White House warns of 'full-scale defense partnership' between Russia and Iran involving drones, other military equipment

June 10, 2023
Ben Marquis

As a result of the myriad sanctions imposed on Russia by the Biden administration and other Western nations, Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, also subject to numerous sanctions, have predictably drawn closer together in support of one another.

The White House is now warning of a "full-scale defense partnership" that has developed between Russia and Iran that threatens the security of Ukraine and other allied nations in Europe and the Middle East, according to the Daily Caller.

The partnership reportedly involves Iran's provision of attack drones to Russia and assistance in building a drone manufacturing plant in Russia in exchange for Russia's provision to Iran of various military equipment like aircraft and radar systems, among other things.

Russia receiving attack drones and assistance from Iran

The Associated Press reported on Friday that the White House National Security Council released an intelligence assessment to the media with details on the growing cooperation between Russia and Iran, particularly with regard to the rapid construction of a drone manufacturing plant in Russia, which could be operational as soon as next year, using materials, equipment, and assistance from Iran.

It also outlined how Iran, despite public claims to the contrary, is steadily manufacturing its own attack drones and shipping hundreds of them to Russia via the Caspian Sea and overland routes to Russian military bases near the border with Ukraine, where the explosive-laden kamikaze drones are then used to devastating effect against various targets in Ukraine.

"This is a full-scale defense partnership that is harmful to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbors, and to the international community," White House NSC spokesman John Kirby said. "We are continuing to use all the tools at our disposal to expose and disrupt these activities including by sharing this with the public -- and we are prepared to do more."

The AP noted that the intelligence assessment seemingly bolsters and confirms prior warnings from the administration about Russia seeking to buy attack drones and even ballistic missiles from Iran, though it is unclear if any missiles have actually been transferred between the two nations.

Iran seeking combat aircraft, other military equipment from Russia

There is a two-way flow in this apparent defense partnership, according to The Washington Post, as in exchange for the provision to Russia of attack drones and assistance with the construction of a drone manufacturing plant near Moscow, Iran is seeking billions of dollars of Russian-made aircraft and other military equipment and technologies.

That reportedly includes a deal for Iran to purchase Russian-built Su-35 multi-role fighter jets, other combat and training aircraft, and attack helicopters. It also includes things like anti-aircraft defense systems, military radar systems, and certain militarily-useful electronic components.

The concern here is that Iran could make use of the aircraft and equipment to not only bolster its own defense forces but also make use of them to further destabilize the broader region, particularly in Syria near the border with Israel, in supplying the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf area.

To be sure, while there are certainly legitimate concerns about this developing "defense partnership" between Russia and Iran, it is also completely unsurprising and quite predictable given the manner in which the Biden administration and other allies have worked to isolate those two particular nations from the broader global society.

Warning to avoid violating sanctions against Iran

Also on Friday, a joint advisory to U.S. industries was released by the Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, and Treasury with regard to "Iran's UAV-related activities" with respect to economic sanctions imposed on Iran and Russia.

Specifically, the advisory warned individuals and businesses to employ "effective due diligence policies" and "exercise extra vigilance" to ensure that no components useful to the manufacturing of drones, whether formally restricted or sanctioned or not, were sold either directly or indirectly to Iran, including various electronic components, guidance and navigation equipment, and mechanical components.

The advisory further offered a reminder of the several various sanctions that have been imposed against Iran as well as a number of "red flags" that individuals and businesses should watch out for to ensure they don't inadvertently find themselves in non-compliance or direct violation of those sanctions.

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