With Iranian drones, Russia complicates nuclear deal talks

Aug 25, 2022, 1:14 PM | Updated: 1:28 pm

Destroyed houses after a Russian attack are seen in the village Chaplyne, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 2...

Destroyed houses after a Russian attack are seen in the village Chaplyne, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The death toll from a Russian rocket attack on a train station and the surrounding area as Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day climbed to 25, including at least two children, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday. Russia said it targeted a military train and claimed to have killed more than 200 Ukrainian reservists. (AP Photo/Inna Varenytsia)

(AP Photo/Inna Varenytsia)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia has obtained hundreds of Iranian drones capable of being used in its war against Ukraine despite U.S. warnings to Tehran not to ship them, according to Western intelligence officials.

It’s unclear whether Russia has begun flying the drones against Ukrainian targets, but the drones appear to be operational and ready to use, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

The reported shipment marks the latest sign of what appears to be closer military cooperation between the longtime allies.

It also underscores warnings from critics of the ongoing negotiations for Iran to resume its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal that the United States left in 2018. An agreement for Iran and the U.S. to return to the deal, which would grant Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program, is inching forward.

Opponents of a deal say lifting sanctions on Tehran could enable Russia to strengthen its war effort in Ukraine and circumvent penalties imposed after the February invasion by funneling oil and other products through Iran.

The arrival of the drones in the Ukraine war was first reported by The Washington Post.

Ukraine has made great use of drones for surveilling and attacking Russian targets in the six-month war, relying on technology supplied by the U.S. and other partners, including Turkey. An explosive device carried by a drone last month struck the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean Peninsula, injuring several people. Supporters of Ukraine have also raised money to buy drones for the war effort.

Facing economic sanctions and limits on its supply chains due to its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has increasingly turned to Iran as a key partner and supplier of weapons. The White House first publicly warned last month that Iran was planning to supply Moscow with “hundreds” of armed drones. Days later, it alleged Russian officials had visited Iran twice to arrange a transfer.

Speaking last month, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein-Amir Abdollahian, said Tehran had “various types of collaboration with Russia, including in the defense sector.”

“But we won’t help either of the sides involved in this war because we believe that it (the war) needs to be stopped,” he said.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The signs of increased cooperation between Moscow and Tehran have added to concerns about the nuclear talks. President Joe Biden’s administration this week responded to Iran’s latest offer to resume compliance with the previous agreement.

There is now expected to be another exchange of technical details followed by a meeting of the joint commission that oversees the deal. The developments, including stepped-up public messaging campaigns by both Tehran and Washington, as well as Israel, which is opposed to a deal, suggest that an agreement could be near.

The Israelis continue to have broad concerns about reviving a deal they had vehemently opposed in 2015, but are also wary of language included in the proposed European text that covers additional items, according to diplomats familiar with Israel’s position.

Israel has made its stance clear in public statements this week by Prime Minister Yair Lapid and in private conversations in Washington involving Israel’s national security adviser and its defense minister, Benny Gantz, who will meet Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on Friday.

Israeli officials worry a return to the deal will boost Iran’s cooperation with Russia, including potentially allowing Moscow to evade Ukraine-related sanctions by exporting energy through Iran if the sanctions are eased, said the diplomats, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

They said Israel is concerned about provisions related to the expiration of restrictions on Iran’s atomic program that will remain the same as in the initial agreement. That means what had been a 10-year or 15-year ban on certain activities would now be only a 3-year or 8-year ban.

Among other concerns:

–Iran’s “breakout time” — the period it would need to produce a nuclear weapon — has been reduced from one year to six months.

–an Iranian demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its investigation of alleged safeguard violations. Israel and other skeptics of the deal worry the IAEA may be pressured to drop the inquiry even if Iran continues to stonewall its inspectors. Europe is eager for a deal, given it would mean renewed access to Iranian oil that could replace the loss of Russian energy imports severely curtailed by war-related sanctions. American officials have assured Israel that the U.S. will not pressure the agency’s chief, Rafael Grossi, to end the matter before Iran has answered the outstanding questions. The U.S. and others pressed Grossi’s predecessor to drop an investigation into Iran’s previous nuclear work after the original deal was agreed to in 2015.

–Iran’s demand for guarantees that the U.S. would not reimpose sanctions for at least five years if a future administration pulled out of the deal, provided Iran remained in compliance. Diplomats say Iran has signaled a willingness to reduce that period to 2 1/2 years, but there are questions whether the Biden administration could make a promise that would bind a future president or Congress.

–the potential for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to earn money from international contracts even if that group isn’t removed from the U.S. list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” It operates a massive number of companies under U.S. sanctions that can also also penalize foreign businesses from entering contracts with them. Iran is seeking a removal of a requirement that forces companies to ensure any investments they make in Iran are not with entities controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.


Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.


Follow all AP stories on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine and on the Iranian nuclear deal at https://apnews.com/hub/iran-nuclear

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

              A heavily damaged train is seen at a train station after a Russian attack yesterday during Ukraine's Independence Day in the village Chaplyne, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
              Destroyed houses after a Russian attack are seen in the village Chaplyne, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The death toll from a Russian rocket attack on a train station and the surrounding area as Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day climbed to 25, including at least two children, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday. Russia said it targeted a military train and claimed to have killed more than 200 Ukrainian reservists. (AP Photo/Inna Varenytsia)


This photo provided by Robert Wilkes, owner of a house boat management company, shows smoke rising ...

Associated Press

Houseboats catch fire while docked at Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell

More than half a dozen house boats momentarily caught fire at a popular boating destination on the Utah-Arizona line on Friday.

1 day ago

File - Women work in a restaurant kitchen in Chicago, Thursday, March 23, 2023. On Friday, the U.S....

Associated Press

US hiring, unemployment jump in May and what that says about the economy

The nation’s employers stepped up their hiring in May, adding a robust 339,000 jobs, well above expectations.

1 day ago

(Pixabay Photo)...

Associated Press

Oath Keeper from Arizona sentenced for role in Jan. 6 riot at US Capitol

Edward Vallejo, a U.S. Army veteran from Phoenix, oversaw a “Quick Reaction Force” at a Virginia hotel that was prepared to deploy an arsenal of weapons into Washington if needed, authorities say.

2 days ago

FILE - U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz listens during a news conference, Jan. 5, 2023, in Washi...

Associated Press

US Border Patrol chief is retiring after seeing through end of Title 42 immigration restrictions

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol announced Tuesday that he was retiring, after seeing through a major policy shift that seeks to clamp down on illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border following the end of Title 42 pandemic restrictions.

3 days ago

FILE - President Joe Biden talks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., on the House steps as...

Associated Press

House OKs debt ceiling bill to avoid default, sends Biden-McCarthy deal to Senate

The House approved a debt ceiling and budget cuts package late Wednesday, as President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy assembled a bipartisan coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans against fierce conservative blowback and progressive dissent.

3 days ago

Sean Bickings (Family Photo via city of Tempe)...

Associated Press

Family of man who drowned last year in Tempe Town Lake files wrongful death lawsuit

The family of a man who drowned in Tempe Town Lake a year ago filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city Wednesday, noting that its police department doesn't have a policy requiring officers to go into the water to save someone.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Spinal fusion surgery has come a long way, despite misconceptions

As Dr. Justin Field of the Desert Institute for Spine Care explained, “we've come a long way over the last couple of decades.”

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...

Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

With Iranian drones, Russia complicates nuclear deal talks