With Iranian drones, Russia complicates nuclear deal talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia has acquired hundreds of Iranian drones it could use in its war against Ukraine. According to Western intelligence officials, Tehran has been warned by the US not to send them.

It is unclear whether Russia has begun flying drones at Ukrainian targets, but the drones are operational and ready to be used, 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 underscored warnings from critics of Iran’s ongoing negotiations to resume compliance Including the 2015 nuclear deal that the United States left in 2018. A deal for Iran and the US to return to the deal, which would give Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Opponents of the deal say lifting sanctions on Tehran would allow Russia to bolster its war effort in Ukraine and avoid sanctions imposed by funneling oil and other products through Iran after the February attack.

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

Ukraine has made extensive use of drones Relying on technology provided by the US and other partners, including Turkey, to monitor and attack Russian targets during the six-month war. An explosive device carried by a drone Last month, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters on the Crimean peninsula were attacked, injuring several people. Supporters of Ukraine have also raised money To buy drones for the war effort.

Facing financial restrictions and constraints on its supply chain Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has turned to Iran as a major partner and arms supplier. The White House was the first to publicly warn Last month, Iran planned to supply Moscow with “hundreds” of armed drones. A few days later, Russian officials allegedly visited Iran twice To arrange the transfer.

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

“But we will not help any of the parties involved in this war because we believe it (the war) must stop,” he said.

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

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

Another exchange of technical details is now expected after a meeting of the Joint Commission overseeing the deal. Developments, including stepped-up public messaging campaigns by Tehran and Washington, as well as Israel, which opposes the deal, suggest a deal may be close.

Israelis have broad concerns about reviving the deal they vehemently opposed in 2015, but are also wary of the language contained in the proposed European text, according to diplomats familiar with Israel’s position.

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

Israeli officials fear that returning to the deal would boost Iran’s cooperation with Russia, including potentially allowing Moscow to avoid Ukraine-related sanctions by exporting energy through Iran if sanctions are eased, said the diplomats, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Spoken on condition of telling.

He said Israel was concerned about provisions related to the end of sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program that would remain the same as in the initial deal. That means some activities that were banned for 10 or 15 years will now be banned for only 3 years or 8 years.

Among other concerns:

– Iran’s “breakout time” – the time it takes to build a nuclear weapon – has been shortened from one year to six months.

– Iran demands that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its investigation into alleged safeguards violations. Israel and other skeptics of the deal fear the IAEA could be pressured to drop the probe even if Iran continues to stonewall its inspectors. Europe is eager for the deal, as it would mean a renewed supply of Iranian oil that could replace the loss of Russian energy imports, which have been severely reduced by war-related sanctions. US officials have assured Israel that the US will not pressure agency chief Rafael Grossi to end the case before Iran answers outstanding questions. The U.S. and others pressured Grossi’s predecessor to drop an investigation into Iran’s past nuclear work after the original deal was agreed in 2015.

– Iran’s demand that the U.S. not reimpose sanctions for at least five years if a future administration pulls out of the deal, if Iran remains in compliance. Diplomats say Iran has expressed a desire to shorten that period to 2 1/2 years, but there are questions about whether the Biden administration can make a commitment that would bind a future president or Congress.

The ability of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to earn money from international agreements, although the group has not been removed from the US list of “foreign terrorist organizations”. It operates a large number of companies under US sanctions that can also penalize foreign businesses from contracting with them. Iran is demanding the removal of a condition that forces companies to ensure any investment in Iran is held by entities not controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.

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

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

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