Iran-Russia military relations take spotlight following FMs Moscow meeting

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was in Moscow on Wednesday for a visit he said covered military cooperation among many other bilateral and regional issues.

“It is clear that defense cooperation is one of the topics at the top of the joint agenda of Iran and Russia,” he declared as he left for Moscow, where he stood next to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at a press conference .

In an interview with Russian state television, Amir-Abdollahian was asked about a Wall Street Journal report this week that cited American officials as saying Moscow is giving Tehran “cyberwarfare” and “surveillance software” in exchange for Iranian drones. .

“Iran’s military cooperation does not harm any side,” Amir-Abdollahian said, without addressing any details in the report.

Iran is facing relentless international pressure because of the drones it is supplying to Russia that are being used in deadly operations in Ukraine. Tehran has rejected the deliveries over several shipments made months into the conflict.

But during the war in Ukraine and amid ongoing anti-government unrest in Iran, military ties between the two sanctions-hit countries have grown significantly.

As early as March 11, Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations announced that an agreement has been finalized for Tehran’s purchase of Sukhoi-35 warplanes from Moscow. The exact numbers are unclear, but Iran has long wanted the aircraft to upgrade its dwindling air power.

With decades of international sanctions, Iran’s air force has been left behind and has struggled to survive with multiple reforms and occasional reverse engineering projects.

According to Iranian officials, the Sukhoi-35 deal was reached because of the long-standing international arms embargo on Iran. The restrictions were officially lifted in 2020 under Resolution 2231, allowing the Islamic Republic, at least on paper, to buy and sell conventional weapons.

The new purchases were in line with earlier announcements including one in January from an Iranian lawmaker, who said a squadron was set to arrive around the end of March.

Some observers have argued that those planes are Russia’s payment for Iranian drones, especially the Shahed-129 and 191, which are produced at a center in the center of the city of Kashan, which was visited by Russian military representatives in July.

In February, a New York Times analysis of satellite images along with an Iranian state television promotional video of the inauguration of an underground airstrip revealed signs that the site was being prepared to accommodate planes from of Russia.

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