August 24, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iran Deal Would Help Putin, Undermine Ukraine

August 24, 2022 | Flash Brief

Iran Deal Would Help Putin, Undermine Ukraine

Latest Developments

“Russia plans to use Iran as a backdoor to circumvent international sanctions over Ukraine if Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers comes back into force,” Politico reported on Tuesday. Trade, finance, and energy officials from both Tehran and Moscow have met in recent months to develop what Politico calls a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for Russia to evade Western sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran in July to strengthen ties between the two countries.

The Politico report comes as Iran and the United States inch closer to finalizing a new version of the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Russia’s envoy in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, is at the center of the talks, pushing for a deal on Iran’s requested terms. The diplomat retains this role even though he recently used what a Ukrainian official called “genocidal” rhetoric against Ukraine. In addition, Ulyanov’s government continues to obstruct the International Atomic Energy Agency’s access to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Expert Analysis

“Given the administration’s stance, it is up to Congress to intervene legislatively to protect the U.S. and international financial systems. New legislation could require the president to certify annually that the Central Bank of Iran or other Iranian financial institutions aren’t involved in illicit and deceptive financial practices, including terrorism financing or facilitating Russian efforts to evade Western sanctions — and mandate sanctions if they are.” – Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

“The conventional wisdom has been Russia doesn’t want a nuclear deal that would bring Iranian oil back onto world markets. That’s wrong. Putin has much more to gain by establishing a sanctions evasion hub in Iran. If you care about Ukraine, you should be very worried about this deal.” – Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

The Iran Deal Facilitates Russia Sanctions Evasion

Under the nuclear deal, key U.S. sanctions on prominent banks and companies in Iran would reportedly be lifted. Russia could then conduct transactions with these entities without fear of U.S. or European interference. While the Iranian entities may violate sanctions on Russia, Washington would avoid a showdown that could derail the nuclear deal, since Tehran would regard any U.S. reimposition of sanctions as a breach of the deal.

Iran Sanctions Relief Would Deliver Even More for Russia

The nuclear talks continue as Iran plans to transfer armed drones to Russia for use against Ukraine. Such transfers are subject to U.S. sanctions under an executive order issued in 2020 prohibiting the transfer of any arms to or from Iran. Tehran, however, reportedly claims the U.S. has agreed to undefined “concessions” regarding enforcement of that order — a major worry for Ukraine supporters.

Separately, the original JCPOA allowed Russia to sign a $10 billion contract with Iran for the construction of additional nuclear power plants in Iran. The deal also enshrined Russia as the custodian for Iran’s nuclear material and a contracted supplier at other nuclear sites.

Related FDD Analysis 


International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Iran Sanctions Iran-backed Terrorism Nonproliferation Russia Sanctions and Illicit Finance Ukraine