Top Russian Security Official Arrives in Tehran in Fresh Sign of Deepening Ties With Iranian Regime
The head of Russia’s Security Council arrived in Tehran on Tuesday night on an official visit, fueling speculation in Ukraine that Moscow is determined to acquire ballistic missiles from the ruling ayatollahs for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Nikolai Patrushev — Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation — is in Iran at the invitation of his counterpart in Tehran, Adm. Ali Shamkhani. Patrushev will hold talks with other “high-ranking officials” in addition to Shamkhani, according to Nour News, one of several news agencies operated by the Iranian regime.
A separate report from Russia’s TASS News Agency disclosed that the discussions between Russia and Iran focused on “information security, as well as measures to counter interference in the internal affairs of both countries by Western special services.” That latter theme was emphasized by Patrushev, who told journalists on arrival that since the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, “the Western media empire made extensive efforts through distorting realities to deviate the world’s public opinion about how the crisis had started and about truths on the ground.”
For his part, Shamkhani made no mention of Iran’s supply of Shahed-136, Arash-2 and other drones to the Russian armed forces, commenting merely that “Iran welcomes and backs any initiative that leads to a ceasefire and peace between Russia and Ukraine based on dialogue, and is ready to play a role in ending the war.”
A briefing from the Institute from the Study of War, a US-based think-tank, noted that both sides were keen to deepen their relationship.
“Tehran is likely eager to publicly signal this rebalancing of its strategic partnership with Moscow, especially to regional Iranian adversaries with which the Kremlin occasionally cooperates, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia,” it stated.
The historic protests against the regime currently rocking Iran may also be a factor, according to the briefing. “Patrushev’s visit to Iran notably comes amid reports that the Iranian regime is seeking Russian help with protest suppression, although it is unclear if this will be discussed by Patrushev and his Iranian counterpart,” the report added.
A report in the Pravda Ukraine news outlet on Wednesday quoted unnamed Ukrainian military officials expressing concern that Patrushev’s main goal is to secure ballistic missiles from Iran, which would then be deployed on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Iran’s arsenal includes the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar missiles, which have a range of 200 and 400 miles respectively. Many Ukrainian analysts fear that Russia’s struggles on the battlefield, which resulted in Wednesday’s announcement of a withdrawal from the strategic southern city of Kherson, will pressure Moscow into turning to increasingly lethal methods.
Patrushev’s trip to Iran coincided with revelations that Russia flew $140 million in cash and a selection of US and British weapons captured on the battlefield to Iran in exchange for the drones. According to the British broadcaster Sky News, a Russian military aircraft “secretly transported the cash and three models of munition – a British NLAW anti-tank missile, a US Javelin anti-tank missile and a Stinger anti-aircraft missile – to an airport in Tehran in the early hours of Aug. 20.”
Last weekend, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, admitted that Iran had furnished its Russian ally with drones, but insisted these had been delivered prior to the invasion of Ukraine — a claim rejected by Ukrainian and international leaders. In a national address on Sunday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky argued that “[I]f it were not for the Iranian supply of weapons to the aggressor, we would be closer to peace now.”