The White House warned Wednesday that deepening ties between Russia and Iran go beyond arms sales to collaboration to violently suppress dissent, signaling that the United States is monitoring the new phase of relations between Tehran and Moscow.
It’s also a display of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s potentially growing reliance on Iran as he tries to cling on to whatever global support he can still garner.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration was “concerned that Moscow may be advising Tehran on best practices for handling the protests,” referring to Israel’s deadly and violent crackdown. Iran against anti-government protests led by women.
The United States has also rejected Kremlin denials that Iran is supplying armed drones and providing on-the-ground training to Russian forces used in deadly attacks on Ukraine.
“The evidence that Iran is helping Russia fight its war against Ukraine is clear and it is public and Iran and Russia are getting closer as they isolate each other,” Jean-Pierre said.
“Our message to Iran is very, very clear, stop killing your people and stop selling weapons to Russia to kill Ukrainians.”
Here are five things to know about the deepening ties between Moscow and Tehran.
Russia may help suppress protests in Iran
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday he could not provide more information about the sources of information Moscow is assessing to advise Tehran on its response to the long-running protests. more than a month – where the United Nations said at least 23 children have been killed and human rights groups have reported more than 220 civilian deaths.
Protesters are showing public rage against the ruling clerical government, spurred by the death of a 22-year-old woman detained by ‘morality police’ for allegedly wearing her headscarf improperly as required by the state .
“Karine was not making an allegation, she was making a fact, which we know they [Russia] maybe considering some sort of support for Iran’s ability to suppress protesters,” Kirby said, without providing evidence of why the United States thinks so.
“We will watch where it goes, but this is just another example of Russia and Iran now, to not only violate the human rights and civil rights of Iranians, but to further endanger life of Ukrainians.”
Russia and Iran fly high with drone and missile collaboration
Russia’s use of Iranian drones in Ukraine – first documented earlier this month – is an example of the “highest degree of military cooperation the two countries have had”, said Becca Wasser, senior researcher for the defense program of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).
It appears to be an extension of the deeply transactional attitudes of both countries, Wasser said.
Iran can portray itself as an arms supplier to potential buyers who don’t buy weapons from the US, the West or even China – ‘if they are able to circumvent sanctions’ against Iran, Wasser added.
It also provides an arena for Iran to retaliate against the United States and Western countries in opposition to sanctions imposed on the Islamic government for a host of abuses, including its crackdown on protesters, human rights abuses , threats against Israel and its Gulf allies and its supply of arms to regional forces by proxy.
For Russia, “Iran has conveniently provided a means” for it to strike Ukrainian infrastructure and civilian targets as its own stockpiles of advanced weapons have been depleted, destroyed and squeezed by sanctions, Wasser said.
“Here we see that playing out … that cooperative transactional relationship when it works in their favor, but not necessarily deepening the ties to the extreme,” she said.
Israel watches, but does not move
Israel is closely monitoring Iran’s involvement in Russia’s war, but still has no hesitation in rejecting highly critical calls from Kyiv for Jerusalem to drop its stance of denying Ukrainians military and air defenses.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, speaking in Washington on Wednesday, said there are “some things we cannot provide for national security reasons.”
Yet Herzog presents President Biden with Israeli evidence that supports US claims that Russia is using Iranian weapons to attack Ukraine and is being trained by Iranian military personnel present in Russia and Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory.
Herzog presented the claims at an Atlantic Council conference on Wednesday, showing side-by-side comparisons of photos released by Iranian media of their Shahed-136 drones, and photos showing what appeared to be the exact models found. following destructive attacks in Ukraine. .
“This is just the tip of the iceberg” of information Israel is presenting to the United States, Herzog said, adding that the international community must “confront Iran and ask it simple questions.”
“Can the international community negotiate with Iran and accept their lies, and believe Iran when we know they are both racing towards a nuclear bomb, while doing all the other terrible things they make ?” He asked.
Near-dead nuclear deal could get new life
While talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have effectively stalled, the Biden administration is using a key deal mechanism to bring greater control over Iran’s arms sales to Russia.
The United States, United Kingdom, France and Ukraine have filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council that Iran’s sale of drones to Russia is a violation of Resolution 2231, which enshrined the nuclear deal, imposed an arms embargo on Iran and provided a mechanism for signatory countries to trigger scrutiny of any violation of the deal.
“The transfer of these drones is absolutely a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” Kirby said from the podium. “We will continue with allies and partners and with the UN to see if there are other ways to hold them accountable.”
Violations of Resolution 2231 could, indeed, be used to roll back UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, but this is unlikely given Russia’s veto power on the council.
Jonathan Lord, senior fellow and director of the Middle East security program at CNAS, said the action in the Security Council was probably more about “publicly pressuring and attributing something that Iran always denies doing, too. unlikely that it is”. .”
The United States and the European Union have imposed their own sanctions related to Iranian drone sales to Russia, and their positions at the UN could help pressure other countries to join them, he added.
Oil exports in danger
Russia and Iran’s status as oil exporters and dependence on that revenue add another layer of complexity to their relationship, but one that is unlikely to be a significant factor in bringing them closer together or tear them apart, said Antoine Halff, deputy principal investigator. at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
While Russia remains one of the world’s top three oil producers, Halff said Iran is a “second-tier producer” and a “shadow” of itself as an oil exporter. held under intensive global sanctions on its market.
The United States, Europe and other Kyiv-aligned nations have struggled to cut Russia’s oil sales enough to bankrupt its war in Ukraine. Reportedly discussed plans to lift sanctions on Iranian and Venezuelan oil exports to counter Russia’s market position have not materialized.
Halff said Russia’s and Iran’s own interests in oil must be weighed against their common interests, “in their opposition to the West, and the United States in particular.”
“So everything that happens in oil has to be seen in the context of those other shared interests.”