The Iranian Regime and Its Enemies Within How long can such a regime cling to…
It Is Time for NATO to Confront Iran
By Con Coughlin
Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.
Iran’s belated admission that it has provided Russia with sophisticated drones to boost its war effort in Ukraine should serve as a wake-up call to all those Western policymakers who claim the threat posed by Tehran’s aggressive regime is only limited to the Middle East region.
Despite credible reports that Russian forces have been deploying Iranian-made drones to launch attacks against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, inflicting electricity and water shortages on the country’s civilian population, Tehran has consistently denied the weapons originated from Iran.
Only last month, Iran’s representative to the United Nations strongly denied claims that Iranian drones were responsible for inflicting misery on the Ukrainian people, and insisted that Iran’s primary objective was to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
“Iran has consistently advocated for peace and the immediate end to the conflict in Ukraine,” Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani, permanent representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, told reporters in mid-October, adding that the claims that Iranian weapons were being used were “unfounded and unsubstantiated” and were just part of a “disinformation” campaign the West was mounting against his country.
It was only this month that Tehran finally conceded that it had supplied drones to Russia, on this occasion insisting that the weapons had been sent to Russia prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine last February.
The admission that Iran is equipping Russia with drones was made by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian who, responding to mounting evidence of the Iranian-made weapons being used in Ukraine, said Tehran had provided Moscow with a “limited number of drones” months before the war began in Ukraine.
Amir-Abdollahian also suggested that Iran did not support their use in the Ukraine conflict, offering the ludicrous assertion that if they were being used in Ukraine, Tehran “will not be indifferent to it.” He went on to say that if the Ukrainians had any evidence that Iranian drones were being used in the conflict, it should be sent to Tehran where “we will take into account their evidence.”
Even this Iranian admission was dismissed as a lie by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Responding to Iran’s admission, he said:
“They decided to admit that they did supply drones for Russian terror. But even in this confession they lie…We shoot down at least 10 Iranian drones every day, and the Iranian regime claims that it allegedly gave little, and even before the start of a full-scale invasion.”
The Iranian admission was also dismissed by US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, who tweeted:
“Iran didn’t give a limited number of drones before the war. They transferred dozens just this summer & have military personnel in occupied Ukraine helping Russia use them against Ukrainian civilians. Confronted with evidence, they need a new policy, not a new story.”
Iran is no stranger to telling bare-faced lies. For decades Tehran has consistently lied about the true extent of its nuclear ambitions, so it should come as no surprise that Iran’s instinctive response when confronted about its military support for Russia has been to issue a denial.
Moreover, that Tehran has been caught lying about its involvement in the Ukraine conflict inevitably raises suspicions that its support for Moscow is far broader than it is prepared to admit. Apart from supplying drones, there are credible reports that Tehran has agreed to supply Russia with ballistic missiles.
Iran’s belated admission that it is actively supporting the Russian war effort is certainly an alarming development, one that completely destroys the argument that Iran’s malign activities are solely confined to the Middle East.
It means that Iran is fully committed to supporting military action in Europe, which represents a significant escalation in the threat Iran poses to global security, one that Western policymakers can no longer ignore.
There is also disturbing evidence that Iran is closely monitoring the West’s military support for Kyiv to enhance its own military capabilities, after it emerged that Russia flew a selection of American and British weapons to Iran in August as part of the deepening defence cooperation pact between Moscow and Tehran.
According to Sky News, a Russian military aircraft secretly transported a US Javelin anti-tank missile, a Stinger anti-aircraft missile and a British NLAW anti-tank missile to an airport in Tehran in the early hours of 20 August. The weapons, which were part of a shipment of US and UK military equipment intended for the Ukrainian military that “fell into Russian hands”, have now been handed over to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps amid fears that it will enable Iran to study Western military technology and copy it.
The implications of Iran’s deepening involvement in the Ukraine conflict can no longer be ignored, as they now constitute a direct threat to European security, a development that NATO leaders need to take on board as a matter of urgency.
NATO has already demonstrated a welcome display of unity in providing vital military support for Ukraine in its battle to defeat Russian aggression. NATO leaders must now take similar measures to support all those states, whether they are in Europe or the Middle East, who want to protect themselves against Iran’s intimidating conduct.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph’s Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.