The Long History of Cooperation between Iran and Russia

In the Syrian civil war, Iranian and Russian forces have fought side by side to keep Bashar al-Assad in power. But cooperation between Moscow and Tehran goes back much further, explains Oved Lobel:

[T]he Islamist regime has maintained a deep warmth for Russia, especially after 1988. The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was the only foreign leader ever to receive a personal letter from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (in 1989) urging him to consider Islam an alternative given the imminent collapse of Communism. . . . While the current relationship is a strategic alliance, the Soviet-Khomeini relationship was more akin to the Russo-Turkish alliance of today, in which their highest mutual priority—the destruction of U.S. influence—allowed them to compartmentalize irreconcilable ideological and geopolitical differences.

The most extreme example of this is Afghanistan, where Khomeini and Moscow came to an arrangement whereby Tehran could replicate its Islamic theocracy in Hazarajat, the area predominantly populated by the Hazara Shiite minority, while the Soviets shored up their Communist state in the rest of Afghanistan. . . . Following the sudden rise of the Taliban, Russia and Iran allied against them and backed the Northern Alliance. . . . But, following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the two countries collaborated in supporting the Taliban.

Since Vladimir Putin took the helm at the Kremlin, the relationship between the two has only grown stronger:

The clearest demonstration of the Russo-Iranian alliance was their joint intervention in Syria to preserve Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but their anti-U.S. alliance spans the globe. For instance, when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) sought Iranian support during the second intifada, it went to Moscow to connect with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, resulting in the 2002 Karine A affair, when the Palestinian Authority tried to smuggle 50 tons of Iranian-supplied weapons into Gaza in flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords.

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Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Afghanistan, Iran, PLO, Russia

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

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Read more at FDD

More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy