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Iran begins shipment of ballistic missiles to Russia

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Iran begins shipment of ballistic missiles to Russia

Iran has sent Russia 400 “highly accurate” ballistic missiles in an escalation of military cooperation between the two US-sanctioned nations.

According to reports, the powerful surface-to-surface missiles include many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, which are capable of hitting targets 186 to 435 miles away.

The shipment began in early January, sources told Reuters, after the deal was finalised in meetings late last year in Tehran and Moscow.

An anonymous Iranian military official told the outlet that there have been at least four shipments of missiles and that there would be more in the coming weeks.

According to another senior official, some were transported via plane, while others travelled via the Caspian Sea on ships.

“There will be more shipments,” the second Iranian official said. “There is no reason to hide it. We are allowed to export weapons to any country that we wish to.”

A fourth source confirmed that Russia had received a large number of missiles from Iran recently.

Iran’s defence ministry and the Revolutionary Guards – an elite force that oversees Iran’s ballistic missile programme – declined to comment.

Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Restrictions dictated by the UN Security Council on Iran’s export of missiles, drones and other military technology expired in October, but the US and EU have retained sanctions on the country’s ballistic missile programme.

They have flagged concerns over exports of weapons to Iran’s proxies in the Middle East and to Russia.

The US previously highlighted its worries in early January, when White House national security spokesman John Kirby warned that Russia was close to acquiring short-range ballistic weapons from Iran, as well as missiles already sourced from North Korea.

According to Reuters, a US official said Washington had no indication that deliveries had taken place but has seen evidence of talks actively advancing.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the missile deliveries.

Defence cooperation between Iran and Russia has intensified since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

Tehran’s Shahed drones have become a key part of Moscow’s long-range assaults on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, alongside an array of missiles.

Jeffrey Lewis, an expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said the Fateh-110 family of missiles and the Zolfaghar were precision weapons.

“They are used to point at things that are high value and need precise damage,” said Lewis, adding that 400 munitions could inflict considerable harm.

He noted, however, that Russian bombardments were already “pretty brutal”.

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