Iran’s military chief of staff who is visiting Moscow has said that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei attaches “special significance” to expanding ties with Russia.
General Mohammad Bagheri who has been on an official visit to Russia this week told the official government news website, IRNA, that the Russian Iranian military alliance in Syria is an example of extensive cooperation and added, the two countries made a lot of efforts “to protect Syria’s sovereignty”.
Iran entered the Syrian civil conflict as early as 2011, deploying advisors and troops to help the embattled government of Bashar al-Assad. Russia joined the war in 2015 by deploying its air force that together with Iran-organized ground troops largely defeated the rebel forces.
Bagheri went on to say that Russia and Iran have always supported one another on the international arena and “on the military front there is not any kind of misunderstanding and lack of clarity.”
The top Iranian military commander described bilateral relations as “growing and expanding”, insisting that Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) “attach special significance to expansion of relations with Russia.”
Khamenei, who has always spoken against the United States and Western European powers, insists that Iran should pursue an Eastern strategy, developing closer ties with China and Russia.
While he has banned direct talks with the US, and even earlier this year banned American and British Covid vaccines, Khamenei advocates self-reliance and cooperation with non-Western countries and blocks. His beliefs dominate the thinking among his hardline supporters who now control all three branches of the Iranian government.
Bagheri, referring to the United Nations arms embargo on Iran that expired last year, said that Tehran is pursuing arms deals with Moscow and his visit was aimed at discussing agreements. Bagheri added that the joint Russia-Iran military commissions will meet in Tehran in the next three months.
So far, Russia has not publicly committed to supplying new weapons to Iran, but Bagheri said on Monday that agreements have been signed to buy warplanes and helicopters from Russia.
As the fate of nuclear negotiations between world powers and Iran remains unclear, Russia can play a pivotal role in pressuring its ally to be flexible and return to the talks that were suspended in June by Tehran.
Iran, on the other hand, tries to highlight its relations with China and Russia to show the West that it is not so much dependent on an agreement and can save its economy by working with West’s competitors. But except some clandestine oil purchases, China for example has generally respected US sanctions. More than the Chinese government, large companies are wary of going business with Iran, concerned about retaliation by the United States.