According to a warning from the US, Iran has increased the development of military-grade drones and has supplied its technology to extremist organizations throughout the Middle East as well as to nations like Venezuela and Sudan.
According to the New York Times, Tehran is attempting to strengthen its position in the drone business. This assertion is supported by Iranian media outlets, satellite pictures, and US defense specialists.
Iranian state media reported last week that Brig. Gen. Kioumars Heydari, the chief of the military, had stated that Tehran is “ready to export weapons and military equipment to friendly countries” and that its drones are already “operated far away and beyond our borders.”
Seth Frantzman, a drone expert and defense analyst, told the NYT: “Iran is increasingly becoming a global player in terms of drone exports. The fact that newer drones, such as the Mohajer-6 (a military-capable Iranian drone with a range of around 125 miles) are now being seen in places like the Horn of Africa, shows that countries see them as a potential game-changer.”
Iranian adversaries in the region are growing more worried about Iran’s drone program. Iran has been able to produce a variety of tools for defensive and offensive operations, despite sanctions, to the point where Israel has targeted and wrecked Iranian drone manufacturing sites.
However, Iran still trails behind countries like Turkey in drone manufacture, with Ankara’s Bayraktar TB2 proving effective in recent years on battlefields from Azerbaijan to Ethiopia.
However, a UN embargo on Iran’s acquisition and sale of weapons ended in August 2020, making it simpler for the nation to expand its presence in the drone industry.
The drone program was a hot topic of discussion at a recent regional security conference in Qatar, according to the US Department of Defense on July 21.
Iranian drones have been seen in numerous military theaters since the embargo’s relaxation, including the Ethiopian civil war, where a Mohajer-6 drone carrying air-to-surface missiles was sighted behind Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed while he was visiting a military base.
Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister, stated in February that Venezuela had purchased Mohajer-6 drones, citing video of President Nicolas Maduro standing next to one in 2020.
The Mohajer-2 was an earlier type that Venezuela had been purchasing since 2007, when the UN arms embargo was put into effect, according to a later confirmation from the Ministry of Defense of Venezuela.
Despite Khartoum, also being under an arms embargo, Iran has provided Sudan with drones.
“The Islamic Republic has long reached mass production level in the production of various drones, including military surveillance and suicide drones, and now has a very large stock,” Iranian military analyst Hossein Dalirian told the NYT.
Outside the sphere of influence of the West, Tehran has been successful in establishing a network of clients among nations and proxy organizations, particularly in Yemen and Lebanon.
Production has been outsourced under this philosophy to nations like Venezuela and Tajikistan.
The first dedicated manufacturing for Iranian drones outside of the country was inaugurated in Tajikistan in May by Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, commander-in-chief of Iran’s armed forces.
Drones from Tehran have been widely employed in assaults against Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Israel, and a US facility in Syria in October of last year, among other targets.
According to the NYT’s interview with Farzin Nadimi, a military analyst and associate fellow at the Washington Institute: “They (Iran) have created this viable drone capacity, so it is no surprise that other countries are interested in obtaining such technologies. Iranian drones should be taken seriously as a weapon.”