Amid reports that Iran is providing drones for Russian invasion of Ukraine, a senior US official has said the drones used by Tehran-backed militia groups across the Middle East are supplied by China.
United States Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, August 4, that Beijing has been pushing sales of its military drones to Arab countries while doing nothing to stem the flow of other Chinese-made drones to militias backed by Iran in the region.
"It is an irony, I am the first to say, that those UAVs that these [Iranian] proxies use are Chinese… They are not provided by the state, but the state doesn't attempt to curtail that flow," apparently implying that Tehran gets the drones from China and distributes them to its proxy groups across the region.
She said that at the same time China sells its drones directly to the governments of the region. China has sold CH-4 drones to Saudi Arabia and Iraq, while the UAE has acquired the Wing Loong II, an armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equivalent to the American MQ-9 Reaper.
“The regime in Tehran is itself so supremely isolated and not just because of our sanctions — it’s isolated because of its own actions, its own predatory destructive behavior within [the country] as well as the larger region,” she noted.
Many countries, including Israel, accuse the Islamic Republic of providing its proxies with drones and other military equipment, saying Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as the Venezuelan government receive UAVs and other weapons.