The war in Ukraine has turned out to be nothing short of a catalyst for Russia and Iran to enter into a full-fledged defense partnership, according to U.S. national security council spokesman John Kirby.
On Friday, December 9th, Kirby noted that Russia is now providing an “unprecedented level” of military and technical support to Iran in exchange for Tehran supplying weapons to Moscow to aid in its war in Ukraine.
While independently verified proof of this remains elusive, Ukraine has accused Iran of supplying Russia with ‘kamikaze’ drones, which it believes have been employed to hit the country’s energy infrastructure, including in its capital of Kyiv, from October 17th onwards.
Ukraine’s defense ministry then–and still—identified these drones as the Iranian-made Shahed-136, better known to the Russian military as the Geran-2, which is said to have a range of 2,500 kilometers.
While Tehran initially denied this, it later admitted to having sent Moscow a limited number of drones “many months” before the war began. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky however discounted this and claimed that many more such drones were entering Ukrainian airspace.
As an illustration of this, on Saturday, December 10, the Ukrainian air force said it had downed 10 of 15 such drones that were attacking the southern regions.
The 5 that did get through left 1.5 million people without power in the port city of Odessa. Electricity is expected to be restored in a few days.
In the meantime, pressured by Western governments clamoring for its experts to be sent to Ukraine to do on-the-ground inspections, the UN is still examining all “available information” before deciding on a course of action.
According to the U.S. national security council’s Kirby, actual military coordination between Moscow and Tehran is now a fait accompli. He cited reports, seen by the U.S., that the two countries are considering lethal drones to be jointly produced. He added that such an Iran-Russia marriage would be harmful to Ukraine, Iran’s neighbors, and the international community.
“Russia is seeking to collaborate with Iran in areas like weapons development, training,” Kirby went on, adding that the U.S. fears that Russia intended to “provide Iran with advanced military components” including helicopters and air defense systems.”
In effect, Kirby said,
Iran has become Russia’s top military backer … Russia has been using Iranian drones to strike energy infrastructure, depriving millions of Ukrainians of power, heat, and critical services. People in Ukraine today are actually dying as a result of Iran’s actions.
U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, whose nation is a close U.S. ally, echoed such statements and said that the relationship between Iran and Russia was indeed threatening global security.
The “sordid deals” between the two countries have seen Iran send “hundreds of drones used to kill Ukrainian civilians,” he said:
In return, Russia is offering military and technical support to the Iranian regime, which will increase the risk it poses to our partners in the Middle East and to international security.
He affirmed that Iranian support for the Russian military would grow in the coming months as Russia tries to get hold of more weapons, including hundreds of ballistic missiles.
While Russia has confirmed it targets Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in order to degrade the logistical support it lends to the country’s army, it denies it is intentionally killing civilians, while stressing that no Iranian drones are being used.
To keep the alleged Iranian drones from wreaking the kind of havoc they have, U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday authorized a new, $275 million package in military aid for Ukraine to help bolster its air defense capabilities.
The EU is meanwhile looking into imposing a fresh round of sanctions on Iran; not only for its alleged supplying of Russia with drones but over human rights abuses amidst Tehran’s crackdown on protesters. According to Reuters, two diplomatic sources expect these new sanctions to be approved and adopted on Monday.