Iran secretly agrees to manufacture drones in Russia: reports

The Strategic Communications Directorate of the Ukrainian Armed Forces / Wikimedia Commons

Russia and Iran have agreed a partnership to produce Iranian-designed drones that could be assembled on Russian territory, The Washington Post reported, citing security agencies of the United States and other Western countries. 

Although production is only in the planning phase currently, it could be launched within months. Governments of both countries are now putting their effort into transferring designs and components for unmanned weaponized aircraft to Russia, people familiar with the matter confirmed, The Washington Post reported on November 19, 2022.  

Once the plan is finalized and a local assembly line is launched in Russia, the country will significantly enlarge its pool of military drones, with which the Russian military continues targeting civilian areas across Ukraine, including power plants and other infrastructure. 

Cooperation terms between Russia and Iran were reportedly finalized when Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev visited Iran on November 9, 2022. According to an Interfax report, Patrushev held “scheduled Russian-Iranian security consultations” where “specialists from the security councils and representatives of a number of ministries and departments of the two countries” were involved.  

The agenda of so-called ‘consultations’ consisted of various topics, including international economic sanctions implemented by Western countries, as well as “Western interference” in the relationship between Russian and Iranian governments.  

Iran’s continuous support in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 

Cooperation between Iran and Russia greatly increased following the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the two countries reportedly signing agreements to cooperate in both civilian and military aerospace sectors. Russia admitted to using Iran’s experience to circumvent international sanctions.    

Iran has recently promised to provide Russia with more drones, particularly with the Shahed-136 air-to-surface attack aircraft capable of carrying a small warhead that explodes on impact. But the drones, which are also known as “kamikazes” or “suicide drones”, are not the only weapons Iran intended to ship to Russia. According to a Reuters report, Iran also promised to sell more indigenous surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles, such as the Zolfaghar. 

However, such a decision has faced heavy criticism internationally because Iran’s sale of the missiles and drones to Russia constitutes a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was adopted in support of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  

The government of Iran has already admitted to supplying Russia with military drones but continues to deny that the deliveries are ongoing. The country’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian claimed only a limited number of military drones were delivered to Russia “months before the Ukraine war,” The Guardian cited the minister as saying on November 5, 2022. Iran also denies it has been continuing to provide drones to Russia after the war ignited on February 24, 2022. 

But the ongoing crisis in Ukraine has shown the opposite. There have been multiple reports of Russia receiving reconnaissance and combat drones from Iran to supplement its capabilities in Ukraine.  

At least 400 Iran-made military drones were used by Russia against Ukraine in recent weeks, undisclosed sources confirmed to The Washington Post. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military has shared numerous images of what it claims to be fragments of Shahed-136 loitering munitions.   


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