The White House on Friday warned Russia and Iran are laying the groundwork for joint weapons production, citing U.S. intelligence surrounding Moscow and Tehran’s deepening military ties.
The warning comes as Russia has sourced explosive drones from Iran for use in Ukraine, targeting the country’s energy and electricity infrastructure; striking residential buildings, parks and streets; and killing and injuring civilians.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Friday that Moscow and Tehran “are considering the establishment of a joint production line for lethal drones in Russia.”
Unnamed Western officials have reportedly observed that Russia has depleted its drone stockpiles.
A public British intelligence assessment said drone strikes had stopped being reported since around Nov. 17, adding that Russia “has likely very nearly exhausted its current stock but will probably seek resupply.”
Kirby, in a briefing with reporters, said Russia has aspirations to work on a joint production line with Iran but that the U.S. does not have insight into how Iranians are weighing a decision to participate.
“As we get more information and more fidelity on all that that we can share with you, we will,” Kirby said.
One benefit for Iran, Kirby added, is that Russia is prepared to offer Iran “an unprecedented level of military and technical support,” which could include Russia providing Iran with advanced military components.
Kirby would not detail what type of military materials Moscow would be able to provide Tehran. The U.S. has used sanctions to choke off funding sources for Iran and its business ties abroad that could be used for weapons development and its nuclear activity that could allow it to build a weapon of mass destruction.
British foreign secretary James Cleverly issues a statement supporting the U.S. assessment, adding that “the UK will continue to expose this desperate alliance and hold both countries to account.”
“Iran is now one of Russia’s top military backers,” Cleverly said.
“The UK is concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with more advanced military components, allowing the regime to strengthen their weapons capability, further increasing the risk to both regional and international security.”
While the U.S. and outside experts say that they have not seen any indication Russia is helping Iran with its nuclear program, Kirby warned that the deepening military ties between Russia and Iran are leading to “a full-fledged defense partnership.”
“What I want to convey to everybody is the forest in front of us, which is a deepening and a burgeoning defense partnership, nearly full-fledged here, between Russia and Iran,” he said.
“And I think it’s important because … this burgeoning relationship, partnership, between these two countries is not just bad for the people of Ukraine … but it’s dangerous for the region, for the Middle East region, for Iran’s neighbors.”
Source: The Hill