CIA Director William Burns says Russia-Iran ties suffer from ‘limits’ and lack of trust

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CIA Director William Burns downplayed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Iran on Wednesday, saying an alliance between the two countries would be limited by their historic rivalry in energy exports and a general lack of confidence.

“I think underneath the images that we’ve all seen, the reality is that Russians and Iranians need each other right now,” Burns said. “The two federally sanctioned countries, both also seeking to break out of political isolation – but if they need each other, they don’t really trust each other, in the sense that they are energy rivals and historical competitors.”

Burns, who spoke at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, also acknowledged a declassified US intelligence assessment cited last week by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who announced during a briefing at the White House that Russia was preparing to buy armed drones from the Iranian government.

IRAN-RUSSIA-TURKEY-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY-SYRIA-CONFLICT
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi greets Russian President Vladimir Putin before a trilateral meeting on Syria with the Turkish President in Tehran on July 19, 2022.

SERGEI SAVOSTIANOV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images


Moscow’s outreach to Tehran for military support was “a reflection, in some ways, of the shortcomings of the Russian defense industry today,” Burns said, noting that Russia had suffered significant losses in its war. against Ukraine.

“troubling”, but was skeptical of its long-term viability.

“There are limits, I think, to how they’re going to be able to help each other right now,” he said.

Burns’ comments followed a rare visit by the Russian leader this week to the Iranian capital, where Putin held talks with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, as well as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Khamenei then criticized the West for its hostility to an “independent and strong” Russia and accused NATO of wanting to wage war on Moscow.

In a subsequent exchange on Wednesday, Burns said Putin’s “bet” in Ukraine was that he would succeed in a war of attrition, exhausting Ukraine’s military and economy and awaiting waning resilience from Europe and the United States, even as its own military’s casualties mounted. He said assessments showed the Russians had lost around 15,000 troops, with triple the number wounded.

“Putin’s view of Americans is that we still have attention deficit disorder and will be distracted by other things,” Burns said. “I think – my personal opinion is strong – that Putin was wrong in his assumptions about the breakdown of the alliance and the Ukrainian will before the war started. And I think he is just as wrong now.”

The CIA chief also dismissed persistent rumors about Putin’s health, joking that the Russian leader appeared to be “totally too healthy”. He stressed that this was a personal view and not a formal assessment made by the intelligence community.

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