US warns of expanding Iran, Russia defence ‘partnership’

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The United States has accused Russia of providing advanced military assistance to Iran, including air defence systems, as it warned of deepening defence ties between Moscow and Tehran, with Russia using Iranian drones to hit targets in Ukraine.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby 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”.
Washington has previously condemned security cooperation between Iran and Russia but on Friday described an extensive relationship involving equipment such as helicopters and fighter jets as well as drones, with the latter items resulting in new US sanctions.

Kirby said Russia and Iran were considering setting up a drone assembly line in Russia for the Ukraine conflict, while Russia was training Iranian pilots on the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, with Iran potentially receiving deliveries of the plane within the year.

“These fighter planes will significantly strengthen Iran’s air force relative to its regional neighbours,” Kirby said.

Western powers have accused Iran of supplying drones to Russia for its war against Ukraine, as Moscow batters the country’s energy infrastructure in search of an advantage in the bloody conflict.

Kirby said the US would sanction three Russian-based entities active in “the acquisition and use of Iranian drones”.

The sanctions apply to the Russian Aerospace Forces, the 924th State Centre for Unmanned Aviation and the Command of the Military Transport Aviation.
“The United States will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt these transfers and impose consequences on those engaged in this activity,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on the sanctions.

Last month, Tehran admitted it had sent drones to Russia but insisted they were supplied before Moscow’s Ukraine invasion.