Britain warned on Tuesday that Russia is set to provide Iran with advanced military technology that will threaten security in the Middle East and around the world.
Moscow will supply the military components to Tehran in return for Iranian attack drones which Russia has been using in its invasion of Ukraine, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told parliament.
In a statement to MPs, Wallace said Iran should be held responsible for backing Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.
“We must hold their enablers to account,” he said. “Iran has become one of Russia’s top military backers. In return for having supplied more than 300 kamikaze drones, Russia intends to provide it with advanced military components, undermining both Middle East and international security. We must expose this deal.”
Wallace did not specify what technology was being transferred to Iran.
The Reuters news agency said it asked the Russian Defense Ministry and Iran’s foreign ministry for a response but neither gave a comment.
In recent weeks Russia is believed to have used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leaving tens of thousands without power as winter sets in.
“We cannot stand by while Russia sends these waves of drones to escalate its attack on innocent civilians,” Wallace said, adding that British “expertise and advice” is helping Ukraine to coordinate its air defenses to intercept drone attacks.
“Our advice helps Ukraine target incoming Russian-Iranian kamikaze drones,” he said, but noted, “We always make sure our support is calibrated to avoid escalation.”
Earlier this month, the US said Russia was moving to provide Iran with advanced military assistance including air defense systems, helicopters and fighter jets.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby cited US intelligence assessments for the allegations, saying Russia was offering Iran “an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership.”
Kirby also reiterated the administration’s belief that Iran is considering the sale of hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia but acknowledged that the US doesn’t have “perfect visibility into Iranian thinking on why” the deal hasn’t been consummated.
Russia’s invasion has met with stiff resistance from Ukraine which has halted the invading army’s advance and even pushed it back in some key southeastern regions. Western nations have been pumping weapons and resources into Ukraine to assist it in battling Russian forces.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Wallace gave a bleak assessment of how the war is going for Russia.
Some 100,000 Russian troops were “dead, injured or have deserted” in the invasion, he said.
Wallace didn’t give a figure for Ukrainian casualties, but the US military recently put the estimated number of Ukrainian troops killed and wounded at about 100,000.
Losses in Russia’s military command have also taken a toll, as has the destruction of equipment.
“Not one single operational commander then in place on February 24 is in charge now,” Wallace told lawmakers. “Russia has lost significant numbers of generals and commanding officers.”
“Russian capability has been severely hampered by the destruction of more than 4,500 armored and protected vehicles, as well as more than 140 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft,” Wallace said.
The Biden administration recently unveiled sanctions against Iranian firms and entities involved in the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. It all comes as the administration has condemned the Islamic republic’s violent squelching of protests that erupted throughout Iran after the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was held by the morality police.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in Washington on Wednesday to meet with US President Joe Biden in a bid to shore up support for the Ukrainian war effort.