On the eve of Biden's trip to the Middle East, the White House has revealed that Tehran is preparing to supply Moscow with "hundreds" of unmanned aerial vehicles

Washington accuses Iran of supplying drones to Russia

REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE - U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during a press conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., 11 July 2022.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has claimed that Iran is preparing to deliver drones to Russia. "Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones, including weapons-capable drones, on an accelerated timeline," Sullivan explained during a press conference at the White House. The senior US official also noted that Iran provided similar weapons to the Houties, a Shiite militia it supports in the Yemen war, to launch attacks against Saudi Arabia. 

Sullivan said that, according to information obtained, Iran is preparing "to train Russian forces in the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles, with initial training sessions scheduled to begin in early July". Sullivan stressed, however, that it is "unclear" whether Iran has already delivered any of these drones. A National Security Council spokesman relayed to CNN that the information Sullivan provided to reporters was based on "recently disqualified intelligence".

EL general de división Abdolrahim Mousavi (derecha), comandante en jefe del Ejército de la República Islámica de Irán, y al jefe del Estado Mayor de las Fuerzas Armadas, general de división Mohammad Bagheri (izquierda), inspeccionando vehículos aéreos militares no tripulados (UAV o drones) en una base subterránea en un lugar no revelado de Irán AFP PHOTO / IRANIAN ARMY

Drones have played a key role on both sides of the war. These weapons have been used to launch missiles as well as for reconnaissance. While Turkish Bayraktar drones have been popular in the Ukrainian ranks, Russian troops have used Orlan-10 drones.

Sullivan's remarks come a day before US President Joe Biden begins his Middle East tour. Biden will begin his tour of the region in Israel, and from there he will travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with several Middle Eastern leaders. He is also scheduled to travel to the West Bank and meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Among the issues to be discussed during the trip are the future of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran's nuclear programme and its activities in the region.

Irán está planeando suministrar cientos de drones con capacidad de armas de combate a Rusia para su uso en Ucrania, según declaró el 11 de julio un alto funcionario estadounidense. Jake Sullivan AFP PHOTO / IRANIAN ARMY
Moscow and Tehran strengthen relations despite war in Ukraine

Iran is not the first country the US has accused of military support for Russia. In March, reports suggested that Russia had requested arms assistance from China, but this was denied by both Moscow and Beijing. Iran, like the Asian giant, has not condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has not changed its relations with Moscow since the beginning of the war.

In January, as tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border escalated, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, to Moscow. During the meeting, they discussed bilateral ties and agreed to confront "the power of the Americans with greater cooperation between the two countries", according to The New York Times. 

El presidente iraní Ebrahim Raisi President Website/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Moreover, in June Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, travelled to Tehran days before the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, did. During his stay in the Iranian capital, Lavrov agreed with his counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahain, to 'further improve bilateral cooperation'. They also concluded that "arbitrary and extraterritorial sanctions are illegitimate".

Russian-Iranian contacts continue. Proof of this is a summit meeting scheduled for Wednesday 19 July in Tehran between Putin, Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the Kremlin.

El presidente ruso Vladimir Putin, a la derecha, habla con el presidente de Irán, Ebrahim Raisi, al margen de la cumbre de los Estados ribereños del Mar Caspio en Ashgabat, Turkmenistán, el miércoles 29 de junio de 2022 KREMLIN/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV
Sullivan: Russia has failed in Ukraine

According to Sullivan, the fact that Iran is preparing a supply of drones for Russia shows that Russia's latest attacks on Ukraine come at a "high cost to the maintenance of its own weapons". In recent weeks, Russian troops have concentrated their military efforts in the Donbas region. Despite strong Ukrainian resistance, cities such as Lisichansk and Severodonetsk have fallen into Russian hands, while others such as Kramatorsk and Bakhmut are expected to intensify attacks.

Un militar ucraniano corrige los disparos de artillería con un dron en la línea del frente cerca de Kharkiv, Ucrania, el sábado 2 de julio de 2022 AP/EVGENIY MALOLETKA

Even so, Sullivan stressed that Russia "has already largely failed to achieve its objectives in Ukraine". The National Security Advisor mentioned the failed takeover of Kiev, as well as the elimination of "Ukrainian identity" and Ukraine's integration into Russia. 

En esta foto difundida por el Servicio de Prensa del Ministerio de Defensa ruso el sábado 2 de julio de 2022, un avión de ataque terrestre ruso Su-25 dispara cohetes en una misión en un lugar no revelado de Ucrania. Servicio de Prensa del Ministerio de Defensa ruso vía AP

"We will continue to do our part to help maintain Ukraine's effective defence and to help Ukrainians demonstrate that the Russian effort to try to wipe Ukraine off the map cannot succeed," Sullivan said. The United States is being a key pillar for the Ukrainian military. The Biden Administration has approved millions of dollars in military assistance and has sent tons of weapons to Kiev to confront Russian troops even before 24 February, the day the invasion began. 

Un residente local camina cerca de un cráter de proyectil en un parque infantil, destruido por un ataque militar ruso, en medio de la invasión de Rusia a Ucrania, en la ciudad de Druzhkivka, en la región de Donetsk, Ucrania, el 9 de julio de 2022 REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH

In this sense, Sullivan explained that Washington's main objective is to get the Ukrainians "into the strongest possible position on the battlefield so that they will be in a favourable position at the negotiating table when the time comes for diplomacy".

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.

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