The Biden administration's revelation last week that Russia is seeking to source hundreds of weapons-capable drones from Iran to use in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine is indicative of the Kremlin's need to restock its exhausted supply, as well as find a reliable dealer of the important warfare technology, U.S. military and intelligence analysts told The New York Times.
Citing the need to protect sources and methods, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan offered limited details about the intelligence assessment he provided to reporters last Monday.
"Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs, on an expedited timeline," he said.
UAVs are unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
Other U.S. officials told the Times that Iran was prepared to provide Moscow with up to 300 remotely piloted aircraft.
Though it was unclear if any of the drones had been delivered to Russia yet, Sullivan said that initial training sessions were scheduled to begin in early July.
According to The Associated Press, Russian officials visited an Iranian airfield on June 8 and July 5 to evaluate drones that can be armed. According to satellite imagery, the Russians examined Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones.
Russia has depleted the majority of its precision-guided weapons and many of the drones used to support long-range artillery, as the campaign in Ukraine grinds on, according to the Times.
Two U.S. officials told the news outlet that the first deliveries of American multiple-rocket launchers have devastated more than 24 Russian air defense sites, command posts and ammunition depots, upping the ante on the Kremlin's need to acquire counterstrike technologies.
Sullivan said the United States has not seen any evidence that Iran has delivered drones to Russia, and Kremlin Spokesman Dmitri Peskov told the Times that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not planning to raise the subject during his scheduled trip to Tehran later this week.
Iran has previously supplied drones to Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Houthi rebels in Yemen and to Shiite militias in Iraq.
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