(Reuters) – Iran has promised to supply Russia with surface-to-surface missiles, in addition to additional drones, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters, a move that could infuriate the United States and other Western powers.
A deal was reached on October 6 when Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, two senior officials from Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards and an official from the Supreme National Security Council traveled to Moscow for talks with Russia on the arms delivery.
“The Russians had requested more drones and these Iranian ballistic missiles with improved accuracy, especially the Fateh and Zolfaghar family of missiles,” said one of the Iranian diplomats, who was briefed on the trip.
A Western official briefed on the matter confirmed this, saying there was an agreement in place between Iran and Russia to supply short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, including the Zolfaghar.
One of the drones Iran has agreed to provide is the Shahed-136, a delta-winged weapon used as a “kamikaze” air-to-ground attack aircraft. It carries a small warhead that explodes on impact.
Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar are Iranian short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles capable of striking targets at ranges between 300 km and 700 km (186 and 435 miles).
The Iranian diplomat dismissed claims by Western officials that such transfers violate a 2015 UN Security Council resolution.
“Where they are used is not the vendor’s question. We are not taking sides in the Ukraine crisis like the West. We want to end the crisis through diplomatic means,” the diplomat said.
Ukraine has reported a series of Russian attacks using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in recent weeks. Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday dismissed reports that Iran was supplying drones and other weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine, while the Kremlin on Tuesday denied that its forces had used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.
Asked if Russia had used Iranian drones in its campaign in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin had no information on their use.
“Russian equipment with Russian nomenclature is used,” he said. “Any other questions should be directed to the Ministry of Defence.”
The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The appearance of Iranian missiles in addition to drones in Moscow’s arsenal in the war with Ukraine would increase tensions between Iran and the United States and other Western powers.
SHIPPING ‘SOON, VERY SOON’
The US State Department estimated that Iranian drones were used in a morning rush hour attack on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Monday, a US official said. White House spokeswoman Karinne Jean-Pierre also accused Tehran of lying when she said Iranian drones were not used by Russia in Ukraine.
A European diplomat said his country believes Russia has a harder time producing weapons for itself given the sanctions imposed on its industrial sector and is therefore turning to imports from partners like Iran and South Korea. North.
“Drones and missiles are a logical next step,” said the European diplomat.
Asked about Iranian surface-to-surface missile sales to Russia, a senior US military official said: “I have nothing to offer at this time as to whether or not that is accurate at this stage.”
Fed up with Western economic sanctions, Iran’s leaders want to strengthen their strategic ties with Russia against a US-backed Arab-Israeli Gulf bloc that could push the balance of power in the Middle East further away from the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander-in-chief Hossein Salami said last month that some of the “big world powers” were willing to buy military and defense equipment from Iran.
Rahim Safavi, military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, was reported by state media on Tuesday as saying that 22 countries wanted to buy Iranian drones.
Iran’s leaders are also under pressure from nationwide protests that were sparked by the death in custody of a 22-year-old woman detained for “inappropriate dress”.
Several European Union states on Monday called for sanctions against Iran over its supply of drones to Russia, as the bloc agreed on a separate set of sanctions over Tehran’s crackdown on the unrest. .
“They (the Russians) wanted to buy hundreds of our missiles, even medium-range ones, but we told them that we could soon ship a few hundred of their Zolfaghar and Fateh 110 short-range surface-to-surface missiles,” he said. he adds. said one of the security officials.
“I can’t give you the exact time, but soon, very soon, these will be shipping in 2-3 shipments.”
An Eastern European official who tracks Russian military activity said he understood the arms deal was taking place, although he had no specific evidence to back it up. The official said a decision had been made by the Iranian and Russian leaders to proceed with the transfer.
Moscow had specifically requested Fateh 110 and Zolfaghar short-range surface-to-surface missiles, and the shipment will be within a maximum of 10 days, another Iranian diplomat said.
The stakes are high for Iran, which negotiated with Western states to revive a 2015 deal that would ease sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear work.
Talks are deadlocked and any dispute between Tehran and Western powers over arms sales to Russia or Iran’s crackdown on the unrest could weaken efforts to seal a deal.
The United States agrees with British and French assessments that Iran supplying drones to Russia would violate a UN Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 deal, the gatekeeper said on Monday. – US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel.
The Western official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the matter, said that like the drones, the missile transfers would also violate UN Resolution 2231.
Several senior Iranian officials are outraged by the “unfair” sanctions planned against Iran over its arms shipments to Russia, the second diplomat said.
In September, Tehran refused a request from President Vladimir Putin for the supply of sophisticated long-range Arash 2 attack drones, three Iranian officials told Reuters.
When asked the reason for the denial, one of the managers cited several issues, including “some technical issues.”
“Furthermore,[Revolutionary Guard]commanders were concerned that if Russia uses this Arash 2 drone in Ukraine, the Americans might gain access to our technology.”
(Writing by Michael Georgy, editing by William Maclean)