Russian officials traveled to Iran to see drones: White House

Military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) launched from an Iranian navy ship in the Indian Ocean on July 15, 2022. AFP

The administration released the information as President Joe Biden was scheduled to meet leaders of six Gulf Arab countries, as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq for a regional summit on Saturday. Biden is expected to deliver a “major statement” outlining his vision for the Middle East as he wraps up the final leg of a four-day trip designed to bolster US positioning and unite the region 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 on display and in flight at the airfield, while a Russian delegation transport plane 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 several hundred drones.” Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

“We assess that an official Russian delegation recently received a showcase of attack-capable Iranian drones. We are releasing these images captured in June showing Iranian drones that the Russian government delegation saw that day,’ Sullivan said. “This suggests that Russia is interested in acquiring Iranian attack-capable drones.”

Sullivan said U.S. officials believed the June visit “was the first time a Russian delegation has visited this airfield for such a showcase.”

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday morning regarding the White House assertion.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, in a phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, dismissed reports of Iranian drone exports to Russia, calling them “baseless”.

“These kinds of claims parallel to Biden’s visit to occupied Palestine, or Israel, are in line with political intentions and goals,” Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying by Iran’s Foreign Ministry website. ‘We oppose any move that could lead to the continuation and escalation of conflicts.’

Biden seeks to strengthen coordination between the response of Middle Eastern allies to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and what the ongoing conflict means for the region. Many Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia in particular are very concerned about Iran’s malign activities in the region.

None of the countries represented at the summit followed the United States in sanctioning Russia, a key foreign policy priority of the Biden administration. On the contrary, the UAE has become something of a financial haven for Russian billionaires and their multi-million dollar yachts. Egypt remains open to Russian tourists.

Kashan Airbase, located about 190 kilometers (120 miles) south of Tehran, is one of the oldest airfields in Iran.

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

The US intelligence assessment was first reported by CNN.

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