- Iran to sell more drones and missiles to Russia
- West harshly criticizes Iran for drones
- Tehran under pressure from mass protests
Oct 18 (Reuters) – Iran has promised to provide Russia with surface-to-surface missiles as well as more drones, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters, a move likely to anger the United States and other Western powers.
A deal was struck on October 6 when Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, two senior officials from Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards and an official from the Supreme National Security Council visited Moscow for talks with Russia about handing over the weapons. .
“The Russians had asked for more drones and those precision-enhanced Iranian ballistic missiles, particularly the Fateh and Zolfaghar family of missiles,” said one of the Iranian diplomats, who was briefed on the trip.
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A Western official briefed on the matter confirmed this, saying there was an agreement between Iran and Russia to provide surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles, including the Zolfaghar.
The Iranian diplomat rejected claims by Western officials that such transfers violate a 2015 UN Security Council resolution.
“Where they are used is not the seller’s business. We do not take sides in the Ukraine crisis like the West. We want to end the crisis through diplomatic means,” the diplomat said.
Ukraine has reported a series of Russian attacks using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in recent weeks. Iran has denied supplying drones to Russia, while the Kremlin denied on Tuesday that its forces used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.
Asked if Russia had used Iranian drones in its Ukraine campaign, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin had no information about their use.
“Russian equipment with Russian nomenclature is used,” he said. “All further questions should be directed to the Defense Ministry.”
The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The appearance of Iranian missiles as well as drones in Moscow’s arsenal in the war with Ukraine would heighten tensions between Iran and the United States and other Western powers.
SHIPPING ‘SOON, VERY SOON’
The US State Department has assessed that Iranian drones were used in a rush-hour morning attack on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Monday, a US official said. White House spokeswoman Karinne Jean-Pierre also accused Tehran of lying when she said that Russia is not using Iranian drones in Ukraine.
A European diplomat said his country’s assessment was that Russia was finding it more difficult to produce weapons itself given sanctions on its industrial sector, and therefore resorted to imports from partners such as Iran and North Korea.
“Drones and missiles are the next logical step,” the European diplomat said.
When asked about Iranian surface-to-surface missile sales to Russia, a senior US military official said: “I don’t have anything to provide at this point in terms of whether or not that is accurate at this point.”
Irritated by Western economic sanctions, Iran’s rulers are eager to strengthen strategic ties with Russia against an emerging US-backed Arab-Israeli Gulf bloc that could shift the Middle East balance of power away from the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s rulers are also under pressure from nationwide demonstrations that were sparked by the death in custody of a 22-year-old woman detained for “inappropriate dress”.
Several European Union states on Monday called for sanctions on Iran over its supply of drones to Russia, as the bloc agreed to a separate set of sanctions over its crackdown on unrest in Tehran.
“They (the Russians) wanted to buy hundreds of our missiles, even the medium-range ones, but we told them we may soon ship a few hundred of the Zolfaghar and Fateh 110 short-range surface-to-surface missiles,” one said. of security officers.
“I can’t give you the exact time, but soon, very soon, they will be sent in two or three shipments.”
An Eastern European official who tracks Russian arms activity said they understood this arms deal was happening, though he had no specific evidence to back it up. The official said that the Iranian and Russian leaders had made a decision to proceed with the transfer.
Moscow had specifically requested short-range Fateh 110 and Zolfaghar surface-to-surface missiles, and the shipment will take up to 10 days, another Iranian diplomat said.
The stakes are high for Iran, which has been negotiating with Western states to revive a 2015 deal that would ease sanctions against Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear work.
Talks have stalled and any dispute between Tehran and Western powers over arms sales to Russia or Iran’s crackdown on unrest could undermine efforts to seal a deal.
The United States agrees with British and French assessments that supplying Iranian drones to Russia would violate a UN Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 deal, a US State Department spokesman said on Monday. Vedant Patel.
The Western official, who declined to be named due to the sensitive nature of the matter, said that like the drones, the missile transfers would also violate UN resolution 2231.
Several top Iranian officials are outraged by “unfair” planned sanctions against Iran for its arms shipments to Russia, the second diplomat said.
In September, Tehran rejected a request by President Vladimir Putin for the supply of Iran’s sophisticated Arash 2 long-range attack drones, three Iranian officials told Reuters.
When asked the reason for the denial, one of the officials cited various problems, including “some technical issues.”
“Also (Revolutionary) Guard commanders were concerned that if Russia uses this Arash 2 drone in Ukraine, the Americans might get access to our technology.”
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Written by Michael Georgy, Edited by William Maclean
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