Putin Urges Increased Russian-Iranian Cooperation in ‘Fight Against Terrorism’
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for greater cooperation with Iran in the “fight against terrorism” in the latest demonstration of the burgeoning military and security relationship between Moscow and Tehran.
Putin issued his call in a message to his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, following a bloody gun attack on a Shi’a Muslim shrine in the city of Shiraz on Wednesday that reportedly took the lives of at least 15 people, among them children. The Islamist terrorist group ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Please accept my sincere condolences on the tragic consequences of the terrorist act committed in Shiraz,” Putin told Raisi in a message that was reported by official Russian news outlets.
“I would like to confirm the readiness of the Russian side to further build up cooperation with Iranian partners in the fight against terrorism,” the Russian leader added.
In comments that will likely roil political and military leaders in Ukraine, where more than 15,000 casualties have been recorded since the Russian invasion at the end of February, Putin said that it was “difficult to imagine a more cynical crime than the murder of civilians — including children and women — within the walls of a religious shrine.” Terrorism violated not just the “laws” of humanity but its “norms” as well, Putin remarked.
Military cooperation between Russia and Iran has increased significantly in recent weeks, with Russian forces deploying Iranian-manufactured Shahed-136 drones to deadly effect against Ukrainian population centers. Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a conference in Israel that “Russia has used almost 4,500 missiles against us and their stock of missiles is dwindling. Russia went looking for affordable weapons in other countries to continue its terror: It found them in Iran.”
Evidence of Iranian backing for Russia’s invasion quickly led to renewed calls from Ukrainian leaders for Israeli military assistance. On Wednesday, Zelensky, who has been harshly critical of Israel’s reluctance to match its humanitarian relief effort in Ukraine with military aid, noted a “positive trend” in relations with the Jewish state following Jerusalem’s decision to share Iran-related intelligence with the democratic government in Kyiv.
The attack in Shiraz occurred as demonstrations erupted across Iran to mark the 40th day since the murder of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman, by Iran’s”Morality Police” over her alleged refusal to wear her hijab, or headscarf, in a manner deemed appropriate by the regime. In Amini’s hometown of Saqqaz, in Iran’s Kurdish region, videos posted to social media showed thousands of people marching to the cemetery where she is buried despite the heavy presence of armed riot police. Many of the demonstrators chanted the slogan, “Women, Life, Freedom” which has become the hallmark of Iran’s anti-regime protest movement.
Iranian military leaders meanwhile attempted to blame the atrocity in Shiraz on the protests, now in their second month.
“The perpetrators of this brutal crime, both inside and outside Iran, will soon be identified by Iranian law enforcement and intelligence officers, and will face the consequences of their action,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Baqeri — chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces — warned in a statement.