Sep 21, 2022 - World

Scoop: Ukraine asks Israel to share intel on Iranian support to Russian military

An Iranian Shahed-129 drone on display in Tehran.

An Iranian Shahed-129 drone on display in Tehran. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine asked Israel to share intelligence on any support Iran is giving to the Russian military in the war, senior Israeli officials told Axios.

Driving the news: Russia in recent days attacked several Ukrainian military positions with “Kamikaze drones” that Ukraine's military said were repainted Iranian Shahed-136 drones.

  • The U.S. and Ukraine have accused Iran of sending hundreds of sophisticated attack drones to Russia — an allegation Tehran denied.
  • Ukrainian military commanders told the Wall Street Journal the Iranian drones gave the Russians a significant advantage in several areas.

Between the lines: Russia and Iran have grown increasingly close as the world seeks to isolate Moscow because of its invasion.

  • The deepening ties also come as efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which would remove most of the sanctions that have been imposed on Tehran, continue but without any breakthrough.

Behind the scenes: Israel's deputy director general for Euro-Asia Simona Halperin, who is in charge of the Russia and Ukraine files, visited Kyiv with the Israeli ambassador on Sept. 7. They met with Maksym Subkh, Ukraine's special representative for the Middle East, according to Israeli officials.

  • Subkh said Ukraine wants to establish a “dialogue channel” with Israel about Middle East issues in order to share information and intelligence and coordinate positions, the Israeli officials said.
  • He added this is especially important due to the growing military cooperation between Iran and Russia, the Israeli officials said. Subkh stressed that Ukraine is opposed to the lifting of sanctions on Iran if a nuclear deal is signed, saying it will enable greater military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow.
  • According to Israeli officials, Subkh told the Israeli diplomats that Ukraine expects Israel to take a much clearer position regarding the Russian aggression and unequivocally support Ukraine, which Israel has avoided because of their own relations with Russia.
  • Subkh said his country wants Israel to give military aid either directly or indirectly through third parties and join the international sanctions against Moscow, including the sanctions against individuals, the Israeli officials said.

A senior Ukrainian official confirmed that Halperin met with Subkh, who asked for intelligence on Iranian involvement in the war — mainly about Iranian drones.

  • "The Israelis gave us some intelligence, but we need much more," the official said.

State of play: Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Israeli Defense Ministry gave an export license to Israeli companies that wanted to sell anti-drone systems to Ukraine. But when the war started, these licenses were suspended.

  • Last week, the Times of Israel reported that an Israeli company sold an anti-drone system to Poland in order to transfer it to the Ukrainian military.
  • According to the report, the Israeli Defense Ministry understood the system’s end user will be Ukraine but decided not to intervene.
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