The United States is trying to halt Iran’s ability to provide drones to Russia. The Biden administration has launched a broad effort to halt Iran’s ability to produce and deliver drones to Russia, which the nation would use in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The White House effort has echoes of its years-long program to cut off Iran’s access to nuclear technology.
Intelligence, military, and national security officials have described the expanding U.S. program as an effort to choke off Iran’s ability to manufacture drones and make it harder for Russians to launch the drones.
If all else fails, the White House efforts are aiming to provide Ukrainians with the necessary defenses to shoot the drones down out of the sky.
The drones are unmanned “kamikaze” aircrafts.
The breadth of the effort has become clearer in recent weeks. The administration has accelerated its moves to deprive Iran of the Western-made components needed to manufacture the drones being sold to Russia after it became apparent from examining the wreckage of intercepted drones that they are stuffed with made-in-America technology.
American forces are assisting Ukraine’s military in targeting sites where the drones are being prepared for launch. But it’s a difficult task due to Russians moving the launch sites around.
And Americans are rushing in new technology in order to help provide early warning signs of approaching drones, to improve Ukraine’s chance of bringing the drones down.
But all of these approaches have run into deep challenges.
The drive to cut off critical parts for the drones is already proving as difficult as the decades-old drive to deprive Iran of the components needed to build the delicate centrifuges it uses to enrich near-bomb-grade uranium.
U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Iran is applying to the drone program their expertise about how to spread nuclear centrifuge manufacturing around the country and to find “dual use” technologies on the black market to sidestep export controls.
The scramble to deal with the Iranian-supplied drones comes at a significant moment in the Russia-Ukraine war. Ukraine is using its own drones to strike deep into Russia. And officials in the U.S. and U.K. are warning that Iran may be about to provide Russia with missiles, alleviating Russia’s acute shortage.
Now officials across Western allied nations are convinced Iran and Russia are building a new alliance of convenience. Both Russia and Iran are isolated by U.S.-led sanctions. Experts say that the Biden administration has seemingly abandoned hopes of reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and is adding new sanctions every few weeks.