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Special Report: Why You Can’t be an Iran Hawk and a Russia Dove

A Russian victory is an Iranian victory. Moscow and Tehran have formed a military bloc with the aim of defeating the United States and its allies in the Middle East, Europe, and around the world. Russian and Iranian military forces have been fighting alongside one another in Syria for nearly a decade. The Russians have given Iran advanced air defenses and access to other military technologies and techniques, in addition to a front-row seat observing their efforts to defeat American and NATO missile defenses in Ukraine. The Iranians in turn have given the Russians drones and access to drone technologies, including assisting with the construction of a massive factory to turn out thousands of Iranian drones in Russia. Furthermore, Russian support to Iran has been limited in part because of the setbacks Russia has suffered in Ukraine. A victorious Russia will be free to give Iran the advanced aircraft and missile technologies Tehran has long sought. If Russia gains control of Ukraine’s resources, as it seeks to do, it will be able to rebuild its own military and help Iran at the same time. Those concerned with the growth of Iran’s military power, ambitions, and aggression in the Middle East must recognize the degree to which Iran’s fortunes rise and fall with Russia’s.

There is little reason to expect that the West can drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran at this point. Russian rhetoric and actions have become ferociously anti-Western and have come to share many of the overtones of civilizational conflict that have long characterized Iranian ideology. The fact that Russia seeks, in principle, to build an anti-Western Christian civilization whereas Tehran desires an anti-Western Muslim one is not material as long as both agree that defeating the United States and its allies is the top priority, as they do.

The primary constraint on Russian support to Iran, therefore, is Russia’s weakness. A Russia battered by failure in Ukraine, licking its wounds, and facing a strong and independent Ukrainian state will have limited resources and energy to devote to helping Iran. A Russia triumphant over the United States and NATO in Ukraine and with the resources of Ukraine at its disposal, on the other hand, will have ample capacity to repay its friends and support them in their efforts to achieve an aim Russia shares — defeating the United States and expelling it from the Middle East.

The notion that the United States should allow Russia to win in Ukraine in order to resist Iran in the Middle East is thus indefensible. Americans must internalize the unpleasant reality that the Russo-Iranian military bloc is a real and vibrant thing, that Moscow will support Tehran against us and our allies as best it can, and that Russia’s victory is Iran’s victory. Russia’s loss, contrariwise, is Iran’s loss. Those wishing to contain Iran therefore must also support helping Ukraine against Russia.



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