Struggling to maintain a steady supply of arms for its war in Ukraine, Moscow is looking to Iran once again to resupply the Russian military with drones and surface-to-surface missiles, two officials familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
There is growing US concern that Russia may seek to acquire additional advanced conventional weapons from Iran, according to a National Security Council official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss US intelligence. The official said the administration is particularly concerned that Russia may seek to acquire surface-to-surface missiles from Iran.
Separately, a UN diplomat said Iran has plans to sell Russia hundreds of missiles and drones in violation of the 2015 Security Council resolution that endorsed the nuclear deal between Tehran and six major powers.
The diplomat added that the sales would mark a significant increase in the depth of defense cooperation between Russia and Iran and could have "massive implications for security of the region." It did not appear the weaponry has been shipped yet but it is "clearly on the order books," the diplomat said.
In July, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the US had intelligence indicating that Russia is looking to Iran for UAVs.
He indicated at the time that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with several UAVs for use in Ukraine, and train Russian forces to use these UAVs.
A month later, it was reported that Iran had begun training Russians to use its drones, though it was also noted that Russia is experiencing “numerous failures” and technical glitches with the drones it purchased from Iran.
In September, Ukraine reported the first Russian attacks carried out using Iranian-made drones, targeting the south of the country, including the strategic city of Odessa on the Black Sea.
At the start of October, Iranian-made drones were also reportedly used in an attack in the Ukrainian town of Bila Tserkva, southwest of the capital Kyiv.
On Wednesday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the US has not yet seen Iranian missiles transferred to Russia. But he underscored the impact that previous arms sales have had in the war, as Russian forces have increasingly targeted Ukraine's civilian infrastructure with the cold winter months setting in.
"We have seen continued provision of Iranian drones from Iran to Russia. You can see those drones continuing to hit civilian targets and kill innocent Ukrainians nearly every day," Kirby said, according to AP. "So we know that they're involved in the efforts that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin has been expending lately to try to bring the Ukrainian people to their knees with respect to power and water and other resources."
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, recently acknowledged for the first time that his country gave drones to Russia, saying that the deliveries happened before the war started. Iranian officials had previously denied sending any drones to Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later said in an address to the Ukrainian people that he knows Iran’s claims are false.