World

The White House says Russian officials visited Iran to see drones: NPR

President Biden speaks to journalists in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday after meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Evan Vucci / AP


hide caption

change caption

Evan Vucci / AP

President Biden speaks to journalists in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday after meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Evan Vucci / AP

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – The White House says Russian officials have visited an airport in central Iran at least twice in recent weeks to see weapons-compatible drones it is seeking to acquire for use in its ongoing war in Ukraine.

The administration released intelligence when President Joe Biden was due to meet with the leaders of six Arab Gulf countries on Saturday, plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq to a regional summit. Biden is expected to make a “major statement” explaining his vision for the Middle East as he closes the final part of a four-day tour to strengthen US positioning and bind the region together against Iran.

Iran presented the drones to Russian officials at Kashan Airfield on June 8 and July 15, according to the White House. The administration also released satellite images of Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones displayed and in flight at the airport while a Russian delegation transport aircraft was on the ground.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that the administration has “information that the Iranian government is preparing to supply Russia with hundreds of UAVs.” UAVs are unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

“We estimate that an official Russian delegation recently received a showcase of Iranian attack-compatible UAVs. We are releasing these images taken in June showing Iranian UAVs that the Russian government delegation saw that day,” Sullivan said. “This indicates a sustained Russian interest in acquiring Iranian attackable UAVs.”

Sullivan said U.S. officials believe the visit in June “was the first time a Russian delegation has visited this airfield for such an exhibition.”

Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Saturday regarding the White House’s claim.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba rejected reports of exporting Iranian drones to Russia, calling them “baseless.”

“These kinds of allegations in parallel with Biden’s visit to occupied Palestine, or Israel, are in the direction of political intentions and purposes,” Iranian Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying. “We are against any move that could lead to continuation and intensify conflicts.”

Biden seeks to strengthen coordination between the Middle East Allies’ response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and what the ongoing conflict means for the region. Many of the Gulf nations – especially Saudi Arabia – have serious concerns about Iran’s malicious activity in the region.

None of the countries represented at the summit have moved in lockdown with the United States to sanction Russia, a key foreign policy priority for the Biden administration. If anything, the United Arab Emirates has emerged as a kind of financial haven for Russian billionaires and their multi-million-dollar yachts. Egypt remains open to Russian tourists.

Located about 190 kilometers (120 miles) south of Tehran, Kashan Air Base is one of Iran’s oldest airfields.

In 2021, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz linked Kashan to Iran’s drone program, claiming that Iran trained militants from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen to fly drones at the facility.

The US intelligence assessment was first reported by CNN.

The White House says Russian officials visited Iran to see drones: NPR

Source link The White House says Russian officials visited Iran to see drones: NPR

Back to top button