QUESTION: Vedant, today John Kirby in the briefing said that there are indications that Russia and Iran are expanding their cooperation and the U.S. is prepared to do more to stop this. A few days – a few days ago also there was an announcement that the U.S. will bolster its defenses in the region, in the Middle East, due to the growing – to the growing threat from Iran. What’s new that you are becoming more vocal about the threat? I mean – I mean, the Iranian are threatening the navigation since a long time. What’s new now?
MR PATEL: I would not say that we have been new in how we’ve been communicating about this. We have been very clear collectively, across the board, that the United States will always act in its interest; it will also always act in efforts to defend itself as well as our partners and allies.
But to take a step back, the crux of this is, is that Iran remains Russia’s top military backer, and Iran has already provided Russia with artillery and tank rounds for use in Ukraine. Iran also continues to provide Russia with one-way attack UAVs. Since August – and this is something that we’ve talked about last year as well – Iran has provided Russia with more than 400 UAVs, primarily of the Shahed variety, and Russia has expended most of these UAVs using them to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure inside Ukraine.
But broadly, the deepening of this cooperation is a threat and a danger to not just Ukraine; it’s a threat and a danger to Russia’s neighbors, Iran’s neighbors, and the international community broadly.
QUESTION: I hear you: there’s nothing new here. But what is the reason for the decision to flag it today? You mentioned 400 drones now, but we heard from Admiral Kirby this morning that he was talking about Iran was seeking (inaudible).
MR PATEL: So let me clarify my words. What is not new is the United States’s reaction and response when it comes to the threat that it faces from Iran or from any other malign actor. But as it relates to the news that was announced today, of course – the reason we have been and are being so public about the deepening cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Iranian regime is because it is incredibly concerning. It is dangerous. It is a threat to the countries in those regions. It is a threat to the international community. We are talking about a security cooperation that flows both ways, from Iran to Russia and from Russia to Iran. This is a partnership that is a full-scale defense partnership, and it is harmful to Ukraine, it is harmful to other countries in the region.
QUESTION: White House is seeking some designations in response to this action. I know you’re not going to preview any upcoming action, but let’s step back a little bit and talk about previous actions you have taken. Is IRGC a terrorist organization?
MR PATEL: I can’t – I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the —
QUESTION: Do you consider IRGC a terrorist organization?
MR PATEL: Well, it’s been designated as one, Alex, so yes.
QUESTION: Then why – why would the U.S. ask the UK not to do the same? We have seen multiple reports and the UK officials are still keep saying same thing (inaudible).
MR PATEL: These – Alex, these are – these are sovereign decisions – these are sovereign decisions that other countries will make as it relates to their own assessment of the security environment. We of course have taken these steps, and we of course have taken additional steps to hold the Iranian regime accountable.
QUESTION: But the U.S. has not asked the UK Government to refrain from —
MR PATEL: These are – these are sovereign decisions, Alex, that countries will take on their – their own accord.