Skip to main content

Pentagon warns Iran not to aid Russia's war against Ukraine

Rare rebuke comes after White House declassified intelligence revealing Moscow's interest in Iran's fleet of armed drones.
Austin Milley

The Pentagon issued a rare public warning to Iran on Wednesday against a potential transfer of hundreds of unmanned drones to Russia for use in the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.

“We would advise Iran not to do that,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters at the Pentagon today. “We think it’s a really, really bad idea. And I’ll leave it at that.”

The context: The Iranian government has aimed to provide Moscow with hundreds of armed drones for use in Ukraine “on an expedited timeline,” the White House revealed last week.

Russian delegations have twice visited Kashan Airfield south of Tehran over the past month to view Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones, both of which can be outfitted with precision-guided missiles, CNN reported.

US officials say Moscow has used up much of its precision-guided missile stockpile since its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which has bogged down amid intense Ukrainian resistance and flows of heavy weapons from US and its Western allies.

Ukraine has effectively deployed its own drones as well as US and Turkish-supplied UAVs to disrupt Russian convoys, helping to thwart the Kremlin’s assault towards Kyiv and forcing Moscow to redirect its war effort to the country’s eastern Donbas region.

Speaking alongside Austin at the Pentagon today, top US general Mark Milley described the fight in eastern Ukraine as “a grinding war of attrition” based largely on long-range artillery fire, adding that US defense analysts do not expect a breakout by either side in the near future.

American officials say Ukraine has been successfully targeting Russian command headquarters in the Donbas using US-supplied HIMARS artillery systems. “The Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every kilometer of ground gained,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley said today.

To date, US officials say Russia’s forces have not destroyed any of Ukraine’s 12 HIMARS systems. The Pentagon announced today that Washington will be sending Ukraine four additional such artillery systems in the coming weeks.

Tipping the scales? Iran is believed to possess the largest and most sophisticated arsenal of drones and precision-guided missiles in the Middle East, besides Israel. Interest from Russia is an ironic turn of fate as the two countries explore greater strategic ties under US sanctions pressure.

Neither Austin nor Milley specified what steps the US might take if Iran does transfer the drones to Russia, though the Pentagon typically has a variety of options, both overt and covert, for White House officials to choose from. Any such response would be a matter for US policymakers, Milley suggested today.

Know more: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei yesterday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine as a way of pushing back on NATO, though the Iranian leader said that he regrets loss of innocent life. Read Al-Monitor’s coverage of the recent Astana summit between Russia, Iran and Turkey in Tehran.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

Text Alerts - Be the first to get breaking news, exclusives, and PRO content.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial