Over the past few days, a number of developments closely tied to Iranian supply of drones to Ukraine have come about – often implicating Israel.
When Iran began to send drones and training personnel to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iran’s rival Israel was not too happy; calls for Israel taking a firmer stance in support of Ukraine grew stronger within the country. One week ago, Israel’s defense minister said Israel will not sell weapons to Ukraine, including air defense systems, but indicated that early warnings system may be on the table; so far the country provided only aid and defensive equipment. On the 24th, Ukrainian state media outlet Ukrinform reported that Israel has been sharing intelligence with Ukraine on how to counter Iranian-made drones.
On Saturday the 22nd, according to the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, Israel carried out a strike against an Iranian drone manufacturing facility located in Syria; airport infrastructure on the outskirts of Damascus was also reported hit.
Most recently, two members of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were shot dead by an unidentified gunman in protest-rocked Southern Iran. Colonel Mehdi Molashahi, one of the two IRGC members, was reportedly responsible for supplying drones to Russia. A local cleric alleged that the IRGC members were killed after security forces fired on protestors and a single armed protestor returned fire. These reports quickly led to speculation of Israeli intelligence being responsible although no evidence to confirm or deny these claims has emerged.
Iran continues to deny it supplies drones and instructors to Russia and officially claims neutrality. However Iranian Shahed-136, Shahed-13, and Mohajer-6 drones have now become a common part of the Ukrainian battlefield and their presence is impossible to deny – the issue had led to Ukraine downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran. Evidence of Iranian drone instructors operating in Ukraine is not out in the open but according to recent reports from Israeli public broadcaster KAN Media, which cited an anonymous Ukrainian official as sources, ten Iranian drone instructors were killed in two separate drone strikes. US intelligence has also informed that Iranian drone instructors are believed to be in Ukraine.
However, Iran seemingly broke its narrative on drone supply to Russia on Monday when Iran’s foreign minister remarked that “if it is proven to us that Iranian drones are being used in the Ukraine war against people, we should not remain indifferent”.
Header Image: still image of an IRGC-ASF Shahed-129 UCAV armed with Sadid guided bombs released by CENTCOM, 2019