Beware of Iran, silent partner in the anti-Western club

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The Aussie – July 21, 2022

Vladimir Putin is visiting Iran this week, only his second trip abroad since he invaded Ukraine and it speaks to the importance of this relationship for Russia.

Already, the National Iranian Oil Co and Russia’s Gazprom have reportedly signed a multibillion-dollar memorandum of understanding on energy investments, while the Russian president has won explicit support for his invasion of Ukraine from Iran’s Supreme Leader. , Ali Khamenei.

It has been recognized on a bipartisan basis in Australia that it is no longer possible to compartmentalize the challenge of Russia and China. Previous and current federal governments have pledged to send military aid to Ukraine while warning against the “limitless” partnership between Beijing and Moscow.

That is why Ukraine was at the center of the otherwise Pacific-oriented Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in February, and why in June NATO declared China for the first time as one of its strategic priorities – reflecting the lack of daylight between Russia and China on NATO, AUKUS, Taiwan and almost all other international issues. But this imperial alliance has at least one other dangerous member: Iran.

On July 16, CNN reported that a Russian delegation visited Iran at least twice in June and again in July to see a demonstration of Iran’s Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters earlier that “the Iranian government is preparing to supply Russia with up to several hundred drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), including drones capable of arms, within an expedited timeframe”.

This follows dozens of cargo flights to Russia linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, tracked by Twitter analyst @Gerjon_ since April.

Since the 1980s, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow and Tehran have been strategic allies and mutually reinforcing elements of each other’s imperial projects, first in Afghanistan, then in Syria and Venezuela. and now, it seems, in Ukraine. Unfortunately, a long-held illusion that a wedge can be driven between them, or between Russia and China or China and Iran, persists.

The glue that holds this partnership together is hatred of the United States and its global alliance system, which to some extent has frustrated their respective imperial ambitions and ideological goals. In recent times, it has become more than evident that regional conflicts and issues that were previously considered unrelated need to be considered holistically by policy makers if there is to be any hope of resolving them effectively.

Not only has China almost single-handedly kept Iran afloat through energy purchases despite crushing sanctions, but it is also, through its illicit proliferation agent Karl Lee (Li Fangwei), “the most important supplier foreign exchange of items and materials for the Iranian missile program”. which has “contributed to Iran’s continued development of more sophisticated missiles with improved accuracy, range and lethality”, according to the US State Department. In March last year, China and Iran signed a 25-year strategic agreement covering economic, military and security cooperation worth hundreds of billions of US dollars.

Russia and Iran are negotiating their own 20-year comprehensive cooperation agreement, an update of one that has existed since 2001. China, Russia and Iran have also deepened trilateral military cooperation and exercises, and the China and Russia have jointly used their privileged position as members of the UN Security Council to cripple international responses to global crises and shield anti-Western regimes from condemnation.

Even on Australian soil, these countries try to help each other militarily. In 2017, for example, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that a Sydney-based “Hezbollah official” brokered an arms deal between China and Iran and his clients in 2011. More recently, two Queensland-based cases, a Russian, a Chinese, have been arrested and are accused of trying to arrange the transfer of weapons from Russia to China in 2018.

While Russia receives all the attention, Iran has a global presence and a regional empire that is no less disruptive or dangerous than that of its ally and it is by no means a junior partner. This is particularly the case as Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, with Khamenei’s senior adviser, Kamal Kharrazi, having recently declared: “Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb, but Iran has no not decided to build one”. Iranian drones and other capabilities are also appearing in Venezuela, as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seeks to transplant its asymmetric capabilities from the Persian Gulf to the Caribbean.

Greater proliferation will certainly follow, particularly if Iran chooses to develop nuclear weapons.

While Australia is rightly focused on the Chinese threat in the Pacific, Australian officials and analysts understand the need to help Ukraine fight Russia, and that the two issues are linked. Yet, strangely, Iran is often left out of the discussion, even though it is clearly a central partner in the combined effort to undermine and displace the United States and its allies and associated ideas of democracy and human rights. ‘man.

Ideally, Iran’s intention to materially support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will rectify this oversight. Australia and its allies do not have the luxury of focusing solely on Russia or China, and they certainly do not have the luxury of ignoring Iran.

Oved Lobel is a political analyst at the Australia/Israel Council and Jewish Affairs.

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