With Russia set to sign a procurement deal in the coming days that would see it receive another several hundred unmanned attack drones from Iran, Israeli officials worry this could be a stepping stone toward more advanced deliveries, potentially even hypersonic missiles.

Israeli officials told Israel Hayom that the UAV deal will be signed in the coming days, confirming previous such reports in the US media on the emerging military cooperation between the two sides, which according to an NBC report could reach unprecedented levels and pose a regional threat.

Russia signed its first UAV procurement deal with Iran in the summer, with hundreds of Iranian attack drones being shipped and some being already used to attack Ukraine. Israeli officials told Israel Hayom that Moscow has insisted on paying by cash rather than through some barter arrangement so as to avoid any concrete commitment other than monetary.

The new deal comes after intense talks with Iran in order to pave the way for drones being used to attack infrastructure in Ukraine, with senior Ukrainian officials warning over the past several days that the number of drones could reach 1,700. While Israeli officials believe the number is likely to be capped at several hundred drones at a total cost of several hundreds of millions of euros in cash, it is expected to be implemented in the coming days, potentially resulting in exacerbated tensions in the 10-month war.

The two sides are also in talks to establish a production line of drones in Russia, as has already been reported in the US media. Although Iran has already agreed to set up that factory on Russian soil, officials believe this could take up to two years to set up once the deal is inked. Russia has also shown interest in buying surface-to-surface missiles from Iran, but no deal has been finalized as of yet.

Israeli defense officials have been split on their assessment as to the overall strategic implications of this cooperation. The most radical estimate, which is promoted by Mossad and is backed by some in the IDF Intelligence Directorate, is that this ever-deepening collaboration is poised to become a growing threat to Israel.

Those who have voiced concern in this regard point out that the deepening ties mean that Russia could eventually reciprocate by transferring hypersonic missiles, which can reach a velocity that is several times faster than the speed of sound, and by helping Iran establish a foothold in Syria. This, they warn, may narrow Israel’s ability to use its air force on its northern border.

The other approach, led by the IDF directorate, views the ongoing collaboration as nothing more than a “business-like transaction” without strategic implications. While Russia has recently transferred Iran US-made weapon systems seized in battle so that it could reverse engineer them and is set to provide Iran with Sukhoi-35 jets, Moscow is not going to let Iran reach an overly dominant position in the region, in keeping with its long-held stance, which includes a rejection of Iran’s nuclearization.

Russia, they believe, will seek to have its transactions with Iran limited to the commercial and economic aspects for the most part, in order to avoid setting up another area of contention with the West.

The UAV deals between the sides have already piqued the interest of Hezbollah and various terrorist groups in the region in this type of weapon system. Iran’s keen interest in supplying drones to its proxies is part of its desire to establish a forceful deterrence against Israel and its regional rivals.

Source » israelhayom