The United States expressed its alarm on Friday about a “full-scale defense partnership” between Russia and Iran, describing it as “harmful” to Ukraine, Iran’s neighbors, and the world.
Iran has been accused by Western powers of supplying Russia with drones for its war against Ukraine, while Moscow is disrupting the country’s energy infrastructure.
Washington has previously criticized Iran-Russia security cooperation, but on Friday described an extensive relationship involving equipment such as helicopters and fighter jets as well as drones, the latter items a result of new US sanctions.
“Russia wants to cooperate with Iran in areas like weapons development, training,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Moscow is “offering an unprecedented level of military and technical support to Iran – which is transforming their relationship into a full defense partnership,” he said.
“We have also seen reports that Moscow and Tehran are considering setting up a joint production line for lethal drones in Russia. We call on Iran to back off (and) not take these steps.”
Kirby said the United States would approve three Russian-based entities active in the “acquisition and use of Iranian drones.”
The sanctions target the Russian Aerospace Forces, the 924th State Center for Unmanned Aviation, and the Military Transport Aviation Command.
“The United States will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt these transfers and impose consequences on those who engage 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 the invasion of Ukraine.
Kirby said the United States is also concerned that Russia plans to supply “advanced military components to Iran,” including helicopters and air defense systems.
Iranian pilots are said to be learning to fly advanced Sukhoi Su-35 planes in Russia, and Tehran may receive the aircraft within the next year, which would “significantly strengthen Iran’s air force compared to its regional neighbors, ” said Kirby.
The United States also believes Iran is considering selling “hundreds of ballistic missiles” to Russia, he said.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly took aim on Friday at the “sordid dealings” between Moscow and Tehran, saying in a statement that Iran sent drones to Russia in exchange for “military and technical support” from Moscow.
This will “increase the risk it poses to our partners in the Middle East and to international security,” Cleverly said, voting that “the UK will continue to expose this desperate alliance and both countries will hold them to account.”
Kirby on Friday announced a new $275 million aid package to help bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, particularly against Russian drones.
He said the aid “will soon be on its way to provide Ukraine with new capabilities to bolster its air defenses and counter the threats Ukraine faces from drones.”
The Pentagon released details on the package, saying it includes anti-drone equipment, as well as ammunition for HIMARS precision rocket systems, 80,000 155mm artillery rounds, about 150 generators, and other equipment.
The United States has previously said it was providing generators to Kyiv to help Ukraine with its electricity needs amid ongoing Russian strikes on energy infrastructure.
The latest package, which consists of equipment taken from existing US stocks, brings Washington’s military aid to Ukraine since Russia’s February 24 invasion to more than $19.3 billion.