US warns as Russia, Iran move toward full defence ‘partnership’

File photo: National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Nov. 28, 2022, in Washington. © Patrick Semansky, AP

The Biden administration is accusing Russia of moving to provide advanced military assistance to Iran, including air defense systems, helicopters and fighter jets, part of deepening cooperation between the two nations as Tehran provides drones to support Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Friday cited US intelligence assessments for the allegations, saying Russia was offering Iran “an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defence partnership.”

Kirby said Russia and Iran were considering standing up a drone assembly line in Russia for the Ukraine conflict, while Russia was training Iranian pilots on the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter and Iran could receive deliveries of the plane within the year.

“These fighter planes will significantly strengthen Iran’s air force relative to its regional neighbors,” Kirby said.

The US allegations are part of a deliberate effort by the US to drive global isolation of Russia, in this case targeted at Arab nations who have looked to contain Iran’s regional malevolence and who have not taken a strong stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration accused Saudi Arabia of siding with Russia in the conflict by shepherding cuts by the OPEC+ cartel to boost the price of oil, crucial to funding Moscow’s war effort. Saudi Arabia and Iran have been on opposite sides of a yearslong proxy war in Yemen.

Kirby said the arms transfers were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and that the US would be “using the tools at our disposal to expose and disrupt these activities.”

Concerns about the “deepening and a burgeoning defense partnership” between Russia and Iran come as the Biden administration has repeatedly accused Iran of assisting Russia with its invasion of Ukraine.

The administration says Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russian over the summer. Kirby on Friday reiterated the administration’s belief that Iran is considering the sale of hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia, but acknowledged that the U.S. doesn’t have “perfect visibility into Iranian thinking on why” the deal hasn’t been consummated.

Britain’s UN ambassador, Barbara Woodward, on Friday accused Russia of attempting to obtain more weapons from Iran, including hundreds of ballistic missiles, in return for “an unprecedented level of military and technical support” to Tehran.

“We are concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with more advanced military components, which will allow Iran to strengthen their weapons capability,” she said. “So it is imperative that the truth about Iran’s supply to Russia is exposed, and is investigated by the UN as soon as possible.”

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