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By Con Coughlin - Gatestone Institute via STOP IRAN NOW

October 3, 2022

The nationwide anti-government protests sweeping Russia and Iran demonstrate that, despite the efforts of these two rogue regimes to increase the level of military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, the overwhelming demand of the majority of ordinary Russians and Iranians is freedom from dictatorial rule.

One of the more alarming global developments in recent months has been the deepening cooperation between Moscow and Tehran as they seek to challenge the West on a number of fronts.

Russia has played a key role in supporting Iran's efforts to thwart the negotiating process aimed at reviving the controversial nuclear deal with Tehran since the start of the negotiations in Vienna last year.

While Iran is providing Russia with military equipment to support its war in Ukraine, Russia is supporting Iran's refusal to comply with Western demands to come clean about the true extent of its nuclear arsenal.

As previously reported on these pages, the Russians have actively encouraged Tehran to concentrate on relatively minor issues during the negotiations, such as when and where camera monitors can operate at sensitive nuclear sites in Iran.

By concentrating on what are regarded as peripheral concerns, the Iranian delegation has been successful in steering the talks away from core issues, such as the extent of the progress it has made in enriching uranium to weapons-grade.

As one of the signatories of the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the flawed nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, Russia, as well as China, will ultimately have a say in any new agreement that emerges from the Vienna talks.

Rather than seeking to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, Beijing and Moscow are more interested in forming an alliance with Iran to counter what they denounce as America's unilateralism, and thwarting "draconian" US sanctions.

Given Moscow's open hostility towards the West, it is abundantly clear that the Kremlin wants to exploit the weakness of the Biden administration to ensure the negotiations provide an even more unsatisfactory deal than the one signed off by Barack Obama in 2015, one that completely fails to address the very real threat Iran's nuclear weapons will pose to the wider world.

From Moscow's perspective, having a nuclear-armed Iran, one that is Russia's ally, will greatly enhance its ability to challenge the West.

In return, Iran has formed a new "axis of evil" with Moscow, providing it with weaponry, such as sophisticated drones, to support its war effort in Ukraine, while at the time providing assistance to Tehran to evade the effects of Western sanctions.

While these two despotic regimes seem determined to forge an ever closer alliance, however, their objectives are completely at odds with the demands of their respective citizens, whose primary concern is securing their freedom, not supporting the military aspirations of the ruling elites.

In Russia, the latent hostility among ordinary Russians to Putin's kleptomaniac regime has manifested itself in nationwide protests against the Russian leader's attempts to mobilise 300,000 reservists to help support his disastrous military campaign in Ukraine.

Nationwide disgust at Putin's unprovoked assault on Ukraine has seen hundreds of thousands of young Russians fleeing to the borders in a desperate attempt to avoid the horrors of conscription, and being made to fight in a war none of them supports.

In Iran, meanwhile, the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini as she was detained in custody by Iran's morality police, allegedly for refusing to wear a hijab, has resulted in Iranians of all ages taking to the streets across the country in mass protests and shouting "death to the dictator", a reference to the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran's security forces have reacted to the anti-government protests with their customary brutality; figures at the time of writing estimate at least 76 people killed in the government's crackdown. Even so, the anti-regime protests have continued to spread, with more than 80 cities and towns affected by the violence since Amini's funeral on September 17.

For many Iranians, the death of Amini, who reportedly died after being struck several times on the head, is the last straw, and the demonstrations represent the biggest anti-government uprising since the 2009 Green Revolution.

The deepening unrest in both Russia and Iran should certainly give the Biden administration pause for thought as it weighs up its next move on the nuclear negotiations.

There is growing concern in Washington that US President Joe Biden is preparing to sign a new deal with Tehran once

the midterm elections have been concluded, and that his officials are prepared to sign a far weaker version of the deal than that originally agreed to in 2015.

At a time when both the Russian and Iranian governments are battling nationwide dissent, this would be a grave miscalculation on the part of the Biden administration.

This should be the moment when the US and its allies are intensifying the pressure on both Iran and Moscow, not capitulating to their interests with a weak nuclear deal which will only encourage them to indulge in further acts of aggression against the West and its allies.

Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

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