Thanks to the Biden administration's weak, or absent, leadership, Russia and the regime of Iran's mullahs have become closer, more emboldened and more empowered than ever.
The two bedfellows, the authoritarian regimes of Russia and Iran, are, thanks to the Biden administration, running the Iran nuclear talks, while the US waits out in the hall. Russia's chief negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, earlier this year praised his Iranian "colleagues":
"I am absolutely sincere in this regard when I say that Iran got much more than it could expect [from the Biden administration]. Our Chinese friends were also very efficient and useful as co-negotiators."
Ulyanov also said that the Iranian leaders "are fighting for [their] national interest like lions. They fight for every comma, every word, and as a rule, quite successfully."
Russia, of course, is freely trading with Iran, in spite of sanctions against both countries. According to Bloomberg:
"Russia said it's strengthening trade with Iran, boosting the economies of both nations as they contend with heavy US sanctions. We're on track to raise trade, economic, logistics, investment, financial, banking cooperation, despite the unprecedented pressure that Russia is experiencing, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said at a meeting with businesses in Tehran.... Trade between Russia and Iran rose by more than 10% in the first quarter.... Trade between the nations rose 81% to a record $3.3 billion ....but Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that level was 'not acceptable' and vowed to increase two-way commerce to $10 billion a year."
In addition to evading sanctions with complete impunity, Russia and the ruling mullahs of Iran are also ratcheting up their military cooperation in plain sight. The Iranian regime continues to provide Russia with military drones, which have inflicted significant damage on Ukraine -- the first time Iranian weapons have been deployed on European soil. According to the Wall Street Journal:
"Russia has inflicted serious damage on Ukrainian forces with recently introduced Iranian drones, in its first wide-scale deployment of a foreign weapons system since the war began, Ukrainian commanders say."
Russia's use of Iranian drones has killed and wounded Ukrainians. It has proven extremely difficult to shoot down Iran's drones. They are "barely visible on radars; it's a relatively small aerial target that flies mainly at a low altitude" according to Yurii Ihnat, the spokesman for the Ukraine Air Force Command.
While Ukraine has been calling for support, Russia has ratcheted up its use of Iranian "kamikaze" drones, the "Mohajer" and "Shahed" models. Col. Rodion Kulagin of the Ukrainian army remarked that "he hoped the U.S. and allies could provide Ukraine with more advanced antidrone technologies, or would step in to disrupt Iranian drone shipments to Russia."
By providing military drones to Russia, the ruling mullahs are helping Putin to save money and score victories in Ukraine. According to Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional administration:
"The enemy [Russia] is trying to save on missiles.... these Shaheds [Iranian drones] are much cheaper, they can be used much more frequently and in pairs. We are seeing that the enemy can even launch several of these kamikaze drones for one attack".
While Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Russian President Vladimir Putin are increasing their economic and military cooperation, they are seeing no adverse consequences for their actions. "When you project strength," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, pointed out, "you have peace."
"When you project weakness like this, how can any country look at this performance and not think about weakness and maybe incompetence? And that is inviting this aggression that I've been talking about from Putin to the unholy alliance with Chairman Xi to now the Ayatollah in Iran, who they are still trying to cut a deal with, even though they're completely not reporting the undisclosed sites with the uranium. So this is really dangerous, quite honestly, because it's making the world stage a far more dangerous world."
The Biden administration has not yet abandoned its efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which will bring to the Iranian regime many billions of dollars and soon, enough enriched uranium for a large numbers of nuclear weapons, complete with ballistic missiles to deliver them. As former President Donald Trump stated, "now we're going to pay them hundreds of billions of dollars, and they're going to have nuclear weapons within a short period of time. Honestly, they can't be stupid; they must hate our country...."
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu