Russia and Iran grow closer in isolation

Russia and Iran grow closer in isolation
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By Anton Troianovski and Farnaz Fassihi for NYT |

Islam News – Iran’s supreme leader gave President Vladimir V. Putin a ringing endorsement of Russia’s war in Ukraine on Tuesday, going even further than the Kremlin’s traditional allies in backing Mr. Putin’s invasion and signaling a stronger alliance between Moscow and Tehran.

Meeting with Mr. Putin during a rare international trip by the Russian leader to Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated Mr. Putin’s argument that the United States and its allies in Europe had left the Kremlin no choice but to invade Ukraine.

“War is a violent and difficult endeavor and the Islamic Republic is not at all happy that people are caught up in war,” Mr. Khamenei told Mr. Putin, according to his office, in a meeting that itself was seen as an honor in Iran. “But in the case of Ukraine, if you had not taken the helm, the other side would have done so and initiated a war.”

Mr. Khamenei’s public proclamation on war appeared to go beyond the much more cautious support offered by another key Russian ally, China. The Iranian leader’s words were also a signal to the world that the long-fraught relationship between Moscow and Tehran was strengthening into a true partnership, cemented partly by the Western sanctions damaging both of their economies.

Traveling to Iran, Mr. Putin also met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. The three leaders discussed the war in Ukraine and the situation in Syria, where Turkey has been threatening a new military incursion in the country’s northeast.

Mr. Putin’s trip to Iran underscored how the war in Ukraine is helping to align two regional powers isolated from Europe and the United States, and altering the world’s geopolitical calculus.

“Russia and Iran still don’t trust one another, but now need each other more than ever,” said Ali Vaez, the Iran director for the International Crisis Group. “This is no longer a partnership of choice, but an alliance out of necessity.”

For years, Russia was careful not to get too close to Iran, even as the two countries shared an adversarial relationship with the United States and cooperated militarily after Russia’s intervention in the Syria’s civil war. For Mr. Putin, his attempts to build relations with Israel and Arab countries precluded a full-fledged alliance with Tehran.

But the Ukraine war changed the calculus. Increasingly cut off from Western markets, Russia is looking to Iran as an economic partner and for expertise in avoiding sanctions. Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, signed a nonbinding $40 billion deal to help develop gas and oil fields in Iran, according to Iranian reports.

In addition, American officials say, Russia is looking to buy much-needed combat drones from Iran for use over Ukraine — a matter that was not addressed publicly in Tuesday’s meetings.

After landing in Tehran, Mr. Putin sat down with President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran for the third in-person meeting between the two since January. In brief televised comments at the beginning of their talks, Mr. Putin touted the two countries’ relations “developing at a good pace” in economic, security and regional affairs.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, told an Iranian broadcaster before Mr. Putin’s visit that Iran and Russia could soon sign a treaty on strategic cooperation, expanding their collaboration in banking and finance, and moving away from using the dollar to denominate their trade. He evoked the history of 16th-century diplomacy between Russia and Persia to set the scene for what he promised would be a new era of friendship between Tehran and Moscow.

The summit was only Mr. Putin’s second trip outside Russia since the start of the war, but the third time he has met Mr. Raisi this year: the Iranian president traveled to Moscow in January, and to a regional summit in Turkmenistan last month.
Mr. Khamenei set a chilly tone for the three-way summit earlier on Thursday in a separate meeting with Mr. Erdogan, where he appeared to reject Turkey’s military plans in Syria.
But Mr. Erdogan did not back down, at least publicly.

“Our fight against terrorist organizations will continue everywhere,” he said after the meeting. “We expect Russia and Iran to support Turkey in this struggle.”

Source: The New York Times

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