Iran delivers weapon systems to Venezuela

By Arie Egozi

Iran continues to supply its military systems to Venezuela, and this creates grave concerns in South America. The Iranian defence industry is using "straw" companies, some in Europe, to obtain dual-use components used in their locally manufactured military systems. During a naval parade in Venezuela on July 24, 2023, Iranian-made Zolfaghar-class missile boats armed with Nasr-1 anti-ship missiles were observed participating.

Iran and Venezuela have been strengthening their defence relations in recent years. In a recent interview with the Iranian Tasnim news agency, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani described Venezuela as a great nation in a sensitive region with which Iran has maintained close relations at the presidential level for years. The Iranian Defence Ministry coordinates plans to provide Venezuela with various domestic capabilities, particularly in the security and defence spheres.

Regarding the export of Iranian arms to Venezuela, the minister mentioned that there are no restrictions on providing military equipment to other countries. Iran is in contact with all nations and will aid any country committed to protecting international interests, security, and peace.

 

 

In June 2022, the presidents of Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year partnership agreement in Tehran to promote cooperation in various fields. During a meeting in Caracas in February 2023, the Venezuelan president and the Iranian foreign minister emphasized the need to safeguard their national interests.

Iran is using Venezuela as its front base in South America, potentially intending to target American interests if the Vienna talks for a new nuclear deal fail, and sanctions continue. Shipments of weapon systems, mainly armed UAVs, from Iran to Venezuela have increased, leading Israeli and American intelligence organizations to closely monitor this activity.

Prof. Uzi Rabi, a senior Israeli expert on Iran, believes that the export of armed UAVs and drones from Iran to Venezuela serves as a means of financing Hezbollah, Iran’s main proxy. The dire situation in Venezuela provides Iran with an opportunity to gain a foothold in Latin America and facilitate the transfer of funds to Hezbollah.

 

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According to research from the Israeli Alma research and education center, Venezuela is considered a close ally of Iran in the United States’ “backyard,” and the Iranian leadership views it as part of the radical Shiite axis. The Iranian UAV manufacturing industry remains unaffected by international sanctions, as many of its components are standard shelf components easily purchased online. These components are acquired through procurement agents living in Western countries and sent to representatives of the radical Shiite axis via Iran’s diplomatic postal platform.

Israeli and American intelligence closely monitor Iran’s export efforts to gain early warning of potential threats based on the use of armed drones.

 

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