Since September 13, when Kyiv says it shot down its first Iranian drone, about two dozen have been spotted in southern Ukraine. How could Russians get them from Iran and what we know about Tehran’s aims?
Russia’s drone industry has been hit by international sanctions and a number have been shot down since the start of the war — prompting Moscow to import drones from Iran. We spoke with Iranian Euronews Persian journalist Masoud Imani, who told us about Russian’s politics in suppling iranian drones.

What’s wrong with Iran’s position to supply drones to Russia

So, to begin with, I would like to talk about drones. Which Russia has just now started using in the war against Ukraine, these drones are killing our people, like in Odesa. And this is a big problem for us now. So, the question is whether Iran will admit that it was he who transferred these drones to Russia, because Ukraine has repeatedly stated that Iran is already supplying Russia with these drones, and Kyiv has already canceled diplomatic accreditation for some diplomats. We see that diplomatic relations are deteriorating. How will Tehran react?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran officially stated that the country did not supply drones to Russia. In a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, the head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry emphasized that they do not supply drones to Russia. Tehran’s official position is that Iran opposes the war and is looking for a political solution.

And Russia does not supply drones or any other military equipment to any side of the conflict. Iran insists that such supplies can only prolong the war. Therefore, Tehran is looking for a political solution. So, this is the official position, and the Iranians have refuted it several times, for example, yesterday the head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry in an interview with the New York Times said the same thing, insisting that Iran has defense cooperation with Russia, but did not provide any drones.

“But here the whole matter is not with the Foreign Ministry, but with the supreme leader of Iran. Because when he met with Putin, he said that if Putin does not take the initiative into his own hands, then NATO will do it, and NATO will start a war against the Russian Federation.”

Was it just a partial batch of drones that Iran handed over to Russia, or did Russia set up mass production?

Well, we don’t know for sure, there were statements that Iran sent from several hundred to more than a thousand drones to Russia, but we don’t know the numbers, and we don’t know if all this really happened. But we know that in the strategic relations between the Russian Federation and Iran, we cannot reject the fact that mass production of Iranian drones could be established in Russia.

How do you think Iran got the technology to produce drones? The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine claims that the drones contain American chips, which were found in the downed drones.

How the Iranians could do this can be explained by the Iran-Iraq war, which was practically not covered by the media. When Saddam attacked Iran, which is fashionable to call the longest war of the century, Western countries supplied Saddam with all possible weapons, we were alone, and no one helped us, we had neither missiles nor drones. And then Iran realized that if they want to have some weight in the region and something to oppose their enemy, then it must produce its own missiles and drones.
So, it all started during the Iran-Iraq war. But in Tehran, they claim that their forces managed to land some American drones, and with the help of reverse engineering, they were able to produce similar drones, moreover, to produce them by their own forces at their own factories. So, I believe that they took some of the technology from these American drones. The other part is from one Israeli drone. Well, the rest is all the work of local specialists who did everything so that the country could mass produce drones.

And of course, the sanctions are very relevant, but the Iranians take parts for drones from the black market. Iranians know how to circumvent sanctions and where to find materials.For reference! The Iran-Iraq war lasted from 1980 to 1988. It began on September 22, 1980, with the invasion of the Iraqi army into the Iranian province of Khuzestan. At first, there was a successful advance of the Iraqi army, but soon Hussein’s army ran into fierce resistance from the Iranians and was stopped. By the summer of 1982, Iran had returned the territories occupied by Iraq, after which the two sides began a war of attrition. The armistice that ended the war was signed on August 20, 1988 and restored the pre-war situation.

In terms of duration, resources involved, and human casualties, the Iran-Iraq war is the largest military conflict between sovereign states in the Middle East since 1945. During the war, Iraq used chemical weapons.

Could it be that the Russians simply stole these technologies from Iran?

It is possible, because if the Iranians were able to copy American drones, why couldn’t the Russians do the same? If there is a strategic relationship between two countries, and both states feel threatened by a collective action, why would they not cooperate in this?

Either the Iranians gave them the technology, or the Russians simply copied it. Let’s also not forget that Russia itself is a great military power.

Iran cannot be intimidated by consequences and sanctions

But is Iran not afraid of the consequences? If Russia recognizes terrorist states and its involvement in the supply of drones is proven, will this not trigger new sanctions on Iran?

The reality is that Iran and Iranians have been living under US sanctions for more than 40 years. And the USA or the EU countries will not recognize the country as a terrorist. After all, they are afraid that if they do this, the war will only speed up and reach such a level that it is not limited to the war in Ukraine. I myself do not really believe in this, as we have seen in recent months, the USA and the EU do not want to recognize the Russian Federation as a terrorist country. They said it repeatedly and insisted on it – we do not want further escalation.

But let’s not forget what Putin and Medvedev have been saying lately – all their nuclear threats against Ukraine. And it is more likely that the Russian Federation will not be recognized as a terrorist state. And I also do not believe that even more sanctions will have any effect on Iran. Because, as I already said, Iran and the Iranian regime have learned to live under sanctions for 40 years.

The Israeli context and internal conflicts

Is there a connection between the supply of drones from Iran to the Russian Federation and Israeli attacks on Iranian drone factories in Syria?

I do not see any connection between these two incidents. Israelis attack Iranian bases in Syria constantly. And I do not see any correlation between the use of Iranian drones against Ukraine and these events. The Israelis generally take a neutral position – they do not support either Russia or Ukraine, they are somewhere in the middle, and this greatly worries Zelenskyi, this position of Israel.

Could there now be any contradictions in Iran between the spiritual leader Ali Khamenei and President Raisi over the supply of drones to Russia? Does he allow a similar scenario even in the context of mass uprisings in Iran? Is the government there openly together now?

If I understand you correctly, is there any disputes between the supreme leader and the government of Iran? Politics in Iran is very complex, there are several levels, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says one thing, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps something else, and then the supreme leader has his say. That is, I do not observe any differences in the views of official Tehran regarding Russia or Ukraine.

In your opinion, will it not prompt Israel to start supplying Ukraine with weapons to confront its eternal enemy – Iran already here on the battlefield in Ukraine? If Iran is actually on the side of Russia and gives it weapons.

I already said earlier that President Zelensky is already worried about Israel’s refusal to supply weapons to Ukraine, especially high-tech ones, and I do not see such possibilities in the future – this change in Israel’s course in the direction of supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Another important question is about people. How do they react to the supply of weapons to Russia? Do they support the government or not?

I don’t think it was a very easy decision for Tehran to supply drones to Russia, because Iranians still remember the downed Ukrainian plane in the sky over Tehran, so I think that ordinary Iranians who are against the war, like the regime, are against the war.

But from a psychological point of view, neither the government, nor the supreme authority, nor ordinary Iranians are ready for a military alliance between Russia and Iran. I think the Iranian government is somehow paying Putin’s ransom with all these drones.

Because, as you know, Iran has no friends on the world stage, only China and Russia, and Tehran needs Moscow and Beijing in the UN to support their initiatives on various issues, the nuclear agreement, for example, so I believe that this is more Putin’s redemption. than establishing strategic relations.