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NATO continues to monitor supply of weapons by Iran to Russia for use in Ukraine

WASHINGTON: A senior NATO official on Tuesday told Arab News that the military support Iran has provided to Russia — including hundreds of attack drones, artillery rounds and tank ammunition — has had a “significant impact” on the war in Ukraine. The Alliance is also closely monitoring possible deliveries of missiles from Tehran to Moscow, he added.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We’ve seen Iran originally just exporting drone systems to Russia and now we’re seeing, with the Iranian government, we saw hundreds of one-way attack drones being shipped to Russia for battlefield use. We also saw artillery and tank rounds that were being delivered to Russia.”

He added that NATO continues to monitor “talk about missile deliveries from Iran to Russia as well, although I can’t confirm that those missiles have actually moved from Iran to Russia yet.

“And then we also see going beyond, moving to specific systems but actually giving Russia the capability to produce one-way attack vehicles themselves. So they’ve actually set up production plants in Russia to produce Iranian-design Shahed drones.”

The official was speaking on the sidelines of the annual NATO summit in Washington, which this year marks the 75th anniversary of the alliance.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said support for Ukraine will be the “most urgent task” during the summit, which began on Tuesday and continues until Thursday. NATO members were expected to unveil substantial new measures to aid the war-ravaged country, including security assistance and training, with a command center in Germany led by a three-star general and staffed by about 700 personnel, and logistical nodes in eastern parts of alliance territory.

NATO’s security assistance for Ukraine will be worth €40 billion ($43.3 billion) over the coming year, officials said. The support will include the provision of further air-defense systems and munitions.

Stoltenberg said during a recent press conference that the war in Ukraine “demonstrates and confirms the very close alliance between Russia and authoritarian states like North Korea, but also China and Iran,” as he emphasized the need to view security through a global lens and consider the importance of strengthening Indo-Pacific partnerships.

The NATO official who spoke to Arab News said the “significant impact” of Iranian weapons in Ukraine over the past two and a half years of war can clearly be seen, most recently in the attacks by Russia on Monday that killed 31 civilians and wounded more than 150. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 40 missiles hit several cities, causing damage to the largest children’s hospital in the country and other buildings and infrastructure.

The NATO official said: “When you talk about attacks that we are seeing regularly in Ukraine today, whether attacks like we saw in the past few days or for months, for years now, we’ve seen those Iranian vehicles, Iranian weapons have a significant impact on the battlefield in terms of depleting Ukrainian air-defense systems, but then also at times of striking targets that are of strategic value.”

He said Iran is already under heavy Western sanctions and what NATO is doing now “is calling attention to it, for allies to take individual action regarding Iranian sanctions or other actions that they want to take.”

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