The US has launched a major effort to stifle Iran’s ability to manufacture and deliver drones for Russia to use in the war in Ukraine, akin to its years-long push to halt Tehran’s drive toward nuclear weapons, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Citing multiple security officials in the US, Europe and the Middle East, the paper said the program also aims to give Ukraine the ability to shoot down any “kamikaze” drones that Russia does manage to acquire, as well as to target their launch sites.
The Times reported that President Joe Biden’s administration is cooperating closely with Israel on the issue and is building on Jerusalem’s experience thwarting Iranian drone attacks.
According to a White House statement, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan discussed Iran’s military ties to Russia with top security officials last week. The release did not explain specific steps being taken on the matter.
Washington has described an extensive relationship between Iran and Russia involving military equipment, especially since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February.
Western officials have warned in recent weeks that Iran is preparing to provide missiles to Russia and increase its supplies of drones, which have been apparently used in strikes on Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure sites.
Tehran has rejected it provided drones to the Kremlin for the war, though it acknowledged it has sent such arms in the past. Its assertion has been rejected by multiple top officials in the West.
Steps being taken by the Biden administration include blocking access to Western-made components that Iran uses in the drones, the report said.
However, stopping the acquisition of dual-use technology is proving challenging, it noted, as Iran has learned from years of efforts to sidestep sanctions on its nuclear program.
An investigation by the Conflict Armament Research group last month found that Iranian drones used by Russia in Ukraine contained semiconductors and other advanced components exclusively produced in the US, Europe and Asia.
“We are looking at ways to target Iranian UAV production through sanctions, export controls, and talking to private companies whose parts have been used in the production,” Adrienne Watson, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council said in response to the report, using the acronym for unmanned aerial vehicles.
“We are assessing further steps we can take in terms of export controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies used in drones,” she added in her statement.