September 24, 2023

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Role of drones in shaping Iran’s foreign policy

Media outlets have recently covered the role of Iranian drones in the Russia-Ukraine war. The media has been filled with controversies regarding the significant impact of Iranian drones.

Experts and the media both emphasize the significance of Iranian drones, with much of the media coverage focused on increasing pressure on Iran. The Western media cannot deny the positive role of Iranian drones in the country’s foreign policies.    

In an analysis, titled “Can Iran’s Shahed drones in Ukraine help ease tension with Russia?”, military affairs expert and journalist Anton Mardasov discussed the impact of Iranian drones on the relations between Iran and Russia on the Al-Monitor website on August 6. Al-Monitor analyzed the recent tensions between Iran and Russia regarding Moscow’s stance on the three Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf in a joint statement with the Arab countries on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf. 

According to Al-Monitor, low-cost Iranian drones have significantly impacted the battlefield. “Delivery of drones gave Iran the right to talk to Moscow on an equal footing,” Nikolay Kozhanov, a professor at the Persian Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University, told Al-Monitor. Significant points will be explained concerning Al-Monitor’s analysis and the role of drones in Iran-Russia relations.   

The media has highlighted the significance of Iran-made drones in recent months. European and American think tanks and media outlets have published articles on how Iranian drones advance Russia’s military goals. Experts say that Iranian drones are crucial for the Russian army due to their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Before using the drones, the Russian military, in its war against Ukraine, relied heavily on cruise missiles, which were fifty times more expensive. 

Drones have allowed the Russian government to win the cost competition, while Ukraine must use costly rockets to shoot them down. Even if Ukraine’s claim of intercepting 65% of drone strikes is true, it still means that a large percentage of strikes were successful, which devastated Ukrainian military infrastructure. Using such equipment reduces the Russian government’s need to exploit soldiers. Given the extensive losses and damages incurred during the war, this issue has doubled the importance of drones for Russia. The U.S. media has labeled Iranian drones as the “biggest issue in the Russia -Ukraine war”.  

Due to Western sanctions and supply issues, Russia increased its demand for Iranian drones despite producing its own. Experts suggest that Arab countries’ viewpoint toward Iran’s military strength has changed due to the impressive role of Iranian drones on the battlefield. Iran was previously known for its ballistic missile development, yet Iranian drones have brought many changes in the eyes of those considering military competition with Iran.  

Iran is using its drones as a marketing tool to promote the export of its weapons. Following the successful performance of Iranian drones on the battlefield, many countries have requested to purchase Iranian drones. However, there is no doubt that Iranian drones hold significant value and cannot be substituted.

How do Iranian drones affect Tehran-Moscow relations? 

Before discussing the impact of drones on Tehran-Moscow relations, it is essential to acknowledge that Iran and Russia may hold differing opinions on global matters. It appears that Iran is pleased with the fact that NATO’s plans in Ukraine did not succeed; it also has some competition with Russia in some fields. Given that, Iran seems to be willing to collaborate with Russia in various areas. Regarding Russia’s joint statement on the three Iranian islands, many Western countries and some individuals inside Iran showed enthusiasm for increased tension, but there was no disruption in the Iran-Russia relationship. 

Nevertheless, the latest differences of opinion between Iran and Russia fundamentally differed from previous times. Al-Monitor pointed out that Iran responded to its dispute with Russia from an equal and superior position. While Media outlets have focused on Iran’s dependence on Russia in recent years, the war in Ukraine proved Russia’s need for Iran is undeniable. Russia needs to cooperate with Iran due to unprecedented international sanctions on the one hand and confronting NATO’s comprehensive entry into the battlefield on the other. 

The presence of Iranian drones is another factor contributing to Russia’s interest in collaboration with Iran. As mentioned earlier, Iranian drones had an undeniable effect on Russia and changed the situation of Russia on the battlefield. As a result, substantial changes occurred in the relations between Iran and Russia, which will probably change the course of the relations between the two countries. A problem that Western countries cannot tolerate.    

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