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Iran to purchase Su-35 fighter jets from Russia

The reported deal expands the two countries’ military relationship, that has included Tehran supplying Moscow with drones for use in the war on Ukraine.

A Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet lands at Kubinka Air Base. Credit: Fasttailwind/Shutterstock.
A Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet lands at Kubinka Air Base. Credit: Fasttailwind/Shutterstock.

Iran has agreed to purchase advanced Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, Iranian state media said on Saturday.

“The Sukhoi-35 fighter planes are technically acceptable to Iran and Iran has finalized a contract for their purchase,” the IRIB news outlet quoted Iran’s mission to the United Nations as saying.

Details of the reported deal were not disclosed.

Iran’s air force reportedly has only a few dozen fighter jets, including aging U.S. models acquired before the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan confirmed in July that Iran was providing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including armed drones, to Russia for use in its war on Ukraine.

Russia reportedly obtained multiple types of attack and intelligence drones from Tehran, including the “Shahed 136” suicide drone, which can carry an explosive warhead of 40 kilograms and which maneuvers to targets using satellite navigation.

The United States, United Kingdom and France in October raised the issue at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, with the Western nations expressing “grave concerns about Russia’s acquisition of these UAVs from Iran in violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 2231,” which formally endorsed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said at the time that there was “abundant evidence” that the UAVs are being used against Ukrainian civilians and critical civilian infrastructure.

“We will not hesitate to use our sanctions and other appropriate tools on all involved in these transfers. We will also continue to surge unprecedented security assistance to Ukraine, including air defense capabilities so that Ukraine can defend itself from these weapons,” said Price.

On Nov. 15, the United States imposed penalties on firms and individuals involved in the development or transfer of Iranian drones used by Russia in strikes on civilian facilities in Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday in Israel, primarily to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat.

“We have a common agenda to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and preventing Iran’s aggression, maintaining the security and prosperity of this region and seeking to expand the circle of peace,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting.

“You’re right, we do have a lot to talk about today, and you’ve heard us say over and over again that we are absolutely committed to the security of Israel,” Austin told the prime minister in response.

The visit comes after Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi met in Washington on Monday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, amid growing concern in Jerusalem over Iran’s nuclear progress.

Sullivan also hosted a meeting of the U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group, which included Hanegbi and Dermer, as well as “a senior Israeli interagency delegation,” according to a joint statement.

Both sides “pledged to enhance coordination on measures to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to further deter Iran’s hostile regional activities.” Israeli and U.S. officials reviewed joint U.S. military and Israel Defense Forces exercises.

The high-level meetings come after the International Atomic Energy Agency last month found uranium enriched to 83.7% in the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu has warned that in the absence of a credible military threat or actual military action, Iran will become a nuclear power.

“The longer you wait, the harder that becomes [to prevent]. We’ve waited very long. I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That is not merely an Israeli interest; it’s an American interest; it’s in the interest of the entire world,” he said.

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