According to Biden administration officials, the US believes Russia now has weapons-capable Iranian drones which it may use on the battleground in Ukraine.
Russian officials collected the drones from an Iranian air base a few weeks ago and flew them back to Russia on cargo planes in mid-August.
Russian officials also began training on the drones in Iran late last month, according to top sources. The US now suspects Russia has formally acquired and transferred the Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series drones — the Shahed-129 and Shahed-191 — back to Moscow, most likely to be used in the Ukraine conflict.
UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, of both varieties are equipped to carry precision guided missiles and can be utilised for surveillance.
According to authorities, Russian operators are still training on the drones within Iran, and the US fears Russia aims to transfer dozens of them to use for air-to-surface assaults, electronic warfare, and targeting within Ukraine.
The Biden administration first warned in July that Russia was considering purchasing the drones, citing severe supply constraints caused by the Ukraine crisis and western sanctions that have hindered fresh production attempts.
According to satellite images released that month, a Russian group visited an airstrip in central Iran at least twice since June to inspect weapons-capable drones.
However, according to US intelligence sources, when tested, several of the drones Moscow has acquired from Iran have already encountered many malfunctions, making it uncertain how significant of a turning point they will be for the Russians when activated.
The announcement of the drone deliveries comes at a time when the Biden administration has voiced cautious hope about reviving the Iran nuclear agreement.
Opponents of the agreement argue that a new agreement would result in sanctions relief for Iran and, as a result, a financial gain that will empower Iran’s harmful actions throughout the region and even beyond.
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