Islamic Republic of Iran in de facto war against Ukraine

“Pariah state” has become increasingly synonymous with Iran’s status in recent years, but the Islamic Republic has taken it one step further lately with its sale of drones to Russia amid its war on Ukraine.

Isolated, sanctioned, and bankrupt, the Iranian regime continues to commit gross political, human rights, and economic violations on the home front and in the region — and now on the world stage as well.

In a photo shared on Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s website on October 28, the embattled leader stands next to the remnants of an Iranian-manufactured drone, Shahed-136.

Kyiv and its Western allies have repeatedly accused Russia of using Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, in attacks on Ukraine in recent weeks.

Russia has deployed those drones in its attacks on electrical infrastructure and other civilian targets in Ukraine, media outlets report.

Russia’s use of Iranian drones in Ukraine is “appalling,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on October 27, adding that the United States and its allies would seek to block such shipments.

Russia has used the drones to “kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy the infrastructure they rely on for electricity, for water, for heat”, Blinken said.

In addition to supplying Russia with drones, the Islamic Republic has sent trainers to occupied Ukraine to help Russians overcome problems with the fleet of drones they purchased from Tehran, the New York Times reported on October 18.

The Iranian trainers, members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), are operating from a Russian military base in illegally annexed Crimea where many of the drones have been based since being delivered from Iran, the newspaper said.

According to Zelenskyy, Moscow has ordered about 2,000 drones from Iran, 400 of which have been deployed against the civilian population of Ukraine already.

So far, two models of Iranian drones have been identified in Ukraine’s skies: Shahed-136 and Mohajer-6. Both belong to a type broadly referred to as Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft.

Insight Media on October 17 quoted Jean-Christophe Noel, a researcher at the French Institute for International Relations, as saying that the initial success of the drones comes “from being a new weapon on the battlefield”.

Such drones are “a money-saving move for Russia, because it saves valuable cruise missiles worth $1.5 million to $2 million” per shot, said Sorbonne University researcher Pierre Grasser.

But “their main shortcoming is they can only hit stationary targets”, he added.

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