While Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to visit Tehran next week, the United States on Tuesday accused Iran of preparing to supply hundreds of military drones to Russia, stepping up its offensive in Ukraine.
Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said US intelligence had obtained information indicating that Tehran was “preparing to supply Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, on an accelerated schedule”. UAVs is the acronym for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones.
“Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVswith initial training sessions scheduled to begin in early July.”
Sullivan added that information received by the United States supported views that Russia’s constant bombing of Ukraine, which had led it to consolidate gains in the country’s east in recent weeks, had “a cost to the maintenance of its own weapons.” ”.
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Sullivan said it is unclear whether Iran has ever delivered any of the drones to Russia. He pointed out that these Iranian equipment was used by the Houthi rebels in Yemen to attack Saudi Arabia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Tuesday that Putin will travel to the Iranian capital next week to speak with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Iranian state media also reported that Putin would visit Tehran next week to discuss deepening economic ties between the two countries.
Erdogan, who has positioned himself as the main mediator between the two warring countries, on Monday spoke with Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to discuss the war in Ukraine and the possibility of disposing of grain trapped in Ukrainian ports.
Drones have played a crucial role on both sides of the Ukraine war. Unmanned weapons perform functions such as: firing missiles from a distance, dropping small bombs on precise targets and conducting reconnaissance of the territory before offensives.
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Ukraine’s army has had particular success in using Turkish-made Bayraktar combat UAVs, and the United States and other allies have supplied Kiev with many types of smaller drones.
“From our perspective, we will continue to do our part to help sustain Ukraine’s effective defense and help Ukrainians show that the Russian effort to try to wipe Ukraine off the map cannot succeed,” Sullivan said.
Tehran has repeatedly shown willingness to sign long-term economic deals with Russian companies, which have been under economic sanctions since the start of the war. The Iran-Russia Joint Chamber of Commerce said Iran’s exports to Russia had increased since the invasion on February 24.
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Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden will travel to Israel and Saudi Arabia this week – two regional enemies of Iran – for diplomatic discussions where Tehran’s nuclear program and its activities in the region will be a key issue.
The US decision to publicly blame Iran for planning Russia’s rearmament also comes as Israel and Saudi Arabia still resist joining US and European allies in sanctioning Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.