Iran prepares to send weapons to Russia for Ukraine strikes, officials say

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Iran is preparing to send approximately 1,000 additional weapons, including surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles (SSM) and more strike drones, to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, they told CNN authorities in a western country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program.

The shipment is being closely monitored because it would be the first instance of Iran sending advanced precision guided missiles to Russia, which could give the Kremlin a substantial boost on the battlefield.

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According to officials, the latest shipment of weapons from Iran to Russia included about 450 drones that the Russians have already used against Ukraine. Ukrainian officials said last week they had shot down more than 300 Iranian drones.

This expected new shipment would mark a significant increase in Iranian support for Russia’s war effort. While the precise timing of when the shipment will reach Russia is unclear, officials believe the weapons will definitely be delivered before the end of the year.

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Drones have played a significant role in the conflict since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, but their use has increased since the United States and Kiev say Moscow acquired drones from Iran. In recent weeks, these Iranian drones have been used to target critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine.

Iranian drones are known as “wandering munitions” because they are capable of circling for some time in an area identified as a potential target and attacking only when an enemy asset is identified.

They are small, portable and can be thrown easily, but their main advantage is that they are difficult to detect and can be fired from a distance.

The US also alleged that Iran sent military personnel to Crimea to assist in Russian drone strikes on Ukrainian targets.

Sending more Iranian weapons to Russia is a move that is likely to cause relations with the US to deteriorate further. On Monday, US envoy to Iran Rob Malley said the Biden administration will not “waste our time” on negotiations to revive the nuclear deal “if nothing happens”. Tehran’s support for Russia in the Ukraine war and its crackdown on nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September prompted the US to impose further sanctions on Iran.

Earlier this month, John Kirby, communications coordinator for the National Security Council, said the presence of Iranian personnel was evidence of Tehran’s direct involvement in the conflict.

“We can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea are piloting Iranian UAVs, using them to carry out attacks across Ukraine, including attacks against Kiev,” Kirby said, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.

Malley spoke out strongly against Iran providing the drones on Monday.

“We know these drones were used to target civilians and civilian infrastructure. And we know that Iran, in the face of all this evidence, continues to lie and deny that this is happening,” Malley said.

On Monday, a senior US defense official said he had no information to provide on the suggestion that Iran is preparing to send missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine.

The Iranian mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on the expected new shipment. Iran has previously denied supplying Russia with weapons for use in Ukraine, saying it “has not and will not.”

The Washington Post was the first to report on Iran’s plans to send additional missiles and drones to Russia.

The US is “looking at everything we can do, not just sanctions” to stop Iranian weapons going to Russia, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said last week. He said the US is “trying to break those nets”.

But it is unclear whether the US will be able to ban further shipments, even as concerns mount about the Iranians sending even more advanced weapons to Russia.

US officials also said they are aware of discussions about additional Iranian weapons to Russia that have not yet been delivered.

Last month, the US sanctioned an air transport provider for its involvement in sending Iranian drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to Russia. The US is also ready to “target producers and buyers” who contribute to the UAV program, said the Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

The question of longevity and sustainability remains because it is unclear how long Iran can or would continue to supply weapons – including more advanced missiles – to Russia.

Source: CNN Brasil

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