A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took place in Tehran,  marking the first diplomatic trip by the Kremlin Chief outside of Russia since the invasion of Ukraine. Tehran’s Khamenei believes that building ties with Russia is a way for Tehran to balance the power of the US and its allies across the Gulf with Arab regimes and Israel. This is important to Tehran because of the geopolitical situation in the region.

“Considering the evolving geopolitical ties after the Ukraine war, Tehran tries to secure Moscow’s support in its confrontation with Washington and its regional allies,” said a senior Iranian official, who asked for anonymity.

Before the trip, Dmitry Peskov stated that sanctions imposed by the West on Russia and Iran had been in place for a long time and that this was the “price” that they paid for their sovereignty. However, Tehran is wagering that with Russia’s help, it may persuade Washington to provide “concessions” to revive a nuclear deal reached in 2015 whose signatory countries include the five superpower countries like the US, UK, France, and China, Russia, and Germany. Tehran’s confidence resulted from the recent rise in oil prices triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Putin’s visit to Iran will follow a series of talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two leaders will meet in Tehran to discuss an agreement to continue grain exports in Ukraine’s the Black Sea and Erdogan’s danger of launching another activity in northern Syria, which Moscow abhors. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Western nations have regularly called for President Bashar al-Assad to be removed from power. Russia and Iran, however, have been successful in their efforts to keep Assad in force in Syria. During the meeting, Putin, Erdogan, and President Ebrahim Raisi discussed how to lessen the conflict in Syria. The leaders were showing their dedication to help “normalize” the situation in Syria after it had been at war for a decade. 

“We agreed with our Iranian and Turkish colleagues to continue the practice of holding regular international expert consultations on Syria under the auspices of the Astana format. Along with the delegations of our three countries, Syrian parties take part in these consultations: the government and the opposition, the observer states – Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, as well as the UN representatives,” said the Kremlin chief.

Anti-West Move

Since former US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018, Iran’s petroleum shipments to China have been a vital source of funding for Tehran. However, Russia’s greater lean for Beijing has severely decreased Iran’s crude supplies in recent months. Due to Beijing’s preference for “heavily discounted” Russian barrels, Iran’s crude exports to China have dropped significantly. This has resulted in almost 40 million barrels of Iranian oil stagnantly stored on tankers at sea in Asia, waiting for buyers. 

“The contact with Khamenei is very important,” said Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser to journalists in Moscow. “A trusting dialog has developed between them on the most important issues on the bilateral and international agenda.”

US President Joe Biden also traveled to Israel and Saudi Arabia, warning the other nations to be wary of Moscow’s initiatives to “forge” closer strategic relations with Iran, China, and India in light of the western-imposed sanctions. Putin’s visit to Iran was tagged as an “anti-west” event since the “formal reason” behind the Kremlin’s trip was to participate in a trilateral conference with Iran and Turkey.

Meeting of President Vladimir Putin with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani. (Source: Kremlin.ruCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Iran’s Support to Russia

As the US provides Ukraine with the necessary tools to sustain the war with Russia, they anticipate that Iran will provide Russia with “hundreds” of drones, some of which will be able to carry weaponry for use in the battle in Ukraine. Additionally, Iran is preparing to instruct Russian military personnel on how to operate these drones beginning in the early weeks of July. Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs attempted to discredit the report by claiming that Tehran is impartial in the conflict and will not support any party involved.

Meeting of President Vladimir Putin with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (Source: Kremlin.ruCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, Ned Price, a spokesperson for the US Department of State, stated on Monday that Washington was keeping an eye on the situation and said they had discussed their worries on a potential Iranian provision of UAV technology to Russia. “We will continue to watch very closely. All of our sanctions remain in force. Any transaction of this sort would implicate several sanctions that we have on the books and presumably several sanctions that countries around the world have on the books. So this is something that we’ll continue to monitor, she added.