May 21, 2024 | Flash Brief

Russia, China Hail Late Iranian President as Stalwart Ally

May 21, 2024 | Flash Brief

Russia, China Hail Late Iranian President as Stalwart Ally

Latest Developments

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed their condolences to Tehran over the May 19 death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, honoring the late Iranian leader as a “true” and “great” friend. In a letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Putin said that Raisi “made an invaluable personal contribution to the establishing of neighborly relations” between Russia and Iran. “I had the luck of meeting Ebrahim Raisi more than once, and I will forever remember him as the most wonderful person,” Putin wrote. China’s Xi mourned Raisi’s “tragic death” on May 20. According to China’s Foreign Ministry, Xi said that Raisi’s passing was “a great loss to the Iranian people” and that “the Chinese people have lost a good friend.”

Expert Analysis

“Raisi’s death is unlikely to significantly alter China’s deepening ties with Iran, which alongside Russia, remains resolute in undermining Middle Eastern stability. Should social unrest arise during this transition period, Beijing is poised to provide Tehran with diplomatic top-cover to counter international criticism of the regime, as well as the advanced surveillance technologies needed to crack down on protesters.” — Craig Singleton, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s China Program

“Russian-Iranian security cooperation deepened considerably during Raisi’s tenure. That trend will likely continue despite his death. While Putin and other Russian officials were quick to convey their condolences after Raisi’s death, the interests driving Moscow and Tehran together run deeper than any one individual. At root is their shared antipathy to the West and Moscow’s need to secure aid for its war in Ukraine. Those factors live on.” — John Hardie, Deputy Director of FDD’s Russia Program

Russia Deepening Ties to Iran

Russian media reported on April 26 that Moscow is ready to expand military-technical cooperation with Iran. Sergei Shoigu, whom Putin has since ousted as defense minister, and his Iranian counterpart, Gharaei Ashtiani, discussed enhanced security ties during a meeting in Kazakhstan of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security grouping whose members include Russia, India, China, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Days earlier, The Washington Post revealed on April 17 that Russia’s Foreign Ministry had drawn up secret documents envisioning greater coordination with Iran, China, and North Korea to reshape the U.S.-led world order.

Moscow and Tehran are also deepening economic ties to evade Western sanctions. Putin hailed Russia-Iran cooperation in the energy, business, agricultural, and knowledge-based sectors during a December 7 meeting with the late Raisi.

China’s Deepening Ties to Iran

On October 26 — less than three weeks after Iran-backed Hamas attacked Israel — Chinese Premier Li Qiang met with now interim Iranian President Mohammad Mokhber on the sidelines of an SCO conference. Li affirmed Beijing’s commitment to strengthening its “comprehensive strategic partnership” with Tehran. Mokhber invited China to increase its investments in Iran, particularly in infrastructure, energy, and tourism. Mokhber’s invitation coincided with a three-fold increase in Chinese imports of Iranian oil over the two previous years.

How Beijing Benefits From a New Iran Deal,” by Craig Singleton

Russia and Iran Agree to Deepen Security Ties,” FDD Flash Brief

Presidents of Iran, Russia Hail Bilateral Ties,” FDD Flash Brief

China Pledges Closer Iran Ties Amidst Middle East Instability,” FDD Flash Brief

Issues:

China Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Russia