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U.S. Officials Say Russia Supplying Advanced Military Assistance to Iran

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. Reuters
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. Reuters

The Biden administration Friday accused Russia of moving to provide advanced military assistance to the Islamic Republic of Iran, including air defense systems, helicopters, and fighter jets. The latest statement from the White House comes as officials warn of the deepening cooperation between the two nations as Tehran provides deadly drones to support Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the allegations were based on American intelligence assessments, saying that Moscow was offering Tehran "an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership."

Kirby noted that Russia and Iran were considering creating a drone assembly line in Russia for the Ukraine invasion as the Russian army trained Iranian pilots on Sukhoi Su-35 fighters, and Iran could receive shipments of the military aircraft within a year. "These fighter planes will significantly strengthen Iran's air force relative to its regional neighbors," Kirby said.

The statements by United States officials have been part of an effort by the administration to isolate Russia from the world by targeting nations like Saudi Arabia, which have looked to contain Iran's regional aggression but have not taken a strong stance against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. 

With Russia's military resources being depleted from the invasion and economic sanctions from the West, Putin has relied heavily on the regime in Tehran to aid his forces and prevent any more losses.

The Biden administration says Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russia over the summer. On Friday, Kirby reiterated the administration's belief that Tehran is considering the sale of hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia but acknowledged that the U.S. does not have "perfect visibility into Iranian thinking on why" the deal hasn't been consummated."

According to Britain's U.N. ambassador, Barbra Woodward, Russia is turning to Iran for weapons, including military drones, which are being used to kill civilians. Woodward accused Russia of trying to obtain more weapons from Iran, including hundreds of ballistic missiles, in return for "an unprecedented level of military and technical support" to Tehran.

"We are concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with more advanced military components, which will allow Iran to strengthen their weapons capability," Woodward said. "So, it is imperative that the truth about Iran's supply to Russia is exposed and is investigated by the U.N. as soon as possible."

"Ukraine demands that Iran immediately cease the shipments of weapons to Russia that are used to kill civilians and destroy critical infrastructure and comply with Security Council resolutions," said Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N.

During a U.N. Security Council meeting Friday called by Russia on the impact of Western weapons pumped into Ukraine, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia again denied that Iran is supplying weapons to Ukraine.

"The military-industrial complex in Russia can work perfectly fine and doesn't need anyone's assistance, whereas the Ukrainian military industry does not basically exist and is being assisted by the Western industry and Western companies," said Nebenzia. 

Not only has Russia turned to Iran for help in its invasion of Ukraine, but White House officials say Russia has also turned to North Korea for artillery. North Korea has denied such claims.

Following the invasion of Ukraine in late February, Putin and Russia's military generals have relied heavily on anti-American regimes to voice support for their attack against Kyiv. With the Islamic Republic facing mounting protests in the streets of Tehran, Iranian officials have also relied on Moscow to provide the regime with intelligence and resources needed to crack down on civilian protesters.

While the White House has accused Iran of backing Russia's war effort, the President and his officials have not abandoned the possibility of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, revoked by the Trump administration in 2018. 

The nuclear agreement would provide Tehran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, allowing the ayatollahs to support themselves and their allies abroad.

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