Putin finds in Iran a new ally, the same outcast

President Vladimir V. Putin left Russia on a rare international trip on Tuesday and received a hefty reward: a meeting with a prominent world leader who strongly supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trip to Iran, Mr. Putin worked to strengthen the Iran-Russia alliance, which has become an important counterbalance to US efforts to contain Western adversaries. He met with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, who issued a statement of support for Mr. Iran. Putin’s war in Ukraine, which has not yet been unleashed even by other countries close to Russia.

“War is a cruel and difficult thing, and the Islamic Republic is not at all happy that people are involved in war,” he said. Khamenei said Mr. Putin, according to the Supreme Leader’s Office. “But in the case of Ukraine, if you hadn’t taken the helmet, the other side would have done it and started the war.”

mr. Putin also held a trilateral summit on Syria with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and their Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was also in Tehran, Iran’s capital.

The choreography of the day crystallized Mr. Putin’s determination to fight back against attempts to punish and isolate Russia by engaging with other American adversaries such as Iran, and with other countries such as Turkey – a NATO member – whose alliances are more confused.

mr. Approval of Khamenei’s war went far beyond much more careful support proposed by Russia’s other key ally, China, backing Mr. Putin’s claim that the West has left the Kremlin no choice but to act.

It was a signal to the world that now, with Europe and the United States hitting Russia with sanctions comparable to those that have choked the Iranian economy for years, the long-standing relationship between Moscow and Tehran could become a true partnership.

“Russia and Iran still don’t trust each other, but now they need each other more than ever,” said Ali Vaez, Iranian director of the International Crisis Group. “This is no longer a partnership of choice, but an alliance of necessity.”

For years, Russia has been careful not to get too close to Iran, even though the two countries have shared a hostile relationship with the United States and cooperated militarily since Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war. For Mr. Putin, his attempts build relationships with Israel and the Arab countries ruled out a full-fledged union with Tehran.

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the calculus.

Russia, increasingly cut off from Western markets, is looking to Iran for an economic partner, as well as experience in circumventing sanctions.

According to Iranian reports, Russian energy giant Gazprom has signed a $40 billion non-binding deal to help develop gas and oil fields in Iran. And US officials say Russia is looking to buy much-needed combat drones from Iran for use over Ukraine, but the issue was not discussed publicly in Tuesday’s meetings.

Ahead d. During Putin’s visit, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told an Iranian broadcaster that Iran and Russia could soon sign a strategic cooperation agreement that would expand their cooperation in banking and finance. He mentioned 16th-century diplomacy between Russia and Persia to set the stage for what he promised would be a new era of friendship between Tehran and Moscow.

Courtship between the two countries began even before the start of the war on 20 February. September 24, when tensions in Russia’s relations with the West were growing. In January, Iranian President Raisi went to Moscow. Then last month, the two men met again at a regional summit in Turkmenistan, where the Russian leader secured support from the countries of the Caspian Sea.

On Tuesday, when he and Mr. Raisi met this year for the third time. Putin said that relations between the two countries “are developing at a good pace” in the economy, security and regional affairs. He said that he and Mr. Raisi agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fields of energy, industry and transport, and to increasingly use national currencies, rather than the US dollar, to denominate their trade.

mr. Raisi sounded the same note.

“Everything is developing very quickly, including in terms of our bilateral relations,” he said. Putin, according to a transcript of his Kremlin speech.

mr. Khamenei said that “long-term cooperation between Iran and Russia is very beneficial for both countries” and called for the fulfillment of pending contracts between the countries, including in the gas and oil sectors.

In a statement released by his office, the supreme leader called the NATO alliance a “dangerous entity” and echoed Mr. Trump. Putin’s statement that the West was ready to go to war with Russia to help Ukraine regain the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

“If the road is clear for NATO, they know no borders and limits.” Khamenei said. “And if Ukraine had not been stopped, they would have started the same war under the pretext of Crimea.”

The war in Ukraine has forced other countries to rethink their alliances. Last week, as rising oil prices hurt him politically, President Biden, who once vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a “rogue state” after killing a dissident, traveled to Jeddah and hit with a fist about Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman.

It is too early to tell how much Iran can actually help Russia keep its economy afloat under the pressure of Western sanctions, or whether competition in the global energy market or divergence of political interests may not yet destroy their partnership.

As Russia tries to find new buyers for its oil, for example to circumvent sanctions, it is slashing the market share of its two allies, Iran and Venezuela, and provoking a price war that could hurt all of them, the market participants. recently told The New York Times.

And while the Ukrainian war loomed over Tuesday’s meetings, another conflict also loomed large: a war in Syria, where Turkey is threatening to launch a new military offensive in two northern cities against Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists.

mr. Erdogan described the possible operation as a way to protect the Turkish border from Kurdish fighters and create a zone into which some of the millions of Syrian refugees who crossed the border into Turkey during the war could return.

On Tuesday, Mr. Khamenei warned M. Erdogan against such an operation. In a separate meeting, he told him that any military attack in northern Syria would harm Turkey, Syria and the entire region.

For more than a decade of civil war in Syria, Iran and Russia have been the staunchest international allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. But Turkey has backed the armed groups fighting to remove Mr. Trump. Assad and launched incursions into northern Syria.

“Terrorism must be countered, but a military attack on Syria will only benefit the terrorists,” he said. message posted on Mr. Khamenei’s Twitter account on Tuesday along with a photo of him meeting with the Turkish leader.

mr. Erdogan has not backed down, at least publicly.

“Our fight against terrorist organizations will continue everywhere,” he said after the meeting. “We expect Russia and Iran to support Turkey in this fight.”

mr. Putin said the three countries had agreed on a joint declaration to work together to “normalize the situation” in Syria. He made it clear that for him, this meant removing any Western interference in the country and securing Mr. Trump’s rule. al-Assad.

The “destructive policy of Western countries led by the United States”, in his words, is aimed at “the dismemberment of the Syrian state.”

Despite their differences over Syria, the leaders tried to radiate friendliness.

mr. Putin, who has been taking extreme social distancing precautions for much of the pandemic, meeting with visiting leaders via long table in the Kremlinhe could be seen talking to Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Raisi in video Russian state media shared. mr. Erdogan stood, keeping his finger on the pulse. Putin is back.

The three leaders read out press statements as they sit next to each other on a dais lined with white flowers. mr. Putin said that their next tripartite summit would be in Russia and that he had invited his “Iranian and Turkish friends” to visit the country.

Cora Engelbrecht and Gülsin Harman provided the report.