Why Iran Supports Russia in the War with Ukraine

The United States wants an investigation into the use of Iranian drones by Russia in the war with Ukraine. Where does this cooperation between these countries come from? We asked Iran expert Erwin van Veen.

According to the US, the Russians are receiving help from Iranian technicians at a military base in Crimea, annexed by Russia. The US wants the United Nations Security Council to initiate this investigation. Earlier, the United Kingdom, France and Germany made a similar appeal in letters to the UN.

Not the main thing

Meanwhile, Iran denies that it supplies drones to Russia, but according to the United States there is enough evidence that Russia does use Iranian drones. The fact that Iran is helping Russia in the war with Ukraine does not seem very obvious at first. “For the Russians it’s the main thing, and for Iran it’s just one sideshow“, says Iran expert Erwin van Veen of the Clingendael Institute.

In the past, Russia and Iran often had conflicts with each other, says Van Veen. But now the countries are a kind of ‘competition colleagues’, according to him. “They work together on certain fronts. Their interests overlap on a number of points, and they can’t work against each other there.”

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Middle East

“The core of Iran’s foreign policy is actually in the Middle East. That’s about control over Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, all countries that Iran actually uses as some sort of strategic depth to defend itself. state to attack Israel, for example,” explains Van Veen.

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“That’s what Iran is really about. But in Syria, Russia is an important ally and they will not want to see Russia really lose the conflict in Ukraine. That would also be a loss for Iran, because then they will also receive less support from Russia.” have other fronts.”

War reporter Hans Jaap Melissen reacts to the use of drones in Ukraine and the consequences it has for residents of the country

Test Weapons

In addition, there are also a few practical benefits to helping Russia, says the expert. “First, they score points with the Kremlin, which they could collect in the future for a favor in return.”

“Secondly, they have a chance to test their weaponry, and perhaps soon missiles themselves. They have developed them for decades and now they are taking action on a large scale. And finally, this has a deterrent effect on Iran’s competitors in the region. countries will think twice before arguing.”

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Offer support

Van Veen does not find it very surprising that Iranian technicians are walking around in military bases. “It is common for any major shipment of complex military equipment, such as the drones we are talking about, that a number of military personnel come along to provide support in putting the equipment into operational use.”

“The Americans and the EU do that too, on the side of Ukraine,” adds Van Veen. “Those are not ground troops that really go into battle.”

Missiles in battle

Nevertheless, Iran expert Van Veen does not rule out closer cooperation between Iran and Russia. Then it is not about ground troops, but about more weapons.

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“More drones or even missiles are possible, there is already speculation about that. But I think that Iranian troops will get involved in the battle is quite unlikely.”

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