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Ukraine war at year 1: Russia-Iran alignment threatens delicate Middle East balance

US officials say Russia's invasion of Ukraine has given Iran a chance to hone its drone warfare skills while potentially expanding its proxies' footprint in Syria, risking escalation with Israel.
A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber and Su-35S fighter jets fly in formation during the Victory Day military parade, Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2021.

One year into Vladimir Putin’s ill-fated war against Ukraine, US officials have grown increasingly wary that a military partnership of convenience between Russia and Iran could evolve into strategic coordination with potentially dangerous consequences for the Middle East.

Last July, CIA Director William Burns cautioned against overestimating Moscow's alignment with Tehran, citing historical tensions. Just five months later, White House National Security Council coordinator John Kirby sounded the alarm over an emerging “full-scale defense partnership” between the two fueled by “an unprecedented level of military and technical support.”

Iran’s plan to receive some two dozen Russian Su-35 fighter jets this year and potentially S-400 air defense systems could complicate the US and Israeli military deterrent to Iran’s nuclear enrichment, some analysts have suggested.

Yet US military officials say they will be able to subdue any such gains by Iran’s air forces if ever ordered to do so.

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