The kamikaze drones the Ayatollahs of Iran provided Russia to aid Moscow’s war against Ukraine are merely a precursor for a full-fledged alliance. The pact between the two nations includes communist China as well. This emerging unholy alliance does worry the western world, and Israel. Iran has now permitted Moscow (for pay) to improve its drone accuracy and distance, as well as that of the Iranian provided rockets. This should concern not only the Ukrainians but Israel as well. Iran is more than likely to transfer the technologically improved drones to Hezbollah terrorists. Putin, Russia’s desperate president, may even seek to limit, if not deny, Israel’s preventive attacks in Syria against Iranian transfers of arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Perhaps even more worrisome is the prospect of Russia aiding the Islamic Republic to complete the weaponization of its nuclear program.
National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, during a press briefing at the White House (November 28,2022) declared that “Russia and Iran are moving toward a full defense partnership.” Kirby cited US Intelligence assessment, that Russia was offering Iran “an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into full-fledge defense partnership.” Kirby added, “Russia and Iran were considering setting up a drone assembly line in Russia for Ukraine conflict, while Russia was training Iranian pilots on the Sukhoi-SU-35 fighter and Iran could receive deliveries of the planes within a year. These planes will significantly strengthen Iran’s air force relative to its neighbors.” Among these neighbors is obviously Israel, which faces an existential threat from Iran. Estimates in Israel and the West are that Russia will be helping Iran with intelligence gathering from the ground and from space. Russia might launch spy satellites on behalf of Iran.
Iran is also about to sell hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia on top of the drones Iran had already provided Russia last summer. Kirby pointed out that it is imperative that the truth about Iran’s supplying Russia be exposed and should be investigated by the UN as soon as possible. Strangely, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, denied that Iran is supplying weapons to the Ukraine combat zone.
For Iran, the new alliance with China and Russia is most profitable. China and Russia are aiding Iran in evading US sanctions by helping Iran’s theocratic regime sell its oil on world markets while simultaneously protecting the Ayatollahs from UN resolutions. This alliance of the three authoritarian and undemocratic regimes is posing a serious challenge to the western alliance and will impact on the global balance of power.
The Iranian-Russian cooperation is currently centered around the war in Ukraine. Putin seeks to defeat the Ukrainian quest for independence and sovereign rights and prevent Kyiv from joining the West. There are, however, additional ramifications to this war that will impact Israel, the Arab Gulf states, and even the West. A nuclear Iran will surely be an existential threat not only to Israel but ultimately to the whole world, nor can the West minimize a strengthened conventional-armed Iran. During the war in Ukraine, the Russian military captured American supplied Javelin anti-tank missiles. These missiles are the most sophisticated and lethal in the realm of ground warfare. Russia might transfer them to Iran so the Iranians could adopt the technology and provide such missiles to Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). This would certainly pose a challenge for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
While transferring technology and arms to Iran, Putin is still cautious about interfering with Israeli Air Force (IAF) freedom of operation over the skies of Syria. He understands that for Israel preventing the transfer of lethal arms to the terrorists of Hezbollah, Hamas, and PIJ is a top security imperative. He wouldn’t want his air force to engage with the IAF given the current poor performance of the Russian army in Ukraine. He might even remember that during the “War of Attrition” (1969-1970), when Soviet pilots engaged the IAF, they were shot down by IAF pilots in dogfights.
Historically, there no love lost between Russia/Soviet Union and Iran. In August 1941, during WWII, Soviet and British forces occupied neutral Iran in what was called Operation Countenance. During the reign of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran joined the Baghdad Pact in 1955, a bulwark against Soviet Middle Eastern expansionism. After the fall of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the Soviet Union was the first nation to recognize the Ayatollahs Islamic Republic in February of that year. Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini was averse to communism, but he was also intensely anti-American. The current western sanctions imposed on both Iran and Russia made the two nations coalesce into the present alliance. In recent years (since 2015), Iran and Russia cooperated in Syria, fighting against the Sunni-Muslim rebels to preserve the dictatorship of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president.
Whereas the military alliance between Russia and Iran presents a significant threat to Israel, there is yet a silver lining for Israel emanating from it. The western democracies who were hitherto eager to conclude the nuclear deal with Iran have gotten cold feet. Iran’s support for Russia in brutalizing the Ukrainian people in winter’ cold has turned public opinion even in appeasement-oriented Europe against Iran. Still, the Biden administration has insisted on keeping the nuclear talks with Iran on a separate track, despite Iran’s gross violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) provisions.
Though the Biden team condemned Iran’s sale of drones to Russia, it has been prepared to make serious concessions to the Ayatollahs. It seems that nothing will deter Washington from pursuing the nuclear deal with Iran. Not even the missile attacks on US personnel in Syria and Iraq, as well as such attacks on its regional allies. Additionally, the wrongful detention of US citizens in Iran, the Holocaust denial of the Iranian Supreme leader, or the Ayatollahs crack down on Iranian women demonstrating for their basic rights did not dissuade the Biden administration.
In both America and Europe, the people have forced their governments to realize that Iran is a real and present threat to world peace and Middle East stability. As a result, the Biden administration’s motivation to conclude the nuclear deal with the Ayatollahs has cooled-off significantly. Hence, Iran might have to endure the burdens of western sanctions that could even increase. This will limit the resources the Ayatollahs have to invest in Iran’s nuclear project, and its involvement in military adventurism throughout the region. At the same time, Iran’s deteriorating economic conditions and the persistent nationwide demonstrations threaten the very existence of the Ayatollahs regime.