The Iranian IRGC has long been known as a threat across the Middle East. Now, reports from Al Arabiya, The New York Times, and elsewhere indicate that Iran may have sent IRGC members to Crimea to aid Russia’s drone war against Ukraine.
The Iran-Russia connection and the role of the Iranian IRGC are important because they have a legacy in the Syrian conflict.
IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani played a key role in developing the organization and its networks across Iraq, Syria, and into Lebanon, and Yemen. He also reportedly encouraged Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene in Syria in 2015.
The IRGC was already in Syria aiding the regime, and with Soleimani’s prodding, Russia intervened to back the regime. This helped Syria reclaim territory and enabled Hezbollah and Iranian-backed groups to move closer to the Golan Heights and threaten Israel.
Iran has sent trainers from IRGC to help Russia with the Iranian-style drones it is using, the Times reported.
Last week, Al Arabiya reported: “Russian forces took Iranian instructors to the occupied Kherson and Crimea regions to launch Shahed-136 kamikaze drones, the Ukrainian National Resistance Center reported… The Iranians are based in the Russian-administered Ukrainian areas of Zalizniy Port, Hladivtsi in Kherson, and Dzhankoy in Crimea.”
If the reports are credible, these developments would appear to be linked to past work of the IRGC in backing drone and missile threats across the Middle East, as well as working with Russia in the Syrian war.
The IRGC has done the same thing in the past, helping the Houthis in Yemen develop a deadly drone program to threaten Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and ships in the Gulf of Oman. The IRGC also helped Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah, and the Syrian regime.