Russia uses Iranian drones to attack Ukraine’s civilian grid, as US denounces Russian ‘war crimes,’ ‘burgeoning defense partnership’ with Iran
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) In the early hours of Saturday morning, Iranian-made drones were used to attack the energy infrastructure of Ukraine’s port city of Odessa, leaving one and a half million people in the cold and the dark.
So Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky informed the world later that day, and on Sunday he spoke with US president Joe Biden, who denounced Russia for “its war crimes and atrocities,” as the White House said in a readout of the discussion between the two presidents.
Winter has nearly arrived, and the civilian population in Ukraine is suffering. “Ukraine typically experiences frigid winters,” The New York Times explained earlier this month. “Mean temperatures between December and March range from 23 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 5 Celsius), to 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 Celsius), according to World Bank group, although it can get far colder,” it said.
Westerners have not known such misery in decades—since World War II. Even among Kurds, at least those in the Kurdistan Region, such hardship is a distant memory. One would have to go back to 1991 and the end of the Gulf War, when U.S. President George H. W. Bush called a ceasefire to that war, leaving Saddam Hussein in power in the mistaken view he would be overthrown in a military coup after such a huge defeat.
But, as it turned out, Saddam was not overthrown. Rather, he moved ruthlessly, instead, to crush the rebellions—the Shi’ites in the south and the Kurds in the north. The Bush administration initially tried to close its eyes, but it was obliged to reverse course, as it undertook Operation Provide Comfort .
Those terrible days, however, were over 30 years ago, and memory fades, particularly for those who did not experience events directly.
This, it may not be appreciated in the Middle East, including among the Kurdish population, just how seriously western leaders view Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
It is their number one national security priority, As Biden remarked in June, “Nothing like this has happened since World War II.” That can be the consequence in his view, if the Ukraine conflict is mishandled. And one should bear in mind that an astonishing number of people—some 50 million—died in that war.
Thus, as President Biden told President Zelensky on Sunday, Russia is committing “war crimes and atrocities” by attacking civilian targets in Ukraine, and the U.S. will hold it accountable.
It was not stated in the White House read-out of their conversation, but other senior US officials have said it publicly: Iran is aiding Russia in its war crimes. In fact, a CNN reporter suggested on Sunday that if Russia is held responsible for those crimes, Iran, too, may also be held to account.
US Condemnation of Iranian-Russian Military Collaboration
On Friday, National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby described the increasingly close military relationship between Iran and Russia, as he denounced the “burgeoning defense partnership” between the two countries.
“Iran has become Russia’s top military backer,” Kirby said. He explained that since August, Iran had transferred hundreds of drones to Russia, which was using them “to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure” and “kill innocent Ukrainian people.”
As Kirby explained, Russia, in return, was offering Iran “an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership.”
That includes air defense systems, helicopters, and fighter jets. Russia is already training Iranian pilots on how to fly its Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, and Iran could soon start taking delivery of them.
“These fighter planes will significantly strengthen Iran’s air force, relative to its regional neighbors,” Kirby warned.
Already in November, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denounced Russian strikes against civilian infrastructure as a “war crime.”
“The deliberate targeting of the civilian power grid, causing excessive collateral damage and unnecessary suffering on the civilian population is a war crime,” Milley said, as he denounced earlier Russian attacks.
The Biden administration first announced in July that Iran was about to provide Russia with large numbers of drones. They had not been delivered yet, “but we have seen evidence of engagement between the two countries” on the “specific issue of large numbers of UAVs, including weapons-enabled UAVs for Russia to acquire from Iran,” National Security Council Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters.
At the time, Behnam ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, asked, “What is Iran getting in return?”
Kirby provided the answer to that question on Friday. Now, as ben Taleblu advised Kurdistan 24, “The potential transfer of more advanced weapons, including air defense systems, jet fighters, etc. could be a real game changer for the regional balance against Tehran, particularly if that military equipment comes with Russian trainers or operators.”