WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is accusing Russia of moving to provide advanced military assistance to Iran, including air defense systems, helicopters and fighter jets, part of deepening cooperation between the two nations as Tehran provides drones to support Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Friday cited US intelligence assessments for the allegations, saying Russia was offering Iran “an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership.”
Kirby said Russia and Iran were considering standing up a drone assembly line in Russia for the Ukraine conflict, while Russia was training Iranian pilots on the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter and Iran could receive deliveries of the plane within the year.
“These fighter planes will significantly strengthen Iran’s air force relative to its regional neighbors,” Kirby said.
Kirby said the arms transfers were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and that the US would be “using the tools at our disposal to expose and disrupt these activities.”
Concerns about the “deepening and a burgeoning defence partnership” between Russia and Iran come as the Biden administration has repeatedly accused Iran of assisting Russia with its attacks on Ukraine.
The administration says Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russian over the summer. Kirby on Friday reiterated the administration’s belief that Iran is considering the sale of hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia, but acknowledged that the US doesn’t have “perfect visibility into Iranian thinking on why” the deal hasn’t been consummated.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Barbara Woodward, on Friday accused Russia of attempting to obtain more weapons from Iran, including hundreds of ballistic missiles, in return for “an unprecedented level of military and technical support” to Tehran.
Russia denies charges at UN
“We are concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with more advanced military components, which will allow Iran to strengthen their weapons capability,” she said. “So it is imperative that the truth about Iran’s supply to Russia is exposed, and is investigated by the UN as soon as possible.”
At a UN Security Council meeting called by Russia to assess the impact of Western weapons pumped into Ukraine, Russia’s UN 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,” he said.
The White House says Russia has also turned to North Korea for artillery as the nine-month war grinds on. North Korea has denied the claim.
The White House has repeatedly sought to spotlight Russia’s reliance on Iran and North Korea, another broadly isolated nation on the international stage, for support as it prosecutes its war against Ukraine.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called the Iran-Russia collaboration a “desperate alliance.”
“Iran is now one of Russia’s top military backers,” he said. “Their sordid deals have seen the Iranian regime send hundreds of drones to Moscow, which have been used to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and kill civilians.
“In return, Russia is offering military and technical support to the Iranian regime, which will increase the risk it poses to our partners in the Middle East and to international security.”