Israel gives dozens of countries intel on Iran’s arms transfers to Russia — report

Israelis said to be lobbying allies through local missions to increase pressure on Tehran, according to Axios

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk / SPUTNIK / AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Israel has provided intelligence to dozens of Western countries and NATO about Iran’s weapons transfers to Moscow to support its war on Ukraine, and has been lobbying allies to put pressure on Tehran, according to a new report.

Jerusalem began supplying intelligence to allies on the arms sales in late October via its embassies in world capitals, Axios reported on Wednesday citing unnamed officials and Israeli Foreign Ministry cables, in a move that “represents a change in Israeli behavior around Iran’s role in the war in Ukraine.”

According to the report, Israel’s intel-sharing with allies on the matter did not include active lobbying until last month, as the Israelis have walked a fine line to avoid tensions with Russia. Moscow began using Iranian-made suicide drones across Ukraine with devastating effect starting in the fall, slamming the UAVs into Ukrainian energy infrastructure and civilian targets in recent weeks.

While providing ample humanitarian assistance and expressing solidarity with Kyiv, Israel has maintained a strict policy of not providing military aid to Ukraine, including systems that could help it intercept Russian missile and drone attacks — despite repeated requests from Kyiv. Israeli officials regularly cite the strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, whose airspace is largely controlled by Russia, as part of its efforts to prevent Iranian entrenchment on its doorstep.

But since late October, Israel has been actively raising the issue of Iranian drone transfers to Russia and the possible transfer of ballistic missiles to Moscow with allies, the report said, in a bid to increase international pressure on Tehran.

According to the report, a senior Israeli diplomat traveled to Brussels to brief European officials on the intelligence dossier. Separately, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Ben Zvi, brought up the issue with the Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, last week to present Israel’s mounting concerns, the report added. There were no details about Russia’s response.

A Shahed-136 drone is seen in the sky seconds before it hit buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Israeli officials were also hoping to organize an international conference in Israel “about the proliferation of Iranian-made drones,” Axios said.

Iran and Russia initially denied the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine, contradicting multiple Western officials and evidence in Ukraine showing the remains of explosive drones appearing to match Iran’s Shahed drones. Tehran later admitted sending drones but insisted they were supplied to its ally before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Western nations have disputed this, saying the first shipment was arranged in the summer.

US and other spy agencies reported in late summer that Iran delivered its first shipments to Moscow of the Mohajer-6, a surveillance and combat drone capable of carrying four precision-guided munitions, and two types of Shahed drones: the Shahed-129, a long endurance drone that appears to be based on a combination of the Israeli Hermes 450 and the US MQ-1/9 Predator drone, and the Shahed-191, a stealth drone developed from the RQ-170 captured by Iran in 2011, according to the Aviationist.

The wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine, September 13, 2022. (Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate via AP)

Last week, the Washington Post reported that Russia reached a deal with Iran to begin manufacturing Iranian kamikaze drones on Russian soil.

The signs of increased cooperation between Moscow and Tehran have added to concerns over Iran’s nuclear efforts, with negotiations to restore the 2015 deal with world powers all but abandoned.

Earlier this month, CNN reported that Iran had requested assistance from the Kremlin for its nuclear program if it fails to restore the deal.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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