Iran is preparing to send additional weapons, including ballistic missiles, to Russia for use in Ukraine, Western officials say
Iran is preparing to send approximately 1,000 additional weapons, including short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and more attack dronesto Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, officials from a Western country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program told CNN.
The shipment is being watched closely because it would be the first time Iran has sent advanced precision-guided missiles to Russia, which could give the Kremlin a significant boost on the battlefield.
The latest arms shipment from Iran to Russia included about 450 drones, officials said, which the Russians have already used to deadly effect in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials said last week they had shot down more than 300 Iranian drones.
This new expected delivery would mark a significant increase in Iranian support for the Russian war effort. Although the exact time when the shipment will arrive in Russia is unclear, officials believe that the weapons will definitely be delivered before the end of the year.
Drones have played a significant role in the conflict since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February, but their use has increased since the summer, when the United States and Kiev said Moscow had acquired drones from Iran. In recent weeks, these Iranian drones have been used to target critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine.
Iran’s drones are known as “wandering munitions” because they are capable of circling an area identified as a potential target for a period of time and striking only when an enemy asset is identified.
They are small, portable and easy to launch, but their main advantage is that they are difficult to detect and can be fired from a distance.
The United States also alleges that Iran has sent military personnel to Crimea to assist Russian drone strikes against Ukrainian targets.
Sending further Iranian weapons to Russia is a move that is likely to cause further deterioration in relations with the US. On Monday, the US envoy to Iran, Rob Malley, said the Biden administration had we won’t “waste our time” on negotiations to revive the nuclear agreement “if nothing happens”. Tehran’s support for Russia in the war in Ukraine and its crackdown on nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September prompted the US to impose additional sanctions on Iran.
Earlier this month, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s communications coordinator, said the presence of Iranian personnel was evidence of Tehran’s direct involvement in the conflict.
“We can confirm that Russian military personnel located in Crimea are piloting Iranian drones, using them to carry out attacks across Ukraine, including attacks on Kiev,” Kirby said, referring to the drones.
On Monday, Malley came out strongly against Iran supplying the drones.
“We know that these drones were used to target civilians and civilian infrastructure. And we know that Iran, in the face of all this evidence, is constantly lying and denying that this is happening,” Malley said.
On Monday, a senior US defense official said they had no information about suggestions that Iran was preparing to send missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on the new expected delivery. Iran has previously denied supplying Russia with weapons for use in Ukraine, saying it “has not and will not” do so.
The Washington Post first reported Iran’s plans to send missiles and additional drones to Russia.
The US is “looking at everything we can do, not just sanctions” to prevent Iranian weapons from going to Russia, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said last week. He said the US was “trying to break these networks”.
But it is unclear whether the US will be able to ban further shipments, even as concerns grow that the Iranians will send even more advanced weapons to Russia.
U.S. officials also said they were aware of discussions about additional Iranian weapons that have not yet been delivered to Russia.
Last month, the US sanctioned the airline provider for its involvement in the delivery of Iranian drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to Russia. The U.S. is also prepared to “target manufacturers and procurers” who contribute to the drone program, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence said.
The question of longevity and sustainability remains as it is unclear how long Iran can or will continue to supply weapons – including more advanced missiles – to Russia.
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