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CIA Director Expresses Grave Concerns Over Growing Iran-Russia Defense Partnership

CIA Director Bill Burns, who was invited (on July 21) by President Biden to join his cabinet on Friday, expressed (June 20) concerns in an interview at the Aspen Security Forum over the growing "two-way street defense partnership" between Iran and Russia. Burns warned that the expansion of this alliance might pose potential threats to the U.S. and its friends in the Middle East.

When Burns was asked why Iran was arming Russia in Ukraine, the head of the CIA said that it was a "useful two-way street" and that "we have seen signs of Russian technicians working on the Space (Satellite) Launch (Vehicles, SLV) program in Iran, and other aspects of their missile programs." He added that the two countries are discussing the supply of advanced fighter jets to Iran (SU-35), which could expand the threat from innocent Ukrainian civilians who were hit by the Iranian Shahad-136 drone and other Iranian drones, also to the U.S.'s friends in the region. What is troubling is the bilateral cooperation between Iran and Russia.

CIA Director:Russian technicians working on the Space Launch Vehicles program in Iran

On July 21, the Khabaronline website published a critical article shedding light on Russia's actions concerning Iran's potential purchase of SU-35 fighter jets. The report suggests that the history of unfulfilled promises from Russia is comparable to the country's reputation for unreliability. The recent incident involving the Sukhoi-35 adds to the series of disappointments. Additionally, Khabaronline reminds readers of Russia's current support for the UAE in its stance on the three disputed islands in the Persian Gulf.

During a recent meeting on July 19, Russian Deputy Minister of Defence, Colonel General Alexander Fomin, and his Iranian counterpart, Brigadier General Seyyed Hojatollah Qureishi, discussed defense and security cooperation. The topics covered many issues: bilateral military collaboration, military-technical cooperation, regional security matters, and the global international situation. Both parties agreed to "further deepen the dialogue and establish and expand contacts in the field of defense."

The head of the CIA was asked about the British intelligence chief rare statement that there are “internal quarrels at the highest level of the regime in Tehran” regarding the feasibility of supplying drones to Russia. Burns declined to comment but revealed that "the Iranian leadership has hesitated about supplying ballistic missiles to the Russians, which was on their wish list partly because they are concerned not just our reaction but the European reaction as well."

In a joint letter addressed to the United Nations Security Council, the governments of Britain, France, and Germany expressed their concerns about the Ghaem-100 satellite launch vehicle (SLV) unveiled by Iran on November 5, 2022, stating that it has the potential to function as an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) “Modelling and simulation of the elements constituting the Ghaem-100 indicate that, if converted to a ballistic missile role and equipped with a 500 kg warhead, it would provide Iran with a rapid route to an intermediate-range ballistic missile,

Iran's Strategic Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLVs) is being developed with lift capacity and boosters that possess the potential to reach Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) ranges, including Europe and the United States. The progress of Iran's space program contributes to the advancement of ICBM capabilities since SLVs utilize similar technologies.

Utilizing SLVs, Iran can launch satellites capable of gathering imagery and maintaining an updated target bank for potential attacks. Notably, Iranian state-run media reported that the IRGC used launched satellites to collect intelligence on U.S. military positions in the region.

Russia's role in assisting Iran's SLV program is seen as an exchange for Iranian support in the Ukraine conflict. Nevertheless, the connection between the two nations is not intrinsic and is shaped by internal, regional, and global factors. These elements directly influence the character of their military cooperation, particularly concerning the exchange of weaponry and warfare capabilities.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 passed in 2015 to endorse the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) placed restrictions banning Iran from buying and selling ballistic-missile and import and export of missile-related technology-related components. After Oct. 18, 2023, Tehran will no longer face bans on activities supporting its ballistic-missile program.

Lifting the embargo on Iran's ballistic missiles would increase the risk of these missiles being used to threaten Iran's neighbors in the Gulf, the Middle East, and global security. It would also legitimize Iran's supply of missiles and drones to Russia for use in the war against Ukraine.


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