Russia has reached an agreement with Iran to manufacture hundreds of weaponized drones in Russian facilities, The Washington Post reported Saturday, citing new intelligence seen by the US and other Western security agencies (Exclusive: Iran will help Russia build drones for Ukraine war, Western officials say).
According to three officials familiar with the matter, the deal was finalized in early November, and production will begin within months.
“The agreement, if fully realized, would represent a further deepening of a Russia-Iran alliance that already has provided crucial support for Moscow’s faltering military campaign in Ukraine, the officials said. By acquiring its own assembly line, Russia could dramatically increase its stockpile of relatively inexpensive but highly destructive weapons systems that, in recent weeks, have changed the character of the Ukraine war,” Post reporters Joby Warrick, Souad Mekhennet, and Ellen Nakashima stressed.
The officials suggested the deal serves Russia’s critical need for precision-guided munitions, while Iran stands to reap substantial economic and political benefits. By importing Iranian instruments and know-how to Russian soil, the Islamic Republic could still present itself as neutral in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and avoid new sanctions by the US, the UK, and the EU.
Breaking Defense suggested in October, citing an Israeli military source, that “the quickest reward for Iran’s help in supplying drones to Russia will be the simple fact of being able to see them perform in a live combat situation, told Breaking Defense. The US military has made no secret that it’s been learning lesson after lesson about weapons systems and tactics from watching the Ukraine conflict, and there’s no reason Iranian military commanders wouldn’t do the same.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in October that “Iranian military personnel” were on the ground in Crimea to “assist Russia” in UAV operations, giving them a front-row seat.
On Saturday, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told The Washington Post: “Iran and Russia can lie to the world, but they can’t hide the facts: Tehran is helping kill Ukrainian civilians through the provision of weapons and assisting Russia in its operations. It’s another sign of how isolated both Iran and Russia are.”
“The United States — with allies and partners — is pursuing all means to expose, deter, and confront Iran’s provision of these munitions and Russia’s use of them against the Ukrainian people. We will continue to provide Ukraine with the critical security assistance it needs to defend itself, including air defense systems,” Watson said.
On Thursday, Sergey Vershinin, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, denied Western accusations that Iran supplies Russia with drones. Vershinin told RIA Novosti that the Western countries are trying to justify their own illegal arms supplies to Kiev. “The co-authors of the politically motivated stuffing about the alleged deliveries of unmanned aerial vehicles from Iran to Russia deep down themselves understand the hopelessness of their efforts,” Vershinin said.