August 22, 2023 | Flash Brief

Russia and Iran Deepen Military Cooperation

August 22, 2023 | Flash Brief

Russia and Iran Deepen Military Cooperation

Latest Developments

Iran’s regular army commander and his Russian counterpart met in Moscow on August 21. Brig. Gen. Kioumars Heydari, commander of the Ground Forces of Iran’s Artesh, met with Gen. Oleg Salyukov. After laying wreaths at Russia’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the two generals held talks at the Russian Ground Forces headquarters. There, they “discussed issues of military cooperation and interaction aimed at implementing projects” designed to bolster the “combat readiness” of their respective militaries, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. According to the Embassy of Iran in Russia, their discussions focused especially on combat training.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said the two parties “reached agreements on further enhancing cooperation between the land forces in various fields.” It added that the Iranian side would visit Russian Ground Forces military education institutions as well as Russian defense-industrial enterprises. The day prior, Iranian state media said Heydari had visited Iran’s booth at Russia’s Army-2023 international defense expo.

Expert Analysis

“This announcement indicates Russia and Iran intend to build on their burgeoning military-technical partnership by expanding their military-to-military ties. While the details remain uncertain, the trendline is clear: Moscow and Tehran’s defense partnership is growing increasingly broad and deep.” — John Hardie, Deputy Director of FDD’s Russia Program

“The Venn diagram between Russia and Iran continues to grow. In addition to rare meetings between senior Russian defense officials and their counterparts in Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff and Artesh on the sidelines of the MCIS conference, sanctioned Iranian defense companies participated in Moscow’s Army-2023 military exposition. For the first time ever, Tehran’s booth at the expo displayed a ballistic missile — perhaps foreshadowing potential missile transfers to supplement Russia’s Iranian-supplied drones.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Deepening Defense Ties Between Russia and Iran

Russia and Iran have increased their military cooperation since 2015, when Moscow intervened in Syria to save their common ally Bashar al-Assad. In addition to coordinating in Syria, the two countries have held regular military-to-military exchanges and combined exercises. In 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023, Russia and Iran conducted naval drills in the Gulf of Oman. (China joined all but one.) In 2020, Iran participated in the naval portion of Russia’s annual strategic command-staff exercise, which that year focused on the Caucasus.

The two countries have doubled down on their defense partnership following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, with Tehran providing drones to Moscow while seeking advanced military equipment in return. Meanwhile, they are sharing intelligence and harassing American forces in Syria as part of a joint effort to drive the United States from the country.

Whereas Russian-Iranian combined exercises to date have focused on naval cooperation, Monday’s agreements may signal that Moscow and Tehran will broaden their scope. For example, Iranian ground troops could join Russia’s next strategic exercise focused on the Caucasus. In addition, Moscow could invite Iranian Ground Forces officers to study at Russian military academies.

Russia Plans to Locally Produce 6,000 Iranian Suicide Drones,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Aids Russia’s Imperialist War Against Ukraine,” by John Hardie

Iran Is Now at War With Ukraine,” by John Hardie and Behnam Ben Taleblu


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