What's behind Iran's drone acknowledgment? - opinion

Iran's insistence on denying the existence of Iranian drones in Ukraine made no sense to anyone.

 Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office building in Vienna (photo credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER/FILE PHOTO)
Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office building in Vienna
(photo credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER/FILE PHOTO)

It was no surprise to observers of Iran that Tehran admitted for the first time that it had supplied Russia with drones. Iran tried to soften this admission by pointing out that it had sent the aircraft months before Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine on February 24 and that their numbers were small.

This admission has very important implications for understanding Iran’s political behavior. Iran’s insistence on denying the existence of Iranian drones in Ukraine makes no sense, especially in light of Western and Ukrainian assurances that these drones were involved in large bombing raids in Ukraine and refute the Iranian account with physical evidence of drone wreckage or the like.

It would happen sooner or later. I am not concerned here with Iran’s role in what happened in Ukraine, although it is important and dangerous. But I am addressing Iranian lies and maneuvers when it comes to the facts, no matter how clear they are or supported by evidence.

Addressing Iran's lies

Some who fall for Iranian propaganda believe that the Iranian regime has the ability to announce all its actions without fear and terror. This is totally inconsistent with the truth, well understood by experts in Iran and the Gulf.

 A view of drones during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 24, 2022 (credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) A view of drones during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 24, 2022 (credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Suffice it to say that Foreign Minister Hossein Abdollahian, who has repeatedly denied all protestations about Iranian drones in Ukraine, is the same one who admitted involvement.

Remarkably, he still thinks he can find someone who believes him when he says that the drones were sent to Russia before the war and not after, but that the number of these aircraft was small, in an apparent attempt to climb down from the tree of repeating the denials on various occasions. The denial was not limited to the Iranian foreign minister.

The media pointed to a speech by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, who indirectly denied claims that the West had sent drones into Ukraine. This is believed to be among the “lies and disinformation of the West, which has previously claimed that the images of Iranian drones were faked and Photoshopped.”

The media reports that this portion of Khamenei’s speech was deleted after it was forwarded to news outlets. Khamenei, who is participating in the denial campaign, is the same one who issued the fatwa on the prohibition of nuclear weapons that some in our region and in the West refer to when talking about Iran’s intentions to acquire nuclear weapons.

We have already said that this fatwa should not be understood in isolation from the principle of political piety, otherwise we would be surprised one day to find that it was part of plans to strengthen and protect Iran’s nuclear efforts so as not to be exposed to a preemptive strike by the enemies. We all know that such practices are common in the world of politics.

It is an open game and is practiced by many countries and regimes, regardless of their influence and strategic weight. Politics is not a perfect world and you cannot believe that there is complete transparency on various issues. Such practices can sometimes seem like the only way to avoid responsibility and accountability or the political and legal implications of an issue or event.

ALL OF this is known. But what interests me in this part is the need to pay attention to these Iranian practices that necessarily and consequentially apply to Iranian nuclear behavior.

Certainly, the history of relations between the Iranian regime and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is full of lies and attempts at deception to prevent the organization’s experts from recognizing the reality of Iran’s nuclear program, the nature of its activities and the stage of development of that program. It is naive to believe that Iran can be transparent in its relations with the IAEA.

So we need to examine whether what is hidden in Iran’s nuclear program goes far beyond what is made public. That goes without saying.

It is too simplistic to believe that Iran, which has recently focused on developing its missile program and drones that have become an influential strategic weapon in its military capabilities, is waiting for a green light from international powers to set a ceiling on allowable uranium enrichment. I believe the Iranian refusal was intended to achieve a goal.

The confession is also intended to achieve a goal that is no less important than the first. The denial was necessary when the Iran nuclear deal negotiations were still alive, despite all the pitfalls and obstacles that surrounded them months ago.

Iran was counting on concessions in the last half of the negotiations to reach a new deal that would allow it to release billions of dollars frozen under United States sanctions.

But the fading glimmer of hope on this issue and Iran’s deteriorating relations with the West, particularly the European troika (Germany, France, and Britain) that had played an important role in bringing together views, suggesting alternatives and sometimes playing the role of mediator between Tehran and Washington forced Iran to move in the opposite direction.

Profit and loss calculations were overturned, while drone deliveries to Russia were denied or confirmed. It tended to admit this, albeit gradually, to signal to the West that Tehran is allied with Russia; it has military deterrence capabilities that could threaten Western interests. That is, Tehran has moved from attempting political acrobatics to blatant partisanship.

The bottom line is that the Iranian regime has denied the western narrative about drones when denial was in its interest, albeit to a limited extent.

Now that the nuclear agreement has entered a dark tunnel from which it is unlikely to emerge before the end of President Joe Biden’s term, Iran has decided to refrain from denial and recognize it as a way to demonstrate its growing role as an actor capable of confounding the calculations of the great powers with its meddling in matters that transcend regional borders, despite the severity of the consequences.

It began to directly and effectively affect the interests of the great powers, especially the US.

The writer is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.