Iran and Russia are getting closer as they carry out joint naval exercises in the Caspian sea.
Both countries say the maneuvers are aimed at improving security in the Caspian sea region.

Ownership of some of the Caspian sea is still under dispute after the fall of the Soviet Union. 

Iran is one of the countries that has yet to settle how much of the Caspian sea is their territory - but the country maintains that this activity is part of international military obligations and does not have ulterior motives.

Russia and Iran have enjoyed close ties for a number of years. Russia has been helping to build Iran's controversial nuclear reactor in Bushehr and has agreed to supply it with fuel when it is operational.

Iran is one of Russia's biggest military customers and has plans to update its airforce with Russian MIG fighter jets.

How strong are these growing ties and, with Tehran coming under increasing pressure over its nuclear activities, just how does Washington view this budding alliance?

Inside Story presenter Hashem Ahelbarra is joined by Vyacheslav Matuzov, a former Russian diplomat and Middle East expert, Mehrdad Khonsari, a former Iranian diplomat and a senior research consultant at the centre for Arab and Iranian studies, and Richard Weitz, a senior fellow and director of the centre for political-military analysis at the Hudson Institute.

This episode of Inside Story airs on Monday, August 3, 2009 at 1730GMT and 2230GMT, with repeats on Tuesday at 0430GMT and 1030GMT.  

Source: Al Jazeera