The United States alleged on Friday that Russia was providing Iran with “an unprecedented level of military and technical support” as Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine brings the increasingly isolated countries closer together.
Citing US intelligence, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Iran should receive increased military and technical support from Russia in exchange for providing drones.
“Russia seeks to collaborate with Iran in areas such as weapons development and training,” Kirby said. “We are concerned that Russia intends to supply Iran with advanced military components.”
In recent months, Joe Biden’s administration has said Iran is sending drones to Russia and is considering sending other weapons, such as ballistic missiles. But Friday’s revelations shed light on Washington’s assessment of how Tehran is benefiting from this deadly aid.
“This is a large-scale defense partnership that is detrimental to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbors and, quite frankly, to the international community,” he said. “We will use the tools at our disposal to expose and disrupt these activities and we stand ready to do more.”
Russia could supply Iran with equipment such as helicopters and air defenses, he said.
Since August, Iran has transferred several hundred drones to Russia, which it uses to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure, Kirby said, adding that Tehran has become Moscow’s main military backer.
The United States believes that this cooperation will only increase, with Moscow and Tehran planning to create a joint production line of murderous drones in Russia. Kirby also cited reports that Iranian pilots received training in Russia on how to fly Su-35 fighter jets, which he said was a possible precursor to Moscow supplying the plane the year next in Tehran.
The Biden administration is seeking to bring like-minded countries together to discuss the burgeoning military cooperation between Iran and Russia and on Friday blacklisted three Russian entities that Washington says are involved in the acquisition and use of Iranian drones.
The United States will also send an additional $275 million in lethal aid to Ukraine, including ammunition for heavy artillery systems and counter-drone equipment.
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Iran was now one of Russia’s “main military supporters”, warning that Britain would continue to denounce the “desperate alliance” between the two countries and hold them to account.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office also said it agreed with the US assessment that Iranian support for the Russian military will increase in the coming months.
“Their sordid deals saw the Iranian regime send hundreds of drones to Moscow, which were used to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and kill civilians,” Cleverly said. “In return, Russia offers military and technical support to the Iranian regime, which will increase the risk it poses to our partners in the Middle East and to international security.
Additional reporting by Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe