A rose by any other name would smell as sweet or as foul as the case may be. When former President George W. Bush dubbed the Iran, Iraq, and North Korea coalition an “axis of evil” in 2002, it was a term rejected by the named parties. And yet, as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi met in Moscow recently for talks on the Israeli-Hamas war, a similar moniker has become a source of pride for the anti-Israel, pro-Hamas group. With the addition of Russia, Syria, Yemen, and the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, the members are now proudly referring to themselves as the Axis of Resistance.
Russia Joins the Axis of Resistance
Russia’s involvement with the Israeli-Hamas war cannot be minimized. In its report “Connecting the Dots Behind the Coordinated Attack on Israel – Part 2,” Liberty Nation explained: “While analysts suspect Iran played a role in Hamas’ coordinated assault on Israel, it is doubtful the Islamic Republic would act so boldly without a sense that its own security was assured. Russian patronage of Iran may have set the stage for the massacre of innocent Israelis by terrorists.” Regardless, Russia is helping Iran and, by extension, Hamas, which qualifies the Kremlin for ex officio membership in the axis of resistance.
The relationship between Iran and Russia is symbiotic at its base level. Following the Moscow meeting between Putin and Raisi, TASS, the Russian news agency, published its readout on the discussions the next day, explaining:
“Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, held very intensive talks yesterday (December 7) in Moscow, covering a range of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and multifaceted aspects of bilateral Iranian-Russian cooperation, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. ‘Extremely intensive talks took place,’ the Kremlin official said …”
Having Russia publicly on its side gives the Iranian leadership significant, albeit sullied, prominence among its thuggish allies. Additionally, Russia is a major supplier of weapons and military technology to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). “Arrangements for Iran’s acquisition of Su-35 multirole fighters, Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters, and Yak-130 jet trainers for its regular armed forces have been finalized, Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Brigadier General Mahdi Farahi told Iran’s Tasnim News Agency on Tuesday (November 28),” according to Forbes.
In return, Russia gets much-needed arms like the HESA Shahed drone, a highly effective loitering precision air-attack weapon used extensively against Ukrainian forces. What appears to be an uninterrupted supply chain of lethal drones has, on many occasions, been critical to keeping Russian forces viable in the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The resulting close relationship gives both countries prominence among mutual friends and partners in the Middle East.
As early as 2018, Iran’s dedication to growing and establishing its presence in the Gulf region was evident. In a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report, Tehran’s intentions were made evident. The principal researcher, Brian Katz, concluded: “Iran’s intervention into the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen transformed the strength and scope of the ‘axis of resistance,’ the decades-long partnership between Iran, Hezbollah, and the Syrian regime.Tehran has secured military footholds, committed partners, and lasting influence in each theater.”
Russia’s President Gains Credibility in the Middle East
Vladimir Putin gained credibility among the elements of the axis of resistance through his outreach, particularly in Syria. Putin’s involvement in Syria’s civil war and his presence among axis of resistance members was documented on a large billboard-size banner with portraits of “Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, and Russian President Vladimir Putin hanging in Damascus, Syria, January 2017,” Katz included in his report. But Russia has become a willing Iranian proxy to further establish its axis credentials.
The Wagner Group, a Russian-sponsored paramilitary organization, has been active in supporting the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah in attacking Israel. Though the focus at the moment is Israel’s eradicating Hamas terrorists from Gaza, the longer-term goal for Russia and Iran is creating an alliance that will engage with all Middle Eastern nations to influence the geopolitical course of events. The most pressing objective of the Tehran-Moscow support of the axis of resistance is eliminating the impact of US sanctions on the two countries.
“So, I will say we have long seen both Russia and Iran attempt to evade our sanctions, which is why we – you see us, with respect to both countries, at times announce both new sanctions and measures that we take to crack down on sanctions evasion,” State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller told the press at a recent briefing. However, simply announcing new sanctions does not guarantee their effectiveness.
Both Iran and Russia want to broaden and strengthen ties with Middle Eastern countries. The objective of crafting more robust and mutually beneficial military and economic agreements in the Gulf Region is easier with a united Iran-Russia front. For the Kremlin and Iranian leadership, that goal appears closer with each passing day.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.