Jul 19, 2022 - World

Putin on visit to Tehran gets Iran's backing for war in Ukraine

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) in Tehran, Iran on July 19, 2022. (Photo by Iranian Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Iranian Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

During his visit to Tehran on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin received strong backing for the war in Ukraine from Iran’s supreme leader.

Driving the news: Putin was in Iran — his second foreign trip since launching the invasion in February — for a meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as a summit with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

What they're saying: Khamenei on Tuesday echoed Putin's anti-Western rhetoric, claiming that Russia would have eventually faced an attack by NATO if it hadn't invaded Ukraine.

  • “War is a violent and difficult endeavor and the Islamic Republic is not at all happy that people are caught up in war,” Khamenei told Putin, according to a statement from the Iranian supreme leader's office. “Concerning Ukraine, if you had not taken the initiative, the other side would have done so and initiated a war.”

Between the lines: Putin's visit to Iran signaled to the world that although Russia is growing increasingly isolated, its "long-fraught relationship" with Tehran "was solidifying into a more far-reaching partnership," the New York Times notes.

  • Putin's visit was announced last week just as President Biden was taking off for his own Middle East trip, during which the U.S. president raised the need to counter China, Iran and Russia's influence.

The big picture: During their trilateral talks, Putin, Erdoğan and Raisi discussed the decade-old war in Syria, where the Turkish president has threatened to launch a new incursion against Kurdish fighters in the north.

  • Earlier Tuesday, Khamenei warned Erdoğan against launching such an offensive, saying it would “be to the detriment of Syria, Turkey and the region," according to his office.
  • Erdoğan, however, remained defiant after his meetings Tuesday. “Our fight against terrorist organizations will continue everywhere ... We expect Russia and Iran to support Turkey in this struggle," he said, per the New York Times.
  • Erdoğan and Putin also discussed a deal to resume grain exports from Ukraine. “Not all the issues have been resolved yet, but it’s good that there has been some progress,” Putin said as the meeting began, per AP.

Go deeper: White House says Russia planning to annex large swaths of Ukraine

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