Iran Set to Supply Russia With 'Hundreds' of Armed Drones, White House Says

The White House says Russia is turning to Iran for drones, adding that Biden's Mideast trip aims to integrate Israel in the region, and advance Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks to reporters during a press briefing at the White House in Washington on Monday
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks to reporters during a press briefing at the White House in Washington on MondayCredit: Kevin Lamarque/ REUTERS
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON – U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Monday that U.S. President Joe Biden's upcoming visit to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia could help pay dividends for U.S. interests for years to come.

In a briefing at the White House, Sullivan said the U.S. believes Russia is turning to Iran to provide it with “hundreds” of unmanned aerial vehicles, including weapons-capable drones, for use in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Sullivan said it was unclear whether Iran had already provided any of the unmanned systems to Russia, but said the U.S. has “information” that indicates Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use them as soon as this month.

“Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline,” he told reporters Monday.

"It is precisely because the world is becoming more geopolitically competitive, especially in the Indo-Pacific and Europe, that we need to remain intensively engaged in the Middle East," Sullivan said at the White House press briefing.

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"The Middle East is deeply interwoven with the rest of the world. And if we act now to create a more peaceful and stable region, it will pay dividends for the American national interest and for the American people for years to come," he added.

Sullivan noted that Biden's fundamental objectives concerning the Middle East are focused on stability, fewer wars that could draw in the U.S., and creating an environment less hospitable to terrorism.

He added that Biden wants "a region that is helping address global energy security at a moment when Russia's war against Ukraine is roiling global energy markets; a region where no foreign power can dominate or gain strategic advantage over the United States; a region that is making progress towards greater human rights and greater human dignity."

"Despite ongoing challenges, President Biden will be visiting a more stable Middle East than the one we inherited 18 months ago," Sullivan noted.

Biden's national security advisor stressed that the president wants to use his trip to deepen Israel's integration in the region and will work to make progress on Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization, though such work is likely to take a long time.

Despite highly telegraphed suggestions of progress – particularly over the creation of a regional defense network to combat Iran and its proxies – U.S. and Israeli officials are similarly cautious about overstating the inevitability of such developments, tempering expectations on both the timeline and scale of steps along the way.

There is a strong chance, however, that several historic breakthroughs could be achieved — particularly concerning the transfer of two Red Sea islands, the opening of Saudi airspace to Israeli flights and Riyadh permitting direct charter flights from Israel for Muslims seeking to make pilgrimage in the kingdom.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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