The reported agreement comes as the US expresses greater concern over what it describes as increasing defense cooperation between Moscow and Tehran. A top White House official said last week that the “expanding military partnership” is “not good” for Ukraine or the Middle East region.
Plans have been finalized for Russia to deliver an unspecified number of Su-35 fighter jets, Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters, and Yakovlev Yak-130 jet trainers, the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing Iran’s deputy defense minister.
The report was then later confirmed on Wednesday by the official state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
The Kremlin has yet to publicly confirm the deal, which Tasnim said would be the first time that Tehran has purchased fighter aircraft since the 1990s.
Iran announced earlier this year that it had already finalized a deal to purchase the Su-35, a multi-role fighter that’s been active in Ukraine, but Tehran was still looking to acquire additional military equipment — like attack helicopters and combat training aircraft — from Moscow.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that this is part of the “increasing military cooperation” that’s formulated between Russia and Iran as Moscow has become more isolated on the world stage over its unprovoked war in Ukraine.
This expanded defense partnership, he said, is “harmful” to Kyiv, Tehran’s neighbors, and the international community.
Kirby said Iran has already provided Russia with artillery ammunition, guided aerial bombs, and drones — the most notorious of them being the Shahed loitering munitions, which have been used to terrorize Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure.
But the US is growing concerned that Tehran may go a step further than the support it has already provided and outfit the Russian war machine with ballistic missiles.
“In return for that support, Russia has been offering Tehran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics, and air defense,” Kirby said, adding that Iran is ultimately seeking billions of dollars worth of military equipment to strengthen its own capabilities.
“In response to Iran’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, we’ve already taken a range of steps, including implementing numerous US sanctions designations and working with partners like the European Union to expand the scope of their sanctions authorities and their designations,” Kirby said.