According to officials from a western country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program, Iran is preparing to deliver 1,000 more weapons to Russia for its war against Ukraine, including surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles and attack drones.
Observers are closely monitoring the shipment since it would be the first time Iran sends advanced precision guided missiles to Russia.
According to officials, Iran last week shipped about 450 drones to Russia, which the Russians have already used to deadly effect in Ukraine.
Despite uncertainty as to the precise timing of the weapons’ arrival in Russia, officials believe the weapons will definitely arrive before the end of the year.
The conflict has not been dominated by drones since late February, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, since the summer, when the United States and Kyiv said Moscow had acquired drones from Iran, their use has increased. In recent weeks, Iranian drones attacked Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
Due to the ability of Iranian drones to loiter in an area where a potential target has been identified for some time before striking, the drones are known as loitering munition.
The main advantage of these weapons is that they are easy to launch, small, portable, and hard to detect from a distance.
Additionally, the US claims that Iran has sent military personnel to Crimea to assist Russian drone attacks on Ukraine.
Iran sending more weaponry to Russia will likely cause relations with the US to deteriorate further. During a meeting with the Biden administration on Monday, US envoy Rob Malley said that if nothing happens, the Biden administration won’t waste its time on talks to revive the nuclear deal. The US has imposed further sanctions on Iran following Tehran’s support for Russia in the Ukraine war and its crackdown on nationwide protests in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22.
National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby said earlier this month that Iranian personnel’s presence was evidence that Tehran was directly involved.
“We are able to confirm that Russian military personnel stationed in Crimea have been flying Iranian drone aircraft throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv,” Kirby said.
During his Monday speech, Malley strongly opposed Iran supplying the drones.
The Iranian government, despite all this evidence, continues to deny that those drones are being used to target civilians or infrastructure.
An official in the US defense department said on Monday that the Pentagon did not have any information regarding Iran’s preparation to send missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said that the US has “concerns” that Russia may seek to acquire more advanced weapons from Iran.
“We do have concerns that Russia may also seek to acquire additional advanced munition capabilities from Iran, for example surface-to-surface missiles, to use in Ukraine,” Ryder said.
According to Ukrainian Air Force Command spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat, “Ukraine does not have an effective defense against these (surface-to-surface) missiles at this time. In theory, it is possible to shoot them down, but we don’t have the means to do it.”
Asked about the new expected shipment, the Iranian mission to the United Nations didn’t respond. Iran previously denied supplying Russia with weapons for use in Ukraine.
The Washington Post was the first to report Iran’s plans to arm Russia with missiles and additional drones.
To prevent Iranian weapons from going to Russia, the US is “looking at everything we can do, not just sanctions,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said last week.
However, it is unclear whether the US will be able to stop further shipments from going forward, as concerns mount that Iran might send even more advanced weapons to Russia.
As a result of its involvement in the shipping of Iranian drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia last month, the US sanctioned an air transportation provider. According to the Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the US is also ready to “target producers and procurers” contributing to the UAV program.
It is unclear for how long Iran will be able to provide Russia with weapons – including more sophisticated missiles.