Iran Has Already Sent Missiles to Russia, Report Says

Latest Developments

Iran has already provided Russia with a significant number of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and plans to send more soon, Reuters reported on February 21. Three Iranian sources told Reuters that Moscow had received “around 400 missiles” from Tehran, including “many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar.” One of the Iranian sources said the shipments began in early January after Russian and Iranian officials finalized the deal late last year. Last August, Iran displayed at a military expo in Moscow a mock-up of a close-range ballistic missile from the Fateh family dubbed the Ababil. In September, the Russian defense minister visited Tehran and inspected that same missile.

At present, the alleged deliveries remain unconfirmed. Iranian missiles have not been documented in Ukraine. A U.S. official told Reuters that Washington was aware that Russian-Iranian negotiations were advancing but the U.S. government has seen no evidence that missiles were actually delivered. (National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the same in early January.) A Western diplomat, however, told Reuters that Iran had indeed delivered ballistic missiles to Russia in recent weeks.

Expert Analysis

“Iranian ballistic missiles — especially if provided in the considerable quantity reported by Reuters — would expand Russia’s capacity to attack critical infrastructure, military, and defense-industrial targets in Ukraine. While Russian missile production has increased since the war began, it remains insufficient to meet Moscow’s demand. Moreover, Ukraine has only a small number of air defense systems that can reliably intercept ballistic missiles, and Ukraine is already running low on interceptor missiles. Tehran’s potential missile deliveries to Russia are all the more reason why Congress must stop delaying vital U.S. aid for Ukraine.” — John Hardie, Deputy Director of FDD’s Russia Program

“Iran clearly did not pay a sufficient price for its proliferation of drones to Russia, and now is reportedly stepping up its support for Russia with missiles. While Iran’s high- and fast-flying weapons are yet to be seen in Ukraine, the transfer would mark the furthest-ever Iranian missile proliferation in the history of the Islamic Republic. It also constitutes an own-goal of epic proportions by the West for not acting to snap back sanctions and not targeting Iran’s entire spectrum of unmanned aerial threats, from drones to missiles, more effectively.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Lapsed UN Embargo

Reports that Iran intended to provide Russia with ballistic missiles first surfaced in the fall of 2022. But those plans were apparently “put on hold,” as a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst told CNN last July. Israeli intelligence suggested Tehran was concerned about inviting international backlash, as the missile transfers would violate a UN embargo.

In October 2023, however, the United States and the European countries party to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal allowed the UN embargo to lapse. Tehran now sees “no reason to hide” the missile deliveries, an Iranian official told Reuters. “We are allowed to export weapons to any country that we wish to.”

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