseph Stalin’s visit to Tehran in 1943.

Although Russia and Iran are not each other’s allies in the eyes of Hamid Raza Azizi, he does say that the strategic relationship between the two countries is growing.

He says, “Despite each other’s face-to-face on the Syrian front, there is a lot of cooperation between the two countries on the ground. We are also seeing that Russian soldiers are using Iranian drones. This is unprecedented.”

‘Russia wants to drag Iran into Ukraine conflict’

After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia led by the US.

Alam Saleh, an expert at the ‘Center for Arab and Islamic Studies’ at the Australian National University, says that since then Russia has been looking for allies around the world to reduce American influence. In these circumstances, an environment was created for its closeness with Iran and the interests of both the countries were linked to each other.

He told BBC Mundo: “Russia wants to drag Iran into the Ukraine conflict. It wants to ensure that Western countries criticize Iran and further distance itself from the Western world.”

He says, “Russia does not need Iran’s weapons. It is being isolated and in such a situation it is gathering support.”

In the year 2018, then US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of support from the Iran nuclear deal, since then Iran needs Russia’s cooperation.

Hamid Raza Azizi says, “The Iranian regime was in a strange position. It needed Russia’s cooperation.”

In the opinion of Alam Saleh, Iran also needs the support of Russia in the United Nations. The Iranian regime is facing protests on the domestic front. In these circumstances, it needs the economic and military support of Russia.

During his visit to Iran, Putin promised to increase economic cooperation and also signed agreements to invest in Iran’s oil and gas fields.

‘The two countries are not complementary to each other’

But many people suspect that Russia will not be able to help Iran much, especially financially. According to the International Monetary Fund, Russia’s economy is expected to shrink by 3.5 percent this year and 2.3% next due to Western sanctions.

Hamid Raza Azizi says that Russia is not a big angle of economic ties in Iran’s relations. “Economically Russia and Iran are rivals. Both countries depend on revenue from the sale of hydrocarbons.” And the nature of the economies of the two countries is such that the prospect of meaningful cooperation between the two seems difficult.

Hamid Raza Azizi says, “It is difficult for Iran to become a market for the products that Russia needs. And the same applies to Russia. Both countries have to look to the West or China for their needs, Which both the countries have been doing till recently.

Azizi cautions that the future of Moscow and Tehran’s bilateral relations depends on Iran’s domestic conditions. “The ongoing protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini will end the chapter of strategic cooperation with Russia if there are any fundamental changes to the country’s political system,” he says.

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