By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
Russia may be funneling U.S.-made weapons captured on the battlefield in Ukraine to Iran, where Tehran’s military engineers could analyze the equipment in hopes of recreating it, CNN reported, citing four sources familiar with the issue.
Ukrainian troops have had to abandon some shoulder-fired American weapons, such as Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft systems, on the battlefield on a number of occasions, allowing Russian forces to confiscate the equipment, the sources told CNN. Russia then diverted some of those systems to Iran, where the Iranian government disassembled and studied them in what the officials said is a way the Iranian military can produce its own versions.
Western weapons are typically more advanced and capable than those produced by Iran’s heavily sanctioned defense industry. Russia likely helping Iran copy US-origin designs will encourage Tehran to continue supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine.
It’s unlikely the practice is widespread, and Ukrainian trackers working with American personnel to audit U.S. weapons aid have reported instances of equipment loss to the Russian army, the officials told CNN. However, they acknowledgedthat the fate of all U.S. security assistance is difficult to determine.
Iran has successfully re-engineered U.S. weapons in the past, according to CNN. In addition, researchers have identifiedsome technology components produced in the U.S. in Iranian drones shot down over Ukraine.
“They reverse-engineered the TOW anti-tank guided missile, creating a near-perfect replica they called the Toophan, and have since proliferated it to the Houthis and Hezbollah. Iran could do the same with a Stinger, which could threaten both civil and military aviation throughout the region,” Jonathan Lord, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told CNN.
“In the hands of Iran’s proxies, these weapons pose a real threat to Israel’s conventional military forces,” Lord added.
U.S. officials have warned of Russia’s deepening cooperation with Iran as the war in Ukraine intensified over the past 12 months.
Iran has smuggled hundreds of drones into Russia to use in its war against Ukraine. Russia also reportedly sought to import ballistic missiles from Iran in exchange for other forms of military support, NBC News reported, but so far no evidence has emerged that such transfers took place.
“Over the past year, Russia’s military cooperation with Iran has deepened, and that poses serious challenges for this region and for the safety of your citizens,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at a press conference with his Israeli counterpart on Thursday.
“Iran is gaining important battlefield expertise and experience in Ukraine that will eventually transfer to its dangerous proxies in the Middle East,” he added. “In return for Iranian support in Ukraine, Russia has been offering Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles and air defense.”
The National Security Council, the Russian Embassy to the U.S. and Iranian Mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.