Putin Meets With Iran And Turkey

On the 19th of July, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran to discuss an allied future and cooperation against Western attacks with both Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. The meeting sought to establish coordination between the ostracized nations, each heavily sanctioned and supposedly isolated by Western forces.

Iran currently and historically supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a stance widely disputed by global superpowers. The two leaders also met with Turkish President Erdoğan in order to discuss Syria and the possibility of Turkey launching a military incursion into northern Syria in order to attack the Kurds. Lastly, a grain deal was reached between Russia and Ukraine through the mediation of NATO member Turkey, in order to provide relief on global food shortages. These concurring meetings and developments between Middle Eastern nations and the Russian conflict in Ukraine signal shifting relationships between members of the world order and new international dynamics that had been altered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Historically, Russia and Iran have had a confusing relationship, specifically during the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, but Western unification against the two nations has created space for cooperation between the two nations. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has encouraged the powers to pursue cooperation. According to the New York Times, this cooperation is in spite of ideological and political differences, primarily including the Russian desire to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and competition between the two nations to sell sanctioned oil to China. Regardless of these two points of contention, each nation hoped to find an ally in each other during this week’s meeting.

While Iran has made comments respecting the sovereignty of a nation as a formality, the rhetoric used by President Raisi, Khamenei, and other prominent political figures in Iran has been largely indicative of support for Russia, echoing their justifications for the invasion, such as the supposedly unlawful expansion of NATO. Khamenei went so far as to claim that NATO would have initiated war with Russia, had President Putin not invaded, sparking conflict himself. The mutually shared distain for economic sanctions and the impact on their economy by the West have forced the two powers into seeing each other as economic partners. The meeting between Russia and Iran was described by Russian politician, Yevgeny G. Popov, as an attempt to form an “axis of good,” a term poignantly used to convey strong anti-American sentiment.

It is also important not to underscore the relevance of Putin’s meeting with Turkish President Erdoğan. The economic ties between the nations as well as the precipitous decline of the Turkish economy have compelled the Turks to work toward economic partnership with Russians. Turkey is a member of NATO, heightening the significance of this meeting, yet it remains the most centrist member of the organization, often working as a mediator for conversations between Russia and Ukraine as well as a barrier for NATO initiatives, most recently as the only state blocking the entrance of Finland and Sweden into NATO. Turkey recently served as a mediator in the grain deal between Russia and Ukraine, ending the blockage of grain that has provoked a global health crisis that disproportionately affected people in the Middle East and Africa.

The summit between Russia, Iran, and Turkey in Tehran, centred around Syria. President Erdoğan was seeking permission to attack Northern Syria from Syria’s two closest allies, in order to target the Kurdish population. President Erdoğan has been pursuing a new military incursion in Syria, an act that renders far less attention than it would if the war in Ukraine were not ongoing. Erdoğan justifies the invasion by claiming he would be protecting Turkey from Kurdish attacks, specifically from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), designated by him as a terrorist organization, as well as advocates for the return of Syrian refugees. According to the Middle East Institute, Iran views Turkish activity in Syria as a direct attempt to put pressure on the Assad government, an action that opposes Iranian interests.

It’s undoubtable that the progress made between Russia and Ukraine regarding the grain crisis is a positive move towards minimizing the impact of the war on innocent populations, however, other relevant recent developments between all three nations may be more sinister. As the relationship between Iran and Russia progresses in the face of Western sanctions, it is essential to monitor the potential impact of that alliance. Furthermore, people must not turn a blind eye to the potential damage done to the Kurds, an American ally, in the process of a Turkish invasion of Syria.

Britt Gronmeyer