The Biden administration is expanding its efforts to stop Iran from producing and sending its drones to Russia to use against Ukraine, including making it more difficult for the Russians to launch unmanned "kamikaze" aircraft and potentially providing Ukraine with defensive weapons that can shoot down the drones, according to officials interviewed in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.
In recent weeks, the administration has increased its efforts to keep Western-made components for the drones away from Iran, after wreckage showed they use technology that is made in the United States, reports The New York Times.
National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson, acknowledged the administration's push against the Iranian drone program, commenting to The Times that "we are looking at ways to target Iranian U.A.V. [unmanned aerial vehicles] production through sanctions, export controls, and talking to private companies whose parts have been used in the production. We are assessing further steps we can take in terms of export controls to restrict Iran's access to technologies used in drones."
Ukraine's military is also getting help from U.S. forces to target sites where the Iranian drones are being prepared to be launched, a job made more difficult as the Russians move the sites around.
Further, the Americans are bringing in new technology that gives early warnings of drone swarms to help Ukraine's military bring them down.
The plans, though, are hitting difficulties, particularly with the push to cut off the parts used in the drones, as the Iranians are using the same expertise for spreading the manufacturing of nuclear centrifuges around the country. They are also finding "dual use" technology through the black market that allows them to get past export controls, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
The efforts to deal with Iran's drones come as Ukraine is using its drones to hit targets deep within Russia and while warnings come from sources in Washington, D.C., and London, that Iran is planning to supply Russia with missiles as well as the drones.
The Biden administration has been adding new sanctions against Iran every few weeks and has engaged Israel in its efforts to stop Iran, a mutual adversary.
Last week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan discussed, during a secure video meeting with Israel's key military, intelligence, and national security issues, the growing relationship between Iran and Russia, including the transfer of weapons Russia is using to target Ukraine's civilian infrastructure and how Russia is providing military technology to Iran, according to a White House summary of the meeting.
Israel and the United States have worked together for years to deal with Tehran's threats, including developing the "Stuxnet" computer code used in a cyberattack against nuclear centrifuge facilities in Iran.
Iran has been interested in drone technology as far back as the 1980s, when its Mohajer I, a predecessor to one type of drone now being sold to Russia, made its first flight in 1986.
Progress on the drones may have been helped in 2011 after the CIA attempted to use an unarmed RQ-170 from the Pentagon fleet in Afghanistan to map hundreds of tunnels the Iranians were using to hide work on the country's nuclear program.
The aircraft landed in the desert after a malfunction, and although then-President Barack Obama considered sending in a Navy SEAL team to destroy it before Iran seized it, he decided against the risk. Days later, the drone was paraded through Tehran.
Intelligence officials said the captured aircraft was likely a key win for Iran's drone designers. However, Iran didn't announce it was beginning to further develop attack drones until 2016, with some of the development being done along with Russia.
Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine showed that Iran knows how to mass produce its drones, which continue to be built largely with parts from the United States and other Western countries.
The chips that are being used are considered "dual use" items, making it nearly impossible to stop their circulation, but the administration is taking further steps including tightening sanctions including on companies involved in building the drones for Russia.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.