Iranian Military Systems Shipments to Venezuela Rising, Israeli and American Intelligence Closely Watching Development of New Threats

By Arie Egozi

Defence Industry

Tel Aviv: New shipments of military systems from Iran to Venezuela create grave concerns in South America. The Iranian defence industry is using “straw” companies, some in Europe to get dual use components that are being used in their locally manufactured military systems.

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According to a video taken during the naval parade in Venezuela on July 24, 2023, Iranian-made Zolfaghar-type missile boats armed with Nasr-1 anti-ship participated. Iran and Venezuela have in recent years tightened their defence relations.

In a recent interview with the Iranian Tasnim news agency, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani described Venezuela as a great nation that is located in a sensitive region and with which Iran has maintained close relations at the level of presidents for years.

The general said the Iranian Defence Ministry, which coordinates the activities of Iran-Venezuela joint economic commission, organises plans to provide the Latin American nation with various domestic capabilities, such as in the security and defence spheres.

Asked about the export of Iranian arms to Venezuela, the minister said, “We face no restrictions regarding provision of (military) equipment to the other countries. We are in contact with all countries and maintain such relations mightily. We would certainly help any country that is committed to protecting international interests, security and peace and cares about the common world security.”

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In June 2022, the presidents of Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year partnership agreement in Tehran to promote cooperation in various fields. The president of Venezuela and the foreign minister of Iran, at a meeting held in Caracas in February 2023, stressed the need for the two countries to safeguard their national interests.

The Iranians are turning Venezuela to their front base in South America that will facilitate their intention to hit American interests if the Vienna talks about a new nuclear deal are not successful and the sanctions continue.

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The shipments of weapon systems, mainly armed UAVs from Iran to Venezuela have grown in number and this brought Israeli and American intelligence organisations to follow this activity very closely.

Prof Uzi Rabi, a senior Israeli expert on Iran said that at this stage the export of armed UAVs and drones from Iran to Venezuela is a way of getting the needed financing for the actions of the Lebanese Hezbollah terror organisation, the main proxy of Iran.

“Iran takes advantage of the very poor situation of Venezuela to get a foothold in Latin America and by that to facilitate the transfer of funds to the Hezbollah. This has become the lifeline of the organization” the expert said.

According to a research paper written by Tal Beeri from the Israeli Alma Research and Education Centre, Venezuela, which is located in the United States’ “backyard” is considered a close ally of Iran, and symbolically, the Iranian leadership considers Venezuela to be part of the radical Shiite axis.

“We know that Iran transfers weapons to Venezuela regularly and that these deliveries may also include missiles. We also understand that Venezuela, in particular and South America, in general, has become a base for the IRGC Quds Force activities. While mentioning Iran’s air capabilities regarding Venezuela, it is worth noting that Puerto Rico, whose inhabitants are American citizens, is only about 500 miles away from Venezuela.”

According to the Alma Centre publication, the Iranian UAV manufacturing industry is unaffected by international sanctions, and the proof of this is the actual growth of the “UAV Army.” The main reason for the sanctions’ inefficiencies is that many components used in this industry are standard shelf components that are easily purchased on the internet. For example, on the “Alibaba” site, the price of a Chinese DLE-111 engine installed in several UAVs is $ 500. The acquisition is carried out, among other ways, through procurement agents living in Western countries. The agents purchase the various components where they live and send them to the representatives of the radical Shiite axis. The transportation of the parts worldwide is carried out via the Iranian diplomatic postal platform.

Israeli and American intelligence are closely following the export efforts of Iran to try and get an early warning of a developing threat based on the use of armed drones.