August 12, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iran and Russia Strengthen Their Partnership

August 12, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iran and Russia Strengthen Their Partnership

Latest Developments

Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into orbit on Tehran’s behalf on August 9. This action could potentially strengthen Iran’s ability to gather intelligence on sites in Israel and the wider Middle East. Meanwhile, a U.S. official told CNN that Russian personnel have started to train inside Iran on the use of drones. Tehran aims to sell hundreds of drones—including weapons-capable models—to Moscow for deployment in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

On August 10, Moscow accused Jerusalem of hypocrisy for criticizing Russia’s aggression. Further, the Russian Embassy in Egypt tweeted that Israel showed “disregard and contempt for Palestinian lives,” referring to recent hostilities between the Jewish state and the Iranian proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The comparison of Russia’s war of aggression and territorial expansion to Israel’s surgical strikes against a handful of terrorist targets was predictably condemned by Israeli officials.

FDD Expert Analysis

“Tehran’s robust unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] industry can help Russia’s military mitigate some important weaknesses in Ukraine. Moscow came late to the UAV game and is now racing to catch up. The Russian military is feeling this weakness acutely in Ukraine, where Russian forces face a shortage of UAVs for both strike and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.” – FDD’s John Hardie

“Israel has no choice but to continue to target the advanced weaponry Iran is smuggling through Syria. As tensions soar with Russia, Israel will need to walk a tightrope. Of course, the last thing Putin needs is another crisis, so far from home. The skies over Syria are thus likely to remain somewhat crowded, with Israeli air strikes continuing apace.” – FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer

Russia and Iran’s Shared Goal

Recent developments reflect increasing cooperation between Russia and Iran since the Ukraine conflict began in February. While Tehran’s Islamist ideology distinguishes it from Moscow’s secular state, both regimes share a common goal that drives their relationship: to weaken America’s global leadership, both in NATO and the Middle East. Both countries also face crippling U.S. sanctions, further fueling their self-serving narratives as victims of Washington.

Ukraine Identifies With Israel

Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevhen Korniichuk recently voiced solidarity with Israelis who withstood over a thousand rockets from Palestinian terrorists in Gaza in August. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has said that in order to survive the Russian assault, Ukraine will have to become like Israel. Similarly, the first lady of Ukraine has said that Israel inspires the people of Ukraine.

Israel’s Prime Minister Lapid Called Out Russian War Crimes in Ukraine

Although Jerusalem has tread cautiously on the Ukraine war for fear of conflict with the Russians in the skies over Syria, Russian-Israeli tensions have risen since early April. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, then serving as foreign minister, accused Russian forces of committing “war crimes.” Moscow subsequently hardened its rhetoric toward Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories. Russia’s ambassador to Israel reportedly said Lapid’s premiership “could create problems for Israeli-Russian relations.”

Russian-Iranian Sanctions Busting

Russia and Iran are working together to evade U.S. sanctions on both countries. In May, the Biden administration sanctioned an international oil smuggling network backed by Russia that facilitated the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah and to the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In July, the National Iranian Oil Company and Russia’s Gazprom signed a $40 million memorandum of understanding to develop two gas fields and six oil fields in Iran.

Russian-Israeli Tensions in Syria

Still, Jerusalem remains keen to preserve a working relationship with Moscow. Russia’s powerful S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems in Syria could threaten Israeli air operations against Iranian targets there. Although it has historically acquiesced to Israeli airstrikes in Syria, Russia has grown increasingly frustrated in recent months. Moscow has pushed Jerusalem to rein in its air campaign targeting advanced weapons to Hezbollah, to no avail.

In May, a Russian-operated Syrian S-300 SAM battery — a weaker SAM system than the S-400 that poses little threat to Israeli planes — fired unsuccessfully on Israeli aircraft for the first time. Moscow had provided S-300s to Damascus after Syrian forces accidentally downed a Russian Il-20 surveillance plane while targeting Israeli aircraft in 2018 — an incident Moscow blamed on Israel. Tensions increased further in June, when Moscow drafted a UN Security Council resolution condemning an Israeli strike that disabled the Damascus airport, which Iran was reportedly using to smuggle weapons.



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