After Russia’s ruthless attack on Ukraine, Vladimir Putin attended a significant summit outside of Russia for the first time in Tehran. In order to discuss the Syrian war, major powers Russia, Turkey, and Iran established this trilateral negotiation format some years ago. On July 19, Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met in Tehran to discuss a myriad of important issues. As this format was established to discuss Syria’s prolonged war, Syria was obviously one of the most crucial matters during the summit. To briefly touch on the major powers’ general interests in the conflict currently, it appears that Iran and Russia share similar concerns and are working to maintain the status quo, while Turkey has more ambitious plans and seeks to attack Kurds in northern Syria in order to create a buffer zone that will be able to defend Turkey from Kurdish attacks. The president of Turkey confidently stated: “It is not possible to expect Turkey to sit idle and aloof from this problem.” It appears that the president of Turkey also wants to repatriate more than a million Syrian refugees and settle them in this region of the nation. It should be highlighted that Erdogan will benefit from this scenario by gaining more support for the elections the following year, because as Turkey’s economy is in crisis, nearly 80% inflation is disastrous; as a result, public hostility toward 3.6 million Syrian refugees is growing. By making this political decision, Erdogan hopes to address the country’s security issues while also gaining voter support in the upcoming elections. Evidently, Russia and more actively Iran are against Turkey’s plan to attack northern Syria.
To set aside the problematic Syrian case for a moment, it is worth noting that the summit included discussion of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Starting with Iranian positions, Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, and even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during the summit. Khamenei justified Putin’s bloody war against a sovereign state and backed the widely circulated Kremlin propaganda line that Russia started the conflict to avert a more dangerous future conflict. Khamenei told to Putin:
“War is a harsh and difficult issue, and Iran is not at all pleased that ordinary people suffer from it, but in the case of Ukraine if you had not taken the initiative, the other side would have caused the war with its own initiative.”
He elaborated this narrative:
“NATO is a dangerous creature… it does not recognize any limits or borders. If you cannot stand up to them in Ukraine, then a little while later, with the excuse of Crimea, they would have started this war anyway”.
It goes without saying that Iran, which opposes the West, will support Russia in order to harm the West even more and gain leverage over global political events. Russia, which is economically and politically cut off from the civilized world, obviously needs any help it can get from the nation that is hostile to the West.
Putin, who was undoubtedly pleased with the support of the Iranian leaders, reacted to the supreme leader who had supported the claim that Russia had no choice but to start the war, the president Putin said:
“No one is in favour of war, and the loss of ordinary people’s lives is a great tragedy, but the behaviour of the west made us have no choice but to react. Some European countries said –We were against Ukraine’s membership in NATO, but we agreed under American pressure- which shows their lack of independence.”
Moreover, Iran and Russia also agreed on several other issues, for example, a long-term agreement to work together on oil contracts worth $40 billion. As a result of the sanctions, Russia is attempting to strengthen financial and banking ties with other countries. For this reason, working with Iran to counterbalance dollar-dominated trade is another important goal for Russia.
Iran also decided to more actively support Russia, not just with words of support but also with military assistance; this should alarm the developed world. Even before the summit, Iran stated that it is ready to send drones to Russia. This pledge relates to the hundreds of drones that Russia will use to murder innocent Ukrainian citizens. This level of assistance is required by Russia, which brutally lost the drone war in Ukraine. Without any exaggerations, this Iranian assistance may aggravate the situation in Ukraine and, in some ways, influence the outcome of the war. The Biden administration warned the allies regarding such a scenario, Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, stated that:“Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs, with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July”. Without further elaboration, US defense officials warned Iran that supplying Russia with drones is a bad idea.
Regarding Turkey-Russia talks, it should be acknowledged that Putin praised Erdogan’s role in mediating talks on Ukrainian grain exports. Putin stated that some progress has been made. It is significant to mention that prior to Putin’s meeting with Erdogan, Putin was forced to wait for several minutes, and a video of this went viral on the internet, claiming that Erdogan did it on purpose to disrespect Putin.
Another important topic of the summit should be underlined. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine resulted not only in the murder of innocent Ukrainian citizens and the loss of thousands of Russian soldiers, but also in fears of global food shortages as a result of the war’s negative impact on wheat and other grain shipments. Several ships have become stranded, and 22 million tonnes of grain have become stuck in silos at Ukrainian ports. UN officials have stated several times that the fear of famine in various regions of the world is real, that the pandemic has made people poor, and that this crisis has the potential to worsen the situation, as it has been announced that 50 million people in 45 different countries are just one step away from famine. It should also be noted that food prices have reached a 10-year high in 2022.
Turkey, a NATO member, has been responsible for naval traffic entering the Black Sea since the 1936 Montreux Convention. According to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations will sign a deal on the grain exports corridor this week following talks in Istanbul. A coordination center will be established in Istanbul, allowing those exports to be routed through the Black Sea. Even in this situation, it is still unclear whether Russia can make this decision and be trusted in general, because it is clear that the Kremlin purposefully sows fear of famine in order to sway global politics. Simonyan, one of the most infamous Kremlin propagandists, joked about a cannibalistic mood in Russia a few days ago, she said:
“There is a popular joke in Russian society now-our only hope is for hunger. This means, that the famine will start now, and they will lift the sanctions and will be friends with us, because they will understand that it is impossible not to be friends with us.”