Iran’s support to the Russian war effort in Ukraine
- Publicly Iran maintains a neutral stance towards the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Tehran advocates for a ceasefire and stresses the necessity of diplomatic solution. However, such rhetoric is nothing more than an elaborate attempt to conceal Iranian diplomatic and military support to Russia.
- The main element of Iranian support to Russia is supply of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Throughout the course of the conflict, Russia procured hundreds of UAS from Iran, including both multirole UAS and various types of loitering munitions, such as Shahed-136. This loitering munition (rebranded as Geran-2 by Russia) accounts for the majority of UAS transfers from Iran to Russia. It is widely used by the Russian Armed forces to strike military and civilian targets across Ukraine, particularly energy infrastructure, in order to harass Ukrainian population and force it into submission. In addition, heavy use of Shahed-136s allows the Russian Armed forces to mitigate the negative impact of rapidly dwindling stocks of high-precision munitions (Iskander, Kalibr, and other types of missiles).
- In the diplomatic sphere, Iran’s capabilities to support Russia are limited, but that does not deter Tehran from such attempts. First, Tehran votes according to Moscow’s interests in the United Nations General Assembly on the issues related with Russia’s aggression. Furthermore, high-ranking Iranian officials continually blame NATO for the war in Ukraine. They portray Russia as a victim, which was forced to defend its national interests due to NATO’s provocations. This way Tehran amplifies the Kremlin’s propaganda narratives.
- By supporting Russia, Iran pursues several goals. It aims to prevent Moscow’s defeat in Ukraine as it would highly likely result in a weaker Russia, whereas Iran needs a strong ally as a counterbalance towards the West. Secondly, the war in Ukraine presents a unique opportunity for Iran to undermine interests of Western states outside the Middle East. Finally, Iran highly likely will use its current provision of assistance as leverage to negotiate favourable terms for future modern weaponry transfers from Russia.