On March 22, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei marked the Persian New Year with a speech that attempted to blame the United States for conflict in the Islamic Republic and beyond.
Among his claims, Khamenei said it was “absolutely false” that Iran had been involved in the Ukraine war.
“In fact, it is the U.S. that waged the Ukraine war. In fact, the U.S. laid the groundwork for this war in order to expand NATO to the east [of Europe].”
That is false.
Washington’s efforts to prevent Russia’s February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine are well documented.
The claim that Russia invaded Ukraine to stop NATO expansion has been thoroughly debunked. (Moscow’s invasion actually prompted Finland and Sweden to seek membership in the 30-member military alliance.)
And there is evidence that Iran has supplied drones to Russia, as the two countries ramp up defense ties.
Russia’s war against Ukraine actually started in 2014, when it annexed Crimea and fomented conflict in Ukraine’s eastern provinces. At that time, Ukraine had legally codified its status as a non-aligned country, which ruled out NATO membership.
Kyiv only dropped its non-aligned status after Moscow’s aggressive actions showed Ukraine’s efforts to remain non-aligned were ineffective in guaranteeing its security and “protecting the country from external aggression and pressure.”
In response to similar claims by Khamenei, Polygraph.info noted that NATO largely pursued de-escalation with Moscow despite the events of 2014.
In September 2022, Kremlin sources told Reuters that President Vladimir Putin’s chief envoy on Ukraine, Dmitry Kozak, had worked out a provisional deal with Kyiv prior to Russia’s invasion that would have satisfied “Russia's demand that Ukraine stay out of NATO” in exchange for peace.
Putin rejected that offer, instead expanding his objectives “to include annexing swathes of Ukrainian territory.”
When Russian aggression prompted Finland and Sweden to join NATO, Putin replied by saying Russia “has no problems with these states.”
What’s more, Washington tried to stop war in 2022.
Two days before Russia launched its full-scale invasion, The New York Times reported that “more than a dozen senior [Biden] administration officials and others who requested anonymity” documented a months-long, multi-pronged White House effort “to avoid a war in Europe.”
That included President Joe Biden’s strategy of rallying allies to threaten Putin with “severe economic pain” if he invaded, as the “use of U.S. military force against Russia was off the table,” the Times reported
Washington increased intelligence sharing with allies. It also undertook an “unprecedented public information campaign” to prevent Putin from “employing his usual denials to divide his adversaries,” including the release of “an unclassified intelligence document” showing Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s borders.
Washington also "approved sending Ukraine more weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles,” and deployed more troops to Eastern Europe, to show “solidarity with Ukraine” and reassure NATO allies.
Those efforts ultimately failed. Still, while Moscow and its allies tried to paint Russia as the victim of a conflict, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has correctly assessed the invasion of Ukraine is “a war of choice” that Russia can end at any time.
Meantime, while Khamenei denied Iranian involvement in the Ukraine war, there is ample evidence that Iran has provided Russia with arms, namely attack drones, to use in its war against Ukraine.
Ukraine has presented the wreckage of hundreds of Iranian-manufactured Shahed 131/136 “kamikaze drones” shot down over Ukraine.
Russia continues to use Iranian-supplied drones to attack Ukraine.
On March 22, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that “[o]ver 20 Iranian murderous drones” were used in overnight assaults against Ukraine.
Washington has responded by sanctioning Iranian businesses and individuals accused of supplying Russia with drones used to attack Ukraine, particularly civilian infrastructure.
Media reports suggest Iran is gearing up to build a drone-production facility in Russia. Washington has accused Moscow of plans to provide Iran with advanced weapons, including air defense systems and possibly Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets.