US downgrades intelligence showing Russia’s deepening defense ties with Iran

The Biden administration is downgrading intelligence showing the deepening defense relationship between Russia and Iran, releasing images of the manufacture and delivery of drones to the battlefield in Ukraine.

A now declassified government chart shows the drones being built in Iran, shipped across the Caspian Sea to Russia – with a port Iran helped develop – and then transferred to two airbases.

Russian forces end up using these weapons in Ukraine, where Moscow has been terrorizing the Ukrainian people for months with Iranian-made drones. In May, Russia received hundreds of one-way attack craft, as well as equipment related to production from Tehran, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

The Kremlin requested more deliveries of attack drones from Iran last month after running out of previous deliveries, a development the Biden administration announced in another bid to name and shame both nations.

US officials also have information that Russia is receiving materials from Iran to build a drone manufacturing plant in Russia, which could be “fully operational” early next year, Kirby said. Satellite images released on Friday showed the plant’s planned location in Russia’s Alabuga special economic zone.

The intelligence confirms suspicions that have surfaced on open source platforms regarding connections between Alabuga and Iran. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that the two countries were planning to build such a factory, which could manufacture at least 6,000 drones for the war in Ukraine.

At the same time, Russia offered Iran “unprecedented” defense cooperation, Kirby said. Tehran is seeking billions of dollars worth of military equipment from Moscow, including Su-35 fighter jets, attack helicopters, radars and Yak-130 combat training aircraft.

“This is a large-scale defense partnership that is detrimental to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbors and to the international community,” Kirby said. “We continue to use every tool at our disposal to expose and disrupt these activities, including sharing them with the public – and we stand ready to do more.”

A senior administration official said the United States was releasing the information in order to disrupt Iran’s plans.

“Actors like Iran want this kind of behavior to remain secret. We are publicly shining the light on this to let Iran know that we know exactly what it is doing and to pressure Iran internationally, after alerting other countries to Iran’s actions. said the official, who was granted anonymity to discuss. sensitive internal thought.

The news comes as Ukraine appeared to launch its long-awaited counter-offensive this week, staging a major attack in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, armed with advanced weaponry from allies and Western-trained forces.

Kirby said the United States would continue to impose sanctions on entities involved in transferring Iranian military equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine. This is in addition to new measures the Biden administration, along with the European Union and the United Kingdom, have already taken to restrict the transfer of electronic components found in Iranian drones to the battlefield in Ukraine.

On Friday, the administration plans to announce “a new U.S. government advisory to help businesses and other governments better understand the risks posed by Iran.” [unmanned aerial vehicle] illicit program and practices that Iran uses to procure components,” Kirby said. “This will help governments and companies put measures in place to ensure they are not inadvertently contributing to Iran’s drone program.”

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