Iran’s New Friends Make It More Dangerous Than Ever

After its founding in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran aspired to independence from foreign influence—adhering to its rulers’ firm belief that America is the Great Satan while avoiding entering the Soviet bloc. Yet, write Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh, the ayatollahs soon found such a policy difficult to maintain, and eventually sought support from Russia and China. Those two countries have, in the past ten years, put aside their initial reluctance about such an alliance. Gerecht and Takeyh examine the consequences:

U.S. and European leaders long comforted themselves with the notion that whatever their differences with China and Russia, neither country wanted Iran to have the bomb. But that may no longer be true. Unlike the United States, Russia has lived for decades with nuclear-armed states on its periphery. Vladimir Putin might be perfectly comfortable with another country in the mix. In fact, it is not hard to envision Russia sharing nuclear technologies and expertise with Iran. Iran’s crossing of the nuclear threshold would make a mockery of numerous pledges, made by both Democrats and Republicans, that Washington will never allow it to get the bomb. Putin would therefore gain from helping his Persian ally humiliate the United States and degrade Washington’s position in the Middle East.

Xi Jinping could prove equally welcoming to an atomic Iran. China’s president also cares little about international conventions, so he may not be perturbed by more nuclear proliferation. He did not object to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, after all, and he has not respected India’s territorial sovereignty in the Himalayas or the Pacific Island states’ historical claims in the South China Sea. Xi might also reasonably conclude that an Iranian bomb would expedite the United States’ exit from the Middle East. Indeed, with the American political class united in bemoaning “forever wars,” the specter of a nuclear Iran could offer a good reason to further lessen its footprint in the region. For Beijing, always aiming at Taiwan, the global consequences of a nuclear Iran are mostly beneficial.

Once Iran assembles the bomb, of course, its relations with its great-power allies are likely to change. No longer a junior partner, it may become bolder. A nuclear Iran might return to striking Gulf oil infrastructure, for example. It might share new and better missile technology with its allied militias, which could decide to act more independently and more aggressively. These hypotheticals, of course, have not yet encouraged China and Russia to reconsider their approach to the mullahs.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: China, Iran, Russia

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security