Stephen King, the famous American author, wrote: “Killing children for God, or ideology, or both – no hell could be hot enough for those who’d do such things”.

It could be a fitting epitaph for Vladimir Putin and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, two partners in crime and mass murder. As Russia and Iran gradually consolidate their relationship, the foundation stones for this pariah alliance are clear to see.

The dominant factor is a mutual hatred of the West and in particular America. Both countries have been subjected to tough international sanctions. Both have engaged in real or perceived nuclear threats against the West. Both regard the Middle East as an area of key geopolitical importance.

Iran has sought for years to become the main player in Middle East Shi’ite politics, funding Bashar al-Assad’s brutal civil war in Syria, backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen, controlling the Shi’ia militias in Iraq, financing the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Russia, meanwhile, has tested its viciously destructive military tactics in Syria, seeking to bolster its regional influence by filling the power vacuum created after 12 years of bloody civil war.

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Putin and Khamenei revel in being outsiders. They have no scruples when it comes to dispensing death and destruction. Khamenei supervised the crackdown on the recent nationwide uprising in Iran that led to over 750 deaths and 30,000 arrests, mostly of young protesters.

He has launched a frenzy of executions in a bid to terrorise the Iranian population into submission. Iran’s aggressive military expansionism has seen hundreds of thousands killed across the Middle East. Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine has so far accounted for more than 17,000 civilian casualties, raining down death on women and children, destroying homes, schools, hospitals, and churches. His so-called ‘military operation’ has led to the death of over 350,000 Russian and Ukrainian troops.

Tehran has aided this murderous enterprise by supplying Moscow with Shahed-136 kamikaze drones with lethally explosive warheads, that hover over a target until instructed to attack. The suicide drones are particularly difficult to detect on radar and have been used by Putin to devastate Ukrainian civilian infrastructure. The Iranian regime has even deployed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) personnel to Crimea to train the Russian military in their use. The IRGC has been designated as a terrorist organization by the Americans and heavily sanctioned by the EU and UK.

The combination of international sanctions and military adventurism has seriously undermined the economies of both Russia and Iran, driving the two nations into further commercial partnerships.

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Iran’s vast oil and gas resources, almost entirely proscribed by Western sanctions, have found a ready outlet in Russia, while Putin has realized that Iran, and in particular the regime’s IRGC, which controls 70% of the Iranian economy, provide an attractive market for Russian goods. The inherent corruption of the mullahs and of Putin and his closest cronies have generously lubricated this developing relationship, defying Western pressures in the process.

Needless to say, the growing cooperation between Russia and Iran, especially in defence and security issues, has sparked deep concern among some regional and international actors, who fear a direct shift in the balance of power in the Middle East, adversely affecting Western influence.

While the mullahs are accelerating the sale of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to their Russian allies, the Russians have now signed a deal to supply 24 of their cutting-edge Su-35 fighter jets to Iran, causing great consternation in Washington. The White House National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, said in May that Iran was seeking to purchase billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment from Russia, including attack helicopters, radars and Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft. “This is a full-scale defence partnership, that is harmful to Ukraine, to the region in the Middle East, and to the international community,” Kirby said.

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The mullahs are enjoying their new rapport with Russia, who they can look to for support, or for the use of their veto, in the UN Security Council. In return, the appointment of an Iranian as one of the five vice-presidents of the UN General Assembly and an ambassador from the theocratic regime as the forthcoming chair of the UN Human Rights Council’s Social Forum in Geneva, provides handy cover for Russian human rights violations.

Indeed, it is ironic that 2023 marks the 80th anniversary of the agreement to create the United Nations, made by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt at the Tehran Summit in November 1943. The disagreeable bonding between Putin and Khamenei exposes the basic flaw in the UN concept and undermines the credibility of the entire organisation.

The mullahs are also keen to promote their growing links to Russia as a useful bargaining tool, blackmailing the West into reducing sanctions and reinstating ‘normalised’ diplomatic relations with the fascist clerical regime.

Western appeasers like President Macron in France and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken are easy prey for such subterfuge. Macron recently spent 90 minutes on a phone call to President Ebrahim Raisi, dubbed ‘The Butcher of Tehran’ for his notorious role as an executioner. Macron subsequently attempted to ban a mass Iranian opposition rally in Paris but was thwarted by the French courts.

Blinken has spearheaded President Joe Biden’s efforts to resurrect the dysfunctional nuclear deal with Iran, that President Trump unilaterally withdrew from in 2018. The Iranians are demanding the complete lifting of sanctions as their price for the reinstatement of the deal, which was always used by the mullahs as convenient camouflage for their clandestine activities to produce a nuclear weapon.

But the illusory lure of moving Tehran away from Moscow may be overwhelming for arch appeasers like Macron and Blinken. They would do well to remember one of Stephen King’s other famous quotes: “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”

Struan Stevenson was the Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Scotland from 1999 to 2014, president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). Struan is also Chair of the ‘In Search of Justice’ (ISJ) committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. He is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). His latest book is entitled Dictatorship and Revolution. Iran - A Contemporary History.