Russia not only launched a satellite for Iran this week, but its personnel were also reportedly sent to train on Iranian military drones to use in Ukraine.
Since the announcement of the impending satellite launch, Iranian officials were trumpeting it as their satellite, symbolizing their scientific achievement, but after it was sent into orbit the Russian embassy put out a statement on Instagram saying its companies had built and launched it.
The Islamic Republic, which has openly supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has also been trumpeting the importance of strategic and military ties with Moscow. US officials have been warning since mid-July that Russia is preparing to buy military drones from Iran to use in the war. Iranian officials never clearly denied the accusation.
CNN reported on Wednesday that US officials believe Russians are training in Iran to familiarize themselves with the Iranian drones. This is the second time US officials speak to the media about Russian personnel being in Iran either to review or train on the drones. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in mid-July that Russian officers visited a drone base in Iran’s Kashan, hinting at possible training for operating the drones.
The director of US Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns also said in July, “It’s true that the Russians are reaching out to the Iranians to try to acquire armed drones,” Bloomberg reported.
Iranian Shahed military drone said to be the primary choice for Russia
An adviser to the Ukrainian president told Iran International on July 25 that it won’t be a surprise is Tehran provides military drones to Moscow.
“We have to view it in that perspective that Iran and Russia are allies in this conflict. In Ukraine, we obviously have no illusions about this. So, we are obviously very aware of what's going on, and we're going to be very careful about our relationship with Iran and what we hear from Iranian authorities when it comes to Ukraine,” Alexander Rodnyansky told Iran International.
An unconfirmed report quoting a Kyiv official last week said that Russia was already using Iranian drones in Ukraine.
US–based think tank Institute for the Study of War quoted an advisor to the Ukrainian President’s Office, Oleksiy Arestovych, as saying on Friday that Iran handed 46 drones over to Russia and that the Ukrainian government has already noted the use of these drones in combat in Ukraine.
Another embarrassing aspect of the satellite deal were media reports last week that Russia will control the Iranian satellite for a while and possibly use it for the war in Ukraine. Iranian officials responded to this on August 7, categorically stating that they will be in full control from Iran.
Many politicians and former officials who are loyal to the Islamic Republic have repeatedly warned in recent months not to tilt the country’s foreign policy toward Russia and China and try to resolve Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West. But the hardliners in Tehran have so far rejected this advice, refusing to accept a compromise deal worked out with European Union mediation in Vienna after 16 months of negotiations.