Dec 22, 2022 - World

Mossad chief: Iran could soon "widen and broaden" weapons shipments to Russia

Mossad director David Barnea. Credit: Chaim Tzach, GPO

Mossad director David Barnea. Photo: Chaim Tzach/Israel's GPO

Mossad director David Barnea said on Thursday Israel has intelligence that shows Iran is secretly planning to soon "widen and broaden" its shipments of sophisticated weapons to Russia for the war in Ukraine.

Why it matters: Barnea's warning marks the first time an Israeli official has publicly commented on Iran's support for Russia's war effort.

  • The Mossad chief also confirmed Israel had given its allies intelligence about Iran's earlier delivery of drones to Russia.
  • Israeli officials say Barnea's comments could be aimed at trying to deter Iran from sending ballistic missiles to Russia.

State of play: Iran has admitted to supplying some drones to Russia but claims it was before the war began.

  • The U.S. says it has definitive evidence of more recent transfers.
  • Barnea said on Thursday that his agency has also gathered intelligence that shows that shipments of drones were sent after the war started.
  • "We have shed light on the reality regarding the date the Iranians supplied the weapons to Russia, regardless of the Iranian lies about it," the Mossad director said.

Barnea stressed that Mossad has warned Israel's allies that Iran intends to secretly supply more sophisticated weapons to Russia.

  • Barnea did not provide details on what those shipments could include.
  • Iran and the Kremlin did not immediately comment on Barnea's comments.
  • Russia has denied using Iranian-made drones on civilian targets in Ukraine, despite growing evidence to the contrary.

Between the lines: Until several weeks ago, Israel was very careful about weighing in on the Iranian weapons shipments to Russia and didn’t actively lobby on the issue to avoid tensions with Moscow, which allows Israel to operate freely against Iranian activity in Syria.

  • Israeli officials hope to use the current focus on Iranian assistance to the Russian war effort as a means for increasing international pressure on Tehran.

The big picture: Russian President Vladimir Putin called incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to congratulate him on forming a government. According to Netanyahu’s office, the two discussed the war in Ukraine.

  • In an unusual step, Netanyahu called outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid and briefed him about the call with Putin.

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