Russia has quietly reached an agreement with Iran to begin manufacturing hundreds of weaponized drones on Russian soil, according to new intelligence seen by the US and other Western security agencies, the Washington Post has reported.

Officials from Moscow and Tehran finalized the deal during a meeting in Iran in early November, accelerating the exchange of key components and designs that would allow production to begin within months.

If the new agreement is fully realized, it would signify a further deepening of a Russian-Iranian alliance that has slowly been forming in light of Moscow’s faltering military campaign in Ukraine. As the two countries grow closer, Iran has already provided crucial support for Russia during its war.

By moving drone production lines directly into Russia, Moscow could quickly replenish its dwindling munition stockpile with relatively inexpensive but highly destructive weapons systems that have recently begun playing a much larger role in the nine-month-old Ukrainian war.

While the newly provided weapons could give a significant boost to Russia’s failing war efforts, as well as provide a much-needed economic boost to isolated Iran, Iran’s clerical rulers face mounting international pressure over their military alliance with Moscow.

In a separate delegation, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev met Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on November 9. The two discussed, among other topics, the economic sanctions and other “Western interferences” interfering with both countries, according to state-run Russian and Iranian news media.

Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev’s visit was a sign of Iran’s growing importance as a supportive partner and weapons supplier at a time when Moscow is isolated by Western sanctions and faces intense Ukrainian military pressure.

Tehran growing closer to Russia under shadow of Western isolation

Tehran has sought to portray itself as neutral in the Ukraine conflict so far, but more and more Iranian-made drones are found to be used to attack Ukrainian cities, triggering threats of new economic sanctions from the West.

Emboldened by high oil prices since the Ukraine war, Iran is betting that with Russia’s support it could pressure Washington to offer concessions for the revival of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.