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Iran Regime Building Large Stockpile of Drones for Russia, Intel Officials Say

Drones are seen at an underground site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on May 28, 2022. Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS
Drones are seen at an underground site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on May 28, 2022. Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

This week, United States intelligence officials warned that Russia is building a drone-manufacturing facility with the Islamic Republic's assistance, significantly impacting the war in Ukraine once construction is completed.

According to reports, officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency told reporters during a briefing last week that the drone-manufacturing facility now under construction is meant to provide Russia with a new drone stockpile that is "of magnitude larger" than what it has been able to procure from Tehran.

Once the facility is completed by early next year, the new drones could impact the conflict in favor of Russia.

In April, American officials released satellite imagery of the planned location of the drone manufacturing plant inside the Alabuga Special Economic Zone 600 miles east of Moscow. Analysts say Iran has regularly been ferrying equipment to Russia, helping the facility's construction.

Officials believe that Iran has provided Moscow with 400 Shahed 131, 136, and Mohajer drones, which have now been completely depleted. The Russian army uses Iranian-produced drones to attack Ukrainian infrastructure and stretch Ukrainian air defenses.

Iran has been using the Caspian Sea to move drones, bullets, and mortar shells to Russia, using vessels that have turned off their tracking data to disguise their movements.

U.S. officials have obtained and analyzed drones downed in Ukraine, with officials saying there is "undeniable evidence" that such weapons are from Tehran, despite denials from the Islamic Republic's Foreign Ministry.

Analysts looked at the drone's shape, size, and engine, concluding that it appeared to be a Shahed-131, the same model as an Iranian-made drone found in Iraq. The analysts removed components from one of the downed drones, and through their analysis, they found both drones "indistinguishable" in their design.

By showcasing the downed drones, US officials want to raise awareness so that Western defense companies have better ways to monitor their supply chains for signs that their components are being illegally transferred to help manufacture drones.

Last year, the Biden administration launched an expansive task force to investigate how American and Western parts, including American-made microelectronics, were in Iranian-produced military drones used by Moscow.

Speaking to CNN in November, Islamic Republic Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian said that his government "has not and will not provide any weapon to be used in the war in Ukraine."

A senior defense intelligence agency official told reporters last week that analysts first saw signs of a growing Russian Iranian military partnership in April last year. Officials note that there is a possibility that Iran could begin providing the Shahed-101 to Russia because of how compact and easier it is to ship such weapons.

Since the invasion began in 2022, the Islamic Republic has sounded off its support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, benefiting from its arms transfers and demonstrating its weapons to international buyers while receiving money and support from Russia for its space and missile programs.

With Russia relying on Iran for military weaponry and sanctions evasion, Tehran has also asked Moscow for support in assisting its nuclear program, which Iranian officials have argued is for "peaceful purposes."

Related Story: Iran and Russia Building New Trade Route to Bypass International Sanctions

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