October 26, 2022 | Foreign Policy

Iran Is Now at War With Ukraine

Tehran has taken its fight against the West to Europe.
October 26, 2022 | Foreign Policy

Iran Is Now at War With Ukraine

Tehran has taken its fight against the West to Europe.

Excerpt

For the first time, Iran is involved in a major war on the European continent. Iranian military advisors, most likely members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, are on the ground in occupied Ukraine—and possibly Belarus—to help Russia rain down deadly Iranian kamikaze drones on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure. According to an Israeli news report citing a Ukrainian official, 10 Iranians have already been killed in a Ukrainian attack on Russian positions. Tehran is now preparing to up the ante by providing Russia not only with potentially thousands of additional drones but also, for the first time, with two types of Iranian-made ballistic missiles to supplement Russia’s own dwindling stocks.

Tehran’s military support is already making its deadly mark on the war, but the geopolitical consequences extend much further. By escalating its support for Russia’s imperial attempt to subjugate Ukraine, Iran hopes to advance its own imperial project in the Middle East. Tehran will likely seek to leverage the deepening Russo-Iranian partnership into arms deals from Moscow while using lessons learned from the Ukrainian battlefield to perfect Iranian drone and missile capabilities. At the same time, the regime in Iran likely hopes that fueling the crisis in Ukraine will further distract the West from confronting Iran’s pursuit of hegemony in the Middle East. With any luck, however, Tehran’s foray into European power politics could help nudge Washington and its Western allies toward a more robust policy to counter Iran.

To redress battlefield weaknesses hampering its eight-month war against Ukraine, Russia has found a willing supporter. Tehran, which has poured considerable resources and effort into its drone and missile programs since the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, has reportedly supplied Moscow with hundreds of drones of various types. They include the Shahed-136, a so-called loitering munition that Moscow has rebranded as the Geran-2, designed to careen into its target kamikaze-style. In addition to helping Russian forces take out stationary targets near the front lines, the munition has enabled Russia to conduct numerous strikes in cities across Ukraine in recent weeks while conserving its dwindling missile stock.

John Hardie is the deputy director of the Russia program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Military and Political Power Russia Ukraine