This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Moscow and Tehran have reportedly inked a deal that would allow Russia to produce Iranian-designed drones to be used on the battlefield in Ukraine.
The Washington Post, citing interviews with three U.S. officials familiar with the situation, reported on November 19 that the agreement was finalized during a meeting in Iran earlier this month and that Tehran is currently handing over “designs and key components” for Russia to begin production.
The officials told the newspaper that if the deal was realized, it would represent a further deepening of a Russia-Iran alliance that has already provided crucial support for Moscow’s faltering military campaign in Ukraine.
The two sides are working to begin production in the coming months, according to the report.
Should Russia acquire its own assembly line or manufacturing capabilities, it could dramatically boost its stockpile of the inexpensive but highly destructive drones that have significantly altered the Russian war campaign in recent weeks.
Russia has used hundreds of Iranian-made suicide and combat drones against Ukrainian military and civilian infrastructure. Moscow has denied using Iranian-made suicide drones, although Tehran has admitted supplying them under a deal it said was made prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The United States recently imposed sanctions on companies it accused of being involved in the production of or transfer to Russia of Iranian drones.
On November 15, the U.S. Treasury Department said it had imposed sanctions on the Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center among others, accusing it of being responsible for the design and production of Shahed-series suicide drones being used by Russian forces in Ukraine.
U.S. intelligence assessments have also said Russia will soon be able to supplement its use of Iranian suicide drones and its own cruise and ballistic missiles with powerful short-range Iranian Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles.