Iranian troops running drone strikes from Crimea – US
Iranian troops are “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea, supporting Russian drone strikes, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday without providing evidence for the claim.
“The information we have is that the Iranians have put trainers and tech support in Crimea, but it’s the Russians who are doing the piloting,” Kirby elaborated, adding that only “a relatively small number” of Iranian personnel had made the journey to Russia. He did not explain where the information had come from.
The US has repeatedly accused Iran of selling suicide drones to Russia, which has been using kamikaze craft to attack infrastructure and military targets in Ukraine. Images of the crashed Geran-2 drones have been held up as proof they originated in Iran, given their resemblance to that country’s Shahed-136 model.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed Russia has bought as many as 2,400 of the unmanned vehicles, opting to sever diplomatic ties with Iran over supposedly supplying its enemy. Kiev has also sought to involve Israel further in the conflict, arguing that they should sell Ukraine their prized missile defense systems because their sworn enemy - Iran - is allegedly selling drones to the other side.
While Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has insisted all of the weapons being used in Ukraine are Russian in origin and Iran has also denied supplying the weapons, the EU slapped new sanctions on Iranian drone manufacturer Shahed Aviation Industries on Thursday for supposedly backing Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. The US has also accused the country of violating a 2015 UN embargo on arms exports.
In the last month, the Biden administration has done an about-face from attempting to reach a new nuclear deal with Iran to backing regime-change protesters in the country following the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. While Washington claims to be “holding the regime accountable” and believes the protests to be a battle for women’s rights, Tehran has accused both the US and Israel of masterminding the demonstrations, whose self-described leaders include a long-time employee of US government outlet Voice of Persia living in the US.