The US has alleged that relations between Iran and Russia have reached a "full fledged defense partnership" - based on the words of the US State Department's Ned Price.
Price explained that Iran has continued its shipments of drones to the Russian military, at a moment drones have continued to pound Ukrainian cities, particularly targeting energy infrastructure - plunging at least half the country into darkness, and resulting in rolling emergency blackouts.
Price went on the explain that the constant supply of drones and other munitions has in return resulted in Moscow giving back "unprecedented level of military and technical support to Iran... that should concern Iran’s neighbors."
The US and UK have recently ramped up sanctions efforts to isolate and punish the Islamic Republic's defense sector, and to thwart the drone transfers, but now see the closer relationship with Moscow as a 'life-line' keeping these manufacturers operating and thriving.
An estimated hundreds of drones, and possibly thousands throughout the course of the over 10-month long conflict, are alleged to have been transferred from Iran to the Russian military. Throughout the opening half of the war, both Russian and the Iranian government denied the drone transfers; however, more recently Tehran officials belatedly admitted to sales which they say took place before the Feb. 24 invasion.
The Ukrainian government and intelligence has countered that hundreds more are on the way:
A Ukrainian senior intelligence official says Russia has received a new shipment of Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drones from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
According to Ukraine’s defense intelligence (GUR) spokesman Andriy Yusov, the new shipment is smaller than the previous one sometime in the summer that is estimated to have included at least 400 UAVs.
Yusov said in a Sunday statement, "This is a new batch [of Shahed drones], we do not comment on its size, but we see that Shaheds were not used during yesterday's massive terrorist missile strikes."
#Ukraine: Russian kamikaze drone attacks hit the Kyiv area last night, reportedly targeting critical infrastructure in the city. The drones were reportedly Shahed drones purchased from #Iran, which have been used in a number of attacks in recent weeks. pic.twitter.com/sTDpiMUrg5— POPULAR FRONT (@PopularFront_) December 19, 2022
"All other available weapons were used, and these were all missiles and no Shaheds," he continued. "This is a new batch, but this one, compared to the initial mass use of Shahed, is obviously smaller."
Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Monday again repeated the official government line that all Iranian-made drones were sent to Moscow "before the Ukraine war began."