September 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran and Russia Deepen Ties as Russian Defense Minister Visits Tehran

September 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran and Russia Deepen Ties as Russian Defense Minister Visits Tehran

Latest Developments

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Iran on September 19 for high-level meetings with Iranian military officials. Shoigu’s trip came at the invitation of Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri. Shoigu visited the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force (IRGC-AF) headquarters in Tehran on September 20, where IRGC-AF Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Hajizadeh showed Shoigu Iran’s military technology, including drones, missiles, and missile defense systems. Shoigu also had a meeting with Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ashtiani, where they denounced the presence of the United States in the region.

Expert Analysis

“With Shoigu’s visit, Russia continues to invest in its partnership with Iran. Their relationship offers Moscow both an important source of weapons, most notably Shahed one-way attack drones, as well as an avenue for broader pushback against their shared enemy, the United States. Shoigu’s visit may portend a further expansion of Russian-Iranian military-military or military-technical cooperation, or both. Regarding potential arms deals, Iran has a variety of other drones as well as missiles that could be useful for Russia’s military, including in a potential renewed strike campaign targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure this winter.” — John Hardie, FDD Russia Program Deputy Director

“Russia and Iran’s defense partnership is set to expand as their political priorities increasingly align. Tied to Tehran’s desire to be more than just a junior partner to Moscow is its ability to provide Putin with cheaper long-range or precision-strike alternatives like suicide drones or close-range ballistic missiles. Of great concern during Shoigu’s trip was the showcasing of the Ababil close-range ballistic missile, which was featured for the first time ever in Iran’s booth at an arms expo in Moscow last month.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Missile Proliferation Ban Set to Expire

Since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Tehran has provided thousands of drones to Moscow while seeking advanced military equipment in return. Russia and Iran are also sharing intelligence and harassing American forces in Syria as part of a joint effort to drive the United States out of the region.

Despite selling Russia thousands of drones — which Iran’s president has denied — Iran has yet to provide Russia with ballistic missiles, perhaps due to arms proliferation restrictions imposed on Iran by United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231. That may change after October 18, when UNSCR 2231’s restrictions expire and, unless they are extended, Iran is free to sell advanced missile systems to its allies.

Russia and Iran Deepen Military Cooperation,” FDD Flash Brief

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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