Iran and Russia have agreed to begin manufacturing attack drones in Russia, according to a new intelligence assessment by a country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program.
A source familiar with the assessment said Iran began handing over blueprints and components for the drones to Russia after the deal was struck earlier this month.
US officials say Russia has received hundreds of drones from Tehran that have had deadly effects in Ukraine.
The Iranian government admitted earlier this month that it had sent a limited number of drones to Russia months before the invasion of Ukraine began.
Some Western countries have accused Iran of aiding its war in Ukraine by providing drones. Tehran.
The source explained that Russia aims to build thousands of new attack drones using Iranian components and blueprints. If the two countries go full steam ahead with their plan, production is expected to begin within a few months and Russia could use the drones on the battlefield in Ukraine next year, the source said.
It’s a move that deepens the partnership between Tehran and Moscow and has drawn significant ire from Ukraine and its Western allies, including the US.
The deal was first reported by the Washington Post.
The efforts come after CNN and other outlets reported that Iran was preparing to send more weapons to Russia, including short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and more attack drones, before the end of the year.
The reports raised concerns in Iran, prompting the administration to rethink its approach to a plan to have the drones built by Russia rather than directly transferred to Iran, a source familiar with the assessment said.
The manufacturing process of attack drones is less complicated compared to the manufacturing of other weapons, the source explained.
A spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations did not categorically deny the suggestion that Iran could help Russia build drones, but claimed that Iran adheres to the principles of “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity”.
In a statement to CNN, the spokesman said Iran and Russia had maintained “bilateral defense, scientific and research cooperation” in the years leading up to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Parts of the UN Security Council resolution that restricted certain arms transfers to or from Iran expired in October 2020, so “the Islamic Republic of Iran has prioritized increasing defense cooperation with other countries,” the spokesman said.
Multiple countries, including the United States, said Iran’s provision of drones to Russia was a violation of that resolution, and the G7 foreign ministers said in a joint statement that they “support United Nations efforts to hold Russia and Iran accountable for their flagrant violations of UNSCR 2231.”
CNN has reached out to the Russian Embassy in Washington for comment.
Asked for comment on the assessment, White House National Security Council spokesman Adrian Watson said, “Iran and Russia can lie to the world, but they cannot hide the facts: Tehran is helping to kill Ukrainian civilians by providing weapons and aid. Russia in its activities. This is another indication of how isolated Iran and Russia are.
“The United States — along with allies and partners — is pursuing every means possible to expose, deter, and counter Iran’s provision of these weapons and Russia’s use against the Ukrainian people. “We will continue to provide Ukraine with the critical security assistance it needs to defend itself, including air defense systems,” Watson said in a statement.
Drones have played a key role in the conflict since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, but their use increased in the summer when the United States and Kyiv said Moscow had acquired drones from Iran. In recent weeks, these Iranian drones have been used to target critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine.
Iranian drones are called “loitering weapons” because they can hover for a short period of time in an area identified as a potential target and attack only if they identify an enemy asset.
They are small, portable and easily launched, but their main advantage is that they are difficult to detect and can be fired from a distance.