Iran reportedly sends hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia

Iran reportedly sends hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia

Iran showcases its first hypersonic ballistic missile “Fattah” (Conqueror) at an event attended by President Ebrahim Raisi and other government officials in Tehran, Iran, June 6, 2023.

Sepah News | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Iran has sent hundreds of its powerful ballistic missiles to President Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia, boosting military cooperation between the two U.S. adversaries, Reuters reported this week, citing a number of unnamed senior Iranian military sources.

The alleged transfer of the powerful weapons is intended to strengthen Putin’s position in Ukraine as the two-year deadline for Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighboring country approaches. This follows already documented arms cooperation between Tehran and Moscow since 2022, notably with the transfer of Iranian-made Shahed drones that Russian forces have used to deadly effect in Ukraine.

Reuters reported that Iran delivered at least 400 of its Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missiles to Russia in January this year, and that number is likely to rise. Iran declined to comment to Reuters, while Russia did not immediately respond.

“It was always a question of when, not if, Iran would transfer ballistic missiles to Russia,” Behnam ben Taleblu, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told CNBC.

“With Iranian material support such as drones, Putin has been fighting in Ukraine for much longer than expected. Ballistic missiles will now keep him in this fight even longer.”

In 2022, US Central Command estimated that Iran had over 3,000 ballistic missiles in its arsenal. Analysts say Iran has developed advancements and improvements to its Fateh class of missiles in recent years to improve things like precision, range, lethality, maneuverability and survivability. The Fateh-110 missile has an effective range of 300 kilometers (about 190 miles), is considered highly accurate and has been used in attacks from Iran into Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.

Iran showcases its first hypersonic ballistic missile “Fattah” (Conqueror) at an event attended by President Ebrahim Raisi and other government officials in Tehran, Iran, June 6, 2023.

Sepah News | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

“Iranian officials have indicated that more missiles are on the way. Iran produces the missiles domestically, with very little input from foreign sources, and can produce them in large numbers over an extended period of time,” analysts at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group wrote in a research note.

“Iran’s missiles provide Russia with additional capabilities as it presses its advantage over Kiev while facing delays in providing additional US assistance,” it said.

Russian profits

Russia has won a clear victory in the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka. It symbolizes a painful loss for Ukraine and there are fears that hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers are missing and may be captured by Russian forces.

The Russian gains come at a time when continued U.S. aid to Ukraine is becoming far more uncertain. In mid-February, the US Senate passed a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel, including about $60 billion for Ukraine, but several Republican congressmen in the House of Representatives opposed its passage.

A Ukrainian tank was destroyed by artillery fire in Avdiivka, Ukraine on December 31, 2023.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Kiev and its allies are also looking ahead to the 2024 US elections with concern, as a possible Donald Trump presidency could lead to a complete cut in aid to Ukraine.

Trump also threatened to abandon the principle of mutual defense under the NATO treaty for member states that do not devote at least 2% of their GDP to defense spending, a figure agreed to in 2014; he even suggested encouraging Russia to attack them.

While this caused concern and condemnation from the leaders of several NATO countries, without U.S. support, Europe is significantly underequipped to provide Ukraine with what it needs to withstand Russia’s offensive. The US has provided around $44.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, followed by the UK with $12 billion.

What does Iran get in return?

Tehran’s relationship with Moscow is paying dividends for its government; Since the arms trade with Russia is already heavily sanctioned by the US and EU, it is a valued source of income for the Islamic Republic.

FDD’s Ben Taleblu describes “reports of cash and gold transfers, Western transfers of conventional arms, fighter jet deals and even Russian support for Iran’s space program. For a risk-tolerant Islamic Republic, the partnership with Russia continues to bear fruit.”

Analysts note that multiple rounds of Western sanctions against Iran that have helped cripple its economy have not been enough to stop the country from continuing to sell Russia the deadly weapons it uses in Ukraine. It will also receive new military equipment itself.

“The missile deal suggests that there is now an agreement for Russia to send advanced weapons systems to Iran. Russia delivered a squadron of modern training aircraft to the Iranian Air Force in September 2023, the first phase of a deal that also includes SU-35 interceptors,” Eurasia Group wrote.

The SU-35, Russia’s air defense fighter, would provide Iran “with its first modern fighter aircraft in decades and significantly expand its capabilities at a time of increasing tensions with Israel and the United States,” the report said.

As for Washington’s response, it is likely to be limited – especially because the Biden administration is unwilling to further escalate tensions in the Middle East. Although it can sanction Iran’s weapons programs, it cannot actually prevent the transport of missiles to Russia along its supply route; A UN arms embargo that banned Iran from selling its missiles expired in 2023.

The surge in arms sales to Russia, while Ukraine’s allies appear to be stalling, highlights what many observers say is a turn in the war in Russia’s favor.

“As Washington debates Ukraine’s stance, Iran continues to cozy up to Russia,” Ben Taleblu said, “marking the most widespread case of Iranian ballistic missile proliferation in its history.”

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2024-02-23 16:10:13