On August 11, the United States Department of State said that it would “vigorously” enforce sanctions on Russian and Iranian arms trading, revealing that Russian officials had conducted training on drones in Iran.
Last month, senior US officials said that Iran was preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones, some of which are armed, and that Russian officials had visited Iran to inspect the drones in question. The deal is supposedly meant to support Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine.
At the time, Iran’s foreign minister denied the claim, including in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart. Russia also denied the presence of such a deal.
State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters during a phone briefing that Russian officials had trained on drones in Iran “in the last several weeks.” The spokesman added that the transfers of drones between Russia and Iran was “potentially sanctionable under numerous authorities.”
“We remain incredibly concerned about Iran’s use and proliferation of UAVs. They have been used to attack U.S. forces, our partners in the region, and international shipping entities,” Patel said.
The Russian military operates thousands of drones of different types, most of which were developed and produced in Russia. Still, it can for sure benefit from Iran’s well-established drone industry.
According to the information revealed by the US, Russia is interested in Iran’s Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 combat drones. Both drones have a long endurance and can be armed with light precision-guided munitions.
The US claims may be just a stunt meant to increase pressure on Russia over its operation in Ukraine and more importantly on Iran over its drone program. Washington and its allies in the Middle East, first and foremost Israel, have been trying to sabotage Iran’s drone program for quite some time now.