Leaders of the Group of Seven and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (5th from R) pose for a group photo in Vilnius on July 12, 2023, as a NATO summit is held in the Lithuanian capital.

Iran Reiterates Neutrality Over Ukraine, But No Denial About Drones

Thursday, 07/13/2023

Iran has issued a vague response to a statement by NATO this week, calling on Tehran not to render military assistance to Russia.

The Iranian embassy in Brussels issued a statement on Thursday rejecting NATO “allegations” in general terms, but not directly refuting accusations that it has been supplying kamikaze drones to Russia.

The statement insists that Islamic Republic has maintained “neutrality” in the Ukraine conflict and remains committed to the United Nations charter, including respect for the independence and “territorial integrity” of all countries.

NATO’s 31 member states issued a statement during their summit in Lithuania calling "upon Iran to cease its military support to Russia, in particular its transfer of Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which have been used to attack critical infrastructure, causing widespread civilian casualties.”

Western powers have been urging Tehran for months not to supply drones and other weapons to Russia. The United States has even made it a condition for the resumption of nuclear talks suspended last September, saying Iran should stop its burgeoning military cooperation with Russia.

Firefighters evacuating people from a residential building destroyed by a Russian drone strike, which local authorities consider to be Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) Shahed-136, Kyiv, October 17, 2022

So far, Iran has supplied hundreds of its Shahed drones that are sent on one-way missions carrying nearly 50 kilograms of explosives. 

On the same day that Iran issued its statement, Russia launched 20 Shahed drones against Ukrainian cities including the capital Kyiv, which caused destruction and injuries.

However, nowhere in the statement Iran even mentions NATO criticism of its military cooperation with Russia or the drone issue. Iranian officials in recent months have used the same tactic, expressing neutrality regarding the war in Ukraine and avoiding direct response to accusations of supplying drones to Russia. 

When evidence began to emerge last October of Iranian drones targeting Ukrainian cities, Tehran first denied the accusation but a few weeks later in early November, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian finally admitted sending drones, but claimed they were shipped before the Russian invasion.

NATO also called on the Islamic Republic to end its covert activities on the territories of its member states. "We express our serious concern over Iran’s malicious activities within Allied territory."

The United States and Britain have accused Iran of numerous terror plots on their soil in the past two years. Last November, Iran International TV moved its broadcast operations to Washington DC after the British police found credible information that Iranian agents were plotting to harm its journalists.

In its statement, Tehran tries to turn the tables and accuses some Western countries of fomenting unrest in Iran.

“Despite Iran’s commitment to observe international law, it has been harmed by the actions of some NATO members by their active support for unrest [in Iran] by providing refuge to elements and subversive terrorist organizations,” the statement claimed.

Iran labels the popular anti-regime protests that broke out last September as “riots” and has been blaming its “enemies”, presumably the United States, European powers and Israel for planning the unrest.

The Iranian statement also claimed that the Islamic Republic has played a “leading role” against terrorism in the region. In fact, Tehran supports and arms an array of militant organizations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestinian territories.

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