Skip to main content

Iran is seeking billions in arms deals from Russia, White House says

Moscow may send Iran fighter aircraft as Pentagon officials warn the tactical relationship could evolve into strategic cooperation.
Russian fighters

WASHINGTON – One year to the day since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iran is seeking billions of dollars' worth of military equipment from Russia in exchange for Tehran’s support for the Kremlin’s war effort, the White House said Friday.

Iran aims to purchase radars, attack helicopters and YAK-130 combat training planes from Moscow, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, marking the latest sign of emerging military alignment between the two countries.

In addition, Russia is offering Iran “unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics and air defense,” Kirby said, before adding, “We believe that Russia might provide Iran with fighter jets."

Kirby declined to specify which specific models or types of cooperation may be on offer, such as co-production. Spokespeople for the White House and Pentagon did not immediately provide further detail.

“We’re going to be watching this very closely to see what, if anything, actually transpires,” Kirby said.

Background. Iran has provided Russia with hundreds of armed attack drones for use in Ukraine over the past several months. Moscow has likewise explored the possibility of obtaining Iranian ballistic missiles, US officials have said.

Kirby previously warned in December that Moscow and Tehran were embarking on an unprecedented partnership of military technology and knowledge exchange and training.

“We were concerned it was going to go both ways. And those concerns are certainly becoming realized,” he said Friday. Back in November, Iran delivered tank and artillery munitions for Russia’s use in Ukraine, Kirby further revealed today.

Why it matters: Kirby’s comments mark the first on-the-record confirmation from Washington that Russia could be poised to provide Iran with combat aircraft, but suggest the deal is not quite finished.

Iranian state media said last month it would soon receive Russian Su-35 fighters, long speculated to be a batch of roughly two dozen of the jets previously slated to be sold to Egypt.

A senior US military official speaking not for attribution last week said that he takes Iran’s timeline for receiving the aircraft at face value, but said they would not pose any serious risk to US pilots.

Still, Pentagon officials have been warning in recent weeks that Russia’s plans to provide technical support for Iran’s lethal arsenal of one-way attack drones is likely to raise the already significant threat to Iran’s neighbors.

“It’s not good for the Middle East, as Iran will seek to benefit from their cooperation … to get Russian military capabilities to bolster their own military power there,” Kirby said Friday. “It could certainly make the security situation in the Middle East more difficult for our our partners and friends there.”

Evolving partnership: Thus far, the alignment between Iran and Russia appears to be based on a tactical partnership of necessity, but US defense officials are increasingly concerned that it could evolve into strategic cooperation against US interests, particularly in the Middle East. Read Jared Szuba’s story on that, here.

The US announced a new $2 billion aid package for Ukraine on Friday that included an array of drone and counter-drone equipment.

The package included CyberLux K8 drones, Switchblade 600s, Altius-600s and Jump 20s in addition to unspecified “counter-[drone] and electronic warfare detection equipment.”

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder emphasized the “significant impact” drones have had in the conflict and the importance of providing Ukraine’s forces with the ability not only to counter Iran’s drones but also to strike back and generate their own aerial reconnaissance data.

“That is part of the modern way of warfare,” Ryder said, declining to provide numbers on how many systems would be provided, citing security reasons.

Know more: The Biden administration has warned China against potential plans to provide lethal and non-lethal aid to Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

“We haven’t seen them provide lethal aid to Russia yet, but we’ve also noticed that they haven’t taken it off the table yet,” Ryder said Friday.

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.

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

Security Briefing Security Briefing

Security Briefing

Middle East defense and security in your inbox

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

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