The increasingly isolated Islamic Republic of Iran says it is moving to help Zimbabwe bolster its military defense systems so it can defend itself from possible aggression by Western nations.
Iranian Defense Minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, pledged the military support during weekend meetings with his visiting Zimbabwean counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“We are fully prepared to help Zimbabwe’s military forces in any way possible," Vahidi was quoted in the official Iranian media as saying.
"We will help strengthen their military so that they are able to protect their land and culture, especially so they are prepared against the pressures and threats from Western countries."
But observers were quick to question Iran’s stamina given its limitations under crippling Western sanctions over the country’s secretive nuclear program.
Mnangagwa said his visit was aimed at “consolidating and deepening” relations with the Iranian defense ministry.
Tehran has sought to strengthen its bilateral ties with Zimbabwe over the past few years, launching a number of projects including the construction of a helicopter repair center in Harare.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also visited Zimbabwe in 2010 and held talks with President Robert Mugabe. The two leaders are known for their acerbic anti-Western rhetoric.
National Healing Minister and former freedom fighter, Moses Mzila-Ndlovu told VOA Iran's military assistance was not needed as Zimbabwe was not under any existential military threat.
"We are not in any way under threat from any quarter as a nation, and I do not think there is any form of aggression directed at Zimbabwe by any country, whether it's a Western nation or a neighboring country," he said.
Political commentator Nkululeko Sibanda opined that Iran's pledge was a bluff as the country's own defense systems are reeling under the strain of Western sanctions.
"It's a lot of nonsense really," Sibanda said. "because Iran is suffering under biting sanctions at the moment, their economy is not doing well and I wonder how they will be able to help the Zimbabweans."
He added, however, that Tehran could afford small-scale military hardware that Mr. Mugabe could use to quell local opposition.
Chairman, Solomon Chikowero of the Zimbabwe Global Forum told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri there is no need for Harare to seek military assistance as it is not threatened by any nation.