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U.S. says Russia's Wagner providing air defense capability to Hezbollah, Iran

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published November 21,2023
(AA File Photo)

The U.S. said Tuesday that the Russian paramilitary group, Wagner, was preparing to provide air defense capability to the Lebanese group, Hezbollah, or Iran.

"Wagner, at the direction of the Russian government, was preparing to provide an air defense capability to either Hezbollah or Iran," White House's National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a webinar.

He said the U.S. would closely monitor any transfer of military equipment and pledged that Washington would respond with sanctions.

"We're certainly prepared to use our counterterrorism sanctions authorities against Russian individuals or entities that might make these destabilizing transfers," he said.

Kirby also said Iran will face expanded sanctions for its support for Russia's war in Ukraine.

"We're going to continue to use these and other tools at our disposal to expose and disrupt Russians and Iranians expanding military partnership alongside our allies and partners," he said.

He warned that "this burgeoning defense relationship" between Iran and Russia is not good for citizens in Ukraine and not good for the Middle East region.

"So again, we're gonna monitor this closely and we'll keep taking appropriate actions as required," he added.

At the beginning of the news conference, he said the U.S. has been seeing increasing military cooperation between Russia and Iran, noting Iranian transfers of aerial bombs and artillery ammunition to Russia for use in Ukraine.

"Iran may be preparing to go a step further in its support for Russia," said Kirby, adding that Iran is considering providing Russia with ballistic missiles now for use in Ukraine.

"In return for that support, Russia has been offering Tehran unprecedented defense cooperation including on missiles electronics, and air defense," he added.