Earlier this month, Iran finally admitted supplying drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. Iran’s disclosure comes amid compelling concrete evidence that Iranian-supplied combat drones have been used to attack Ukrainian cities. Iranian officials, however, insisted the drones were shipped before Russia invaded Ukraine, a claim that US officials have denied. Iran’s involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian war adds to its history of foreign involvement in other parts of the Middle East.

Tehran’s systematic denials

Iran’s denials are intended to reduce criticism and scrutiny of its military behavior and alliance with Russia. In July, the White House released satellite images showing a Russian military delegation visiting Kashan airfield south of Tehran, near the Shahid Karimi unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) base in central Iran, which is operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, examining the Shahid-129 and Shahid-191 combat drones. Additional reports that IRGC officers were training Russian forces to operate the drones were confirmed when Ukrainian troops killed ten Iranian instructors in the Russian-occupied territories of Kherson and Crimea.

Iran’s misdeeds in Europe have long been ignored, primarily due to interest in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the Biden administration intends to revive. As such, a diplomatic effort has been exerted to pressure Iran to abide by the deal and lift the sanctions imposed under the Trump administration. Assuming Iran was interested in such cooperation to reap the benefits of the deal, it would naturally have tried to build trust with European partners by not worsening the European security environment.

Iran’s behavior has been deliberately ignored despite concerns about its ballistic missile program and support for proxies in the Middle East. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan noted that Iran provided similar unmanned aerial vehicles to Houthi rebels in Yemen to attack Saudi Arabia before the ceasefire was reached earlier this year. The Houthis have used drones to attack oil installations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with help and training from the IRGC. Iran’s aid to the Houthis has helped perpetuate chaos in Yemen.

But if Iran’s involvement in the Middle East seemed like too distant a threat, the revelation of its involvement in supplying drones to Russia should lead supporters of the Iran deal to reassess their position. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelzenskyy said Iran’s involvement had prolonged the war and urged the international community to help thwart this Russian-Iranian alliance and prevent Ukraine’s air defense systems from being overstretched. its nuclear program regardless of the position of Europe and the United States on the JCPOA. Experts have indicated that Iran needs help in manufacturing nuclear fuel, which could help fuel its nuclear reactors and potentially shorten Iran’s escape time to create a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, the Iranian regime sees NATO as a significant threat. In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said “NATO’s eastward expansion creates tensions and poses a serious threat to the stability and security of independent states. in various regions. The convergence of these two allies is likely to continue as Russia and Iran do not want their military and political ambitions constrained by the international community.

No one understands Iran like its people

Iran’s involvement in Ukraine brings heightened awareness of the political failures that allowed its peculiar alliance with Russia to emerge. An actor like Iran, which has often been treated within the framework of nuclear non-proliferation, now presents a conventional threat through its supply of cheap drone and ballistic missile technology to Russia. It is essential to realize that the proliferation of conventional weapons and the Russian-Iranian alliance are the result of an ill-conceived policy that favored dialogue with the hardliners to establish dialogue and minimize threats.

In fact, many Iranians, from street protesters to political analysts, have pointed to the West’s complicity in turning a blind eye to the regime’s human rights abuses. While Iranians have not openly asked the West to rid them of the clutches of one of the world’s most oppressive governments, they believe the West can do better by siding with them in their fight to a representative government.

It should be noted that while the current protests certainly bear the mark of revolutionary fervor, Iranians have demonstrated in large numbers in recent years. For example, during the 2019 Aban protests, the regime killed over 1,500 protesters while shutting down the internet for several days. They managed to put an end to the protests to pave the way for the current protests. During the 2019 Aban protests, what seared the psyche of millions of Iranians were Europe’s attempts to revive trade with Iran and the JCPOA talks while downplaying the scale of the protests.

With the recent announcement that Iran has moved beyond uranium enrichment beyond peaceful purposes, attempts to tame the regime’s international, regional and domestic behavior have hit rock bottom. The JCPOA, despite the temporary halt to the regime’s nuclear program, has given Tehran carte blanche to step up its involvement in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. The lack of emphasis on human rights abuses under a supposedly moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, has many Iranian activists thinking the West has thrown their concerns under the bus for the peace deal. nuclear.

At this critical moment, the West must remain aware of the enormous challenges posed by the continuity of this regime. The Iranian regime poses a security risk to NATO, the Middle East and its own people. The best course of action for Brussels, London, Washington and Ottawa is not to legitimize this regime, to avoid pinning their hopes on the nuclear deal and to support the Iranian people’s revolution for representative government.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to obfuscate. Iranian officials have said publicly that US and European officials have privately told them they are eager to return to a nuclear deal while publicly saying they are not interested. The United States and Europe must unequivocally revoke the agreement to deprive the IRGC of the ability to manipulate revolutionaries under the control of the regime.

Iran’s activities in the Middle East and Europe point to an increasingly interconnected conflict that allows Tehran to assert its influence through violence. But the synergy of interests should be a wake-up call for policy makers. Understanding that the geopolitical dynamics of the conflict in Europe are linked to something as local as the internal unrest in Iran could spill over into the Middle East and Ukraine. There is much to be gained from supporting the current grassroots movement in Iran, which could unravel the wrongdoings fomented by the regime for years. Iranians protesting in the streets yearn for a representative government that can integrate with the rest of the world instead of existing as a pariah state. It’s a win-win for all.

Fatima Abo Alasrar is a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute and senior analyst at the Washington Center for Yemeni Studies.

Vahid Yücesoy is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science in Montreal.

Picture: Reuters.

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