Iran will supply unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia in an effort to assist it in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the United States has claimed that its intelligence has revealed.
In a press briefing at the White House on Monday, US National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters that “Information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred [UAVs], including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline”.
Sullivan added that “Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs, with initial training session slated for as soon as early July. It’s unclear whether Iran has delivered any of these UAVs to Russia already.”
According to Sullivan, the supply of the drones is proof that Moscow’s need for greater supplies, as its increased attacks on Ukrainian defences and cities in recent weeks came at the “severe” cost of depleting its own weapons supplies.
Washington’s claim of the drones’ supply comes amid the ongoing and repeatedly-delayed talks over the revival of the Iranian nuclear deal, an issue which is increasingly concerning countries in the region and the international community.
Sullivan’s announcement also came a day before President Joe Biden set out on his trip to the Middle East, in which he has today stopped in Israel before being expected to visit Saudi Arabia. During his trip, Iran and security concerns surrounding it will reportedly be a key topic in talks, with Tehran’s alleged supplying of drones to Moscow potentially being a part of that.
The supplies will also be the first known instance of a foreign country and ally providing Russia with assistance for the war in Ukraine, with the Kremlin having previously requested China for assistance, the outcome of which is unknown. Numerous countries have provided Ukraine with military assistance and weapons, on the other hand, including drones from the US, Turkiye and the UK.
It is not yet clear which drones Tehran will supply to Moscow if the reports are true. Whether they are combat or merely surveillance drones, the supply would signal even greater ties between the two countries at a time when much of the international community continues to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
It would also represent an element of open Iranian support for Russia’s “special military operation” for the first time, after months of sticking to only economic and trade support and cooperation.