Russia and Iran are set to sign a new procurement deal that will provide Moscow with hundreds more combat drones from Tehran, Israel Hayom reported this week.
But the Biden Administration is reportedly working to stop – or least cripple – Iran’s ability to deliver the drones to Russian forces who are expected to use them in Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told The New York Times this week that officials are “looking at ways to target” Iranian drone production “through sanctions, export controls and talking to private companies whose parts have been used in production.
“We are assessing further steps we can take in terms of export controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies used in drones,” Watson told the news outlet.
Iranian combat drones are assembled mostly from parts produced in the US, Europe and Asia, according to a report last month by the Conflict Armament Research weapons research group quoted by The Hill.
The Biden administration said it would create a task force to investigate how US technology was being used to produce the Iranian attack drones, according to CNN.
In addition to supplying the drones, Iran is also negotiating with Moscow to set up a production line for the UAVs in Russia.
According to a report by The Soufan Center, Iran has already begun producing some of its advanced UAVs in Tajikistan.
Of more concern, however, is the fact that Russia is also showing interest in buying surface-to-surface missiles from Iran.
Israeli defense officials have expressed deep concern over the implications of the growing Russia-Iran defense relationship, which intelligence officials believe could become a threat to Israel.
Those officials say Russia could eventually reciprocate by giving Iran hypersonic missiles and by helping Iran reinforce its growing military footprint in Syria, on Israel’s northern border.
The IDF directorate, however, has minimized the risk, contending the collaboration between the two countries is nothing more than a “businesslike transaction” that has no strategic implications, Israel Hayom reported.
Nevertheless, the UAV deals between Russia and Iran have sparked the interest of Iran’s proxies in the region – Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, on Israel’s southern border.
Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror organization has been manufacturing rockets and drones for nearly two years, according to a May 2021 report by The Wall Street Journal.
Iran has supplied the designs and technology to Hamas for use in producing the weapons in Gaza. “If Iranian support is removed, the [terror] organizations will collapse within two weeks,” then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at a news briefing in May 2021.
Of equal concern, the ALMA Research Center reported last week that Hezbollah has some 2,000 military drones, including many advanced UAVs from Iran. The Center noted that Hezbollah’s use of attack drones dates as far back as the 1990s.
Hezbollah announced this past February that it is already manufacturing its own combat drones in Lebanon – and has the technology to transform thousands of missiles in its arsenal into precision-guided munitions, Defense News reported.
“We started manufacturing drones in Lebanon a long time ago,” Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “Those who want to buy can fill out an application.”