Nicosia: US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan caused a sensation during a White House briefing on Monday when he said that, according to US information, the Iranian government was preparing to supply Russia with several hundred drones, including weapons-capable drones.

This, he said, would give "a significant boost to Moscow's efforts to find and destroy Western-supplied artillery and weapons systems that have slowed the advance of Russian troops in Ukraine in recent weeks."

Sullivan clarified that it was not clear if Tehran has already delivered these drones to Russia but claimed that preparations are underway to train Russians on the use of these weapons and that initial training could start at the end of this month.

Furthermore, he claimed that Russia's attacks against Ukraine in recent weeks are coming at the "severe" cost of depleting its own weapons.

It should be noted that drones have already played an important role in the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian army has scored its first success against the Russian invaders using Bayraktar drones, bought from Turkey, which destroyed many Russian tanks, surface-to-air missile systems, and command posts.

They were also extensively used for reconnaissance purposes for artillery forces, for firing missiles from a distance, and for dropping bombs on targets.

According to press reports, the Biden Administration has supplied Ukraine with "Switchblades" which are small, kamikaze (suicide) drones, and is thinking about providing Kyiv with larger drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles.

For its part, Russia used its Orlan-10 drones in the war for reconnaissance and electronic warfare. However, as the war drags on it seems that the number of drones available to each side has been significantly reduced, and both countries make efforts to acquire as many drones as they can.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on the issue and added that President Vladimir Putin had no plans to discuss this issue during his trip to Tehran next Tuesday.

Putin is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Iranian capital on July 19 to discuss safe corridors for grain exports in the Black Sea as well as a potential Turkish operation in Syria. However, it cannot be ruled out that Putin, in addition to economic cooperation with the Iranian regime, may discuss the supply of drones.

The response of Tehran to US claims about the drones was that Iran opposes the war in Ukraine and supports a cease-fire, while at the same time blaming "NATO provocations" for the conflict.

In the past decade, Iran has become a major manufacturer of quite versatile drones, like the Shahed-129, believed to be a clone of the US Predator UAV. Experts believe that Shahed-129 is the product of reverse engineering by Iranian technicians of a US Predator that crashed in Iran some years ago.

Tehran has a long history of supplying drones to several pro-Iran militias in Iraq and Syria as well as to Houthis in Yemen, which have been used in attacks on oil installations and refineries in Saudi Arabia and civilian targets in the United Arab Emirates as well as on U.S. and allied military bases in the Middle East.

Iran's drones can carry warheads and operate in a kamikaze fashion or "loitering munition" roles and are also used for surveillance. Loitering munitions are incredibly versatile weapons that can destroy equipment costing millions of dollars with a minimal investment that a soldier with minimal training can handle.

Jeremy Binnie, a Middle East Defence Specialist in Janes Media, says that Russia is probably interested in acquiring Iranian drones because "the Iranians have developed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that extensively use commercial off-the-shelf components, making them cheap, that have been acquired despite extensive sanctions."

It is noteworthy that Jake Sullivan's disclosure that Russia is rushing to get Iranian drones was made the day before US President Joe Biden started his first official trip to the Middle East which included Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia.

Biden is under pressure from his Middle East allies, as the chances of reaching an agreement with Tehran to revive the nuclear deal are rapidly diminishing and Iran is believed to be close to having enough material to build at least one nuclear bomb, to come up with a solid plan of constraining Iran.

Sullivan's claim that Tehran plans to replenish the drones Russia lost during the four-month war in Ukraine, makes the danger posed by Tehran more pressing for the US, which must try to bring together its Middle East allies against the Iranian regime and convince them to join the sanctions against Russia. So far, both Israel and Saudi Arabia have resisted joining western efforts to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

There is speculation that during Biden's trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, the US President, by highlighting cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, will push Israel and the Gulf countries to strengthen their "secret" cooperation regarding air defence, which exists unofficially.

If he can persuade Saudi Arabia to initiate some military cooperation with Israel to counter Iran - the common enemy of both countries- Biden will have scored a big success. On the other hand, it could lead to strengthening the cooperation between Iran and Russia. As Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told President Putin, during his visit to Moscow, last January: "Now it is time for Russia and Iran to confront the power of the Americans with an increased synergy between the two countries."