Iran is reinforcing its commitment to supply weapons for Russia‘s assault on Ukraineaccording to US and allied security officials, by secretly agreeing to send not only attack dronesbut also from what some officials described as the first Iranian-made surface-to-surface missiles intended for use against Ukrainian cities and troop positions.
The increased flow of weapons from Tehran could help offset what Biden administration officials say have been huge losses of Russian military equipment since Moscow invaded the country in February, and a rapidly dwindling supply of precision-guided munitions. the type used in last week’s attacks on multiple Ukrainian cities.
In recent days, independent media outlets have published photos of the remains of what appear to be Iranian-made drones used in attacks on Ukrainian targets, calling into question Iran‘s repeated denials that it supplied such weapons. to its ally Russia. Pentagon officials also publicly confirmed the use of Iranian drones in Russian airstrikes, as well as Ukraine’s success in shooting down some of the drones.
In an apparent sign of Iran’s expanding role as a military supplier to Moscow, Tehran sent officials to Russia on September 18 to finalize terms for additional weapons shipments, including two types of Iranian surface-to-surface missiles, according to officials from the a US-allied country that closely follows Iran’s weapons activity.
An intelligence assessment shared in recent days with Ukrainian and American officials maintains that Iran’s arms industry is preparing a first shipment of Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar missiles, two well-known Iranian short-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets at distances of 300 and 700 kilometers, respectively, two officials briefed on the matter said. If carried out, it would be the first delivery of such missiles to Russia since the start of the war.
The officials spoke on condition that their names and nationalities not be released due to the extreme sensitivity surrounding information-gathering efforts.
In August, the same officials identified specific Iranian drones, the Shahed series and the Mohajer-6, which Tehran was beginning to supply to Russia for use in Ukraine. The remains of both types have been recovered, analyzed and photographed by Ukrainian forces in recent weeks. It seems that Russia has repainted the weapons and given them Russian names.
Officials briefed on the planned missile shipment said Iran is also preparing new deliveries of unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia, iIncluding additional “dozens” of Mohajer-6s and a larger number of Shahed-136s. The latter, sometimes called “kamikaze” drones because they are designed to crash into their targets, are capable of delivering explosive payloads at distances of up to 1,500 miles. Iranian technical advisers have visited Russian-controlled areas in recent weeks to give instructions on the operation of the drones, the officials said.
US intelligence agencies declined to comment on reports of pending shipments from Iran to Russia. Russian and Iranian officials did not respond Saturday to requests for comment on reports of Iranian missiles sent to Russia.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said “the Islamic Republic of Iran has not and will not provide any weapons to be used in the Ukraine war,” according to a Saturday readout of his call with his Portuguese counterpart. “We believe that the weaponry on each side of the crisis will prolong the war.”
On October 3, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani repeated Iran’s persistent denials of any involvement in supplying drones to Russia. “The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the reports about the delivery of drones to Russia for use in the Ukraine war to be “baseless” and does not confirm them,” he said. Kan’ani reaffirmed Iran’s claim to neutrality in the conflict and stressed the need for “the two sides to resolve their problems through political means free from violence.”
The kyiv government has been informed of the evidence supporting the new intelligence data, a Ukrainian official told The Washington Post. Ukraine has separately assessed that most of the drones recently deployed by Russia in southern Ukraine are Iranian-made.
Ukraine recently cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in response to the appearance of Iranian-made drones on the battlefield. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week cited recent Russian air strikes to urge NATO countries to supply his country with advanced air defense systems.
“We need to protect our sky from Russian terror,” Zelensky said Thursday in a speech to the Council of Europe.
Like Iran, Russia has objected to Western reports of Iranian arms shipments for its campaign in Ukraine, and Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has derided such accounts as “false.”
But Iranian drones have already made their mark, destroying several Ukrainian tanks and damaging civilian infrastructure in repeated strikes over the past three weeks, Ukrainian officials say. Missile experts say the arrival of surface-to-surface missiles could give Russia powerful new weapons at a time when kyiv’s forces are retaking captured territory across large swathes of southern and eastern Ukraine, successes they owe in part to Western-supplied artillery.
“The progression from drones to surface-to-surface missiles could give the Russians more options and a lot of muscle,” said Farzin Nadimi, an Iranian weapons expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington think tank.
Iran possesses one of the largest and most diverse arsenals of short- and medium-range missiles in the Middle East. Although Iranian weapons designers have had reliability issues, experts consider the latest versions of the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar to be powerful and reasonably accurate at relatively close ranges, Nadimi said. Some models come with electro-optical guidance systems that allow missile operators to guide the missiles on their final approach to the target.
Iran previously provided the same missiles to proxy militia groups in the Middle East, most notably Houthi fighters in Yemen. Houthi forces have displayed Iranian-designed missiles at military parades and used them in attacks on oil refineries and other civilian targets in neighboring Gulf countries.
Russia already has a number of unarmed aerial vehicles, or UAVs, used primarily for surveillance and artillery detection. But Moscow has not invested in large fleets of armed drones of the kind that US forces have routinely used in military campaigns in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Moscow did have a vast arsenal of missiles and precision-guided rockets at the start of the Ukraine invasion, but US officials say its stockpile has been drastically reduced over the course of the war, now in its seventh month.
According to a presentation made Friday by a senior US intelligence official, Russia’s growing dependence on countries like Iran and North Korea is proof of the impact of sanctions and export controls imposed by Western countries following the invasion of Ukraine.
According to information presented by Deputy Director of National Intelligence Morgan Muir, Russia has lost more than 6,000 pieces of equipment since the start of the war, and was “expending ammunition at an unsustainable rate.”
Blocked by sanctions from getting Western electronics, Russia is “turning to countries like Iran and North Korea for supplies and equipment,” including drones, artillery shells and rockets, Muir said, addressing a group of senior finance officials. international in the Department of the Treasury.
Muir also pointed out that the Russian defense industry relies heavily on imports of material such as microprocessors and optical and thermal imaging technology.
(c) 2022, The Washington Post – By Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima, and Shane Harris –
A harsh British intelligence report identifies endemic corruption as the main cause of Putin’s failures in Ukraine
Norway arrested two Russian citizens who used drones to take photos of strategic locations