In addition to Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, Putin also wants to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov said talks are planned between the three presidents to improve the situation in civil war-torn Syria.
It was one of Putin’s first foreign trips since the war against Ukraine began four and a half months ago. Two weeks ago, the Kremlin leader had already flown to the Central Asian allies of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Putin has only participated in several meetings online in recent months, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
Iran wants to support Russia
But Putin’s trip to Iran drew attention for another reason: The United States said on Monday it had signs that Iran wanted to support Russia in its fight against Ukraine. “Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to rapidly deploy several hundred unmanned aerial vehicles, including those capable of carrying weapons,” said Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to US President Joe Biden.
Sullivan said Iran would train the Russians to use these aircraft, often described as drones. According to US findings, such training will begin in mid-July. However, it is not clear whether such weapons have already been delivered. Sullivan interpreted the information as a sign that Russia’s progress in the war in eastern Ukraine has had a significant impact on its own weapons stockpiles.
Iran denied Sullivan’s statement. “Our position on the Ukraine conflict is well known,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Khanani said. Tehran understands the Russian reaction to NATO’s eastward expansion, but at the same time favors diplomacy and opposes a military solution to the crisis. There is cooperation between Russia and Iran at the technical level, but it started long before the war in Ukraine.
Military equipment is only from Russia
As for Putin’s war against Ukraine, which began in late February, Iran is officially neutral. But the Russian sympathies of the Iranian leadership are well known. Iran’s ties with the world’s largest country by area have grown increasingly close in recent years — especially since 2018, when the United States withdrew from the Vienna nuclear deal under its then-President Donald Trump. Due to US sanctions, Iran was also able to receive military logistics from Russia.
There is no official information in Tehran about the planned delivery of Iranian drones for Russia’s war against Ukraine. Political circles do not see Moscow, and Putin in particular, as a reliable partner. At the same time, observers believe that the Iranian government has no choice but to stick with Putin because of its international isolation.
Putin will also hold a bilateral meeting with Erdogan in Tehran, the Kremlin said. NATO member Turkey has close ties to both Moscow and Kiev and most recently acted as a mediator between the two countries in a dispute over blocked grain exports to Ukraine.
Turkish drones against Russia
Turkey has condemned the Russian attack, but has imposed no sanctions, other than blocking its airspace to military and civilian planes carrying troops from Russia to Syria. At the same time, Ukraine is using Turkish fighter drones in its fight against Russian aggressors.
On the other hand, in Syria, after the start of the war in Ukraine, experts believe that a change of power among the actors is possible. Accordingly, Iran and Turkey may try to fill the power vacuum left by Moscow. Ankara has been announcing for weeks a new offensive in northern Syria where it has already occupied territories. Russia and Iran support the Syrian government, while Turkey is allied with the opposition. The three protecting powers have been organizing talks on the Syrian conflict in the Astana format since 2017.
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