ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Gallant says Iran in talks with 50 countries to sell missiles and drones

At Munich conference, defense minister warns the sales violate UN embargo set to expire in October: ‘Time is running out, while an evil regime traffics weapons’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Illustrative: In this photo released by the Iranian Army on August 25, 2022, a drone is launched in a military drone drill in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)
Illustrative: In this photo released by the Iranian Army on August 25, 2022, a drone is launched in a military drone drill in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday accused Iran of advancing sales of missiles and drones to dozens of countries, in violation of a 2015 United Nations Security Council resolution.

“Iran is currently holding discussions to sell advanced weapons, including UAVs and PGMs (precision-guided missiles), to no less than 50 different countries,” Gallant said at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

“Iran is no longer a ‘local supplier,’ serving proxies in the Middle East. It is a ‘multinational corporation,’ a global exporter of advanced weapons. From Belarus in Eastern Europe, to Venezuela in South America, we have seen Iran delivering UAVs with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers,” he said.

The sale of such drones, according to Western diplomats, violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six key nations — the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear activities and preventing the country from developing atomic weapons.

Resolution 2231 bans Iran from exporting ballistic missiles and drones with a range of over 300 kilometers and a payload of more than 500 kilograms until October 2023.

“All this takes place, while the missile embargo on Iran is still in effect, an embargo that will expire this year. Time is running out, while an evil regime traffics weapons,” he said. “The international community must create an effective alternative to the dying embargo, a practical mechanism of deterrence and consequences.”

Iran’s domestically built missiles are displayed during the annual rally commemorating Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Iran, February 11, 2023 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

A report by the UK’s Guardian newspaper Tuesday said US officials have been warning that Iran is utilizing the war in Ukraine as a springboard to position itself as a hub for cheap and lethal military-grade drones.

Israel has been closely monitoring Russia’s deadly launch of Iranian-made suicide drones in Ukrainian cities, fearing that similar weapons will be directed at the Jewish state in future wars, particularly via Hezbollah on its northern border.

The Guardian report said US officials believe Tehran is rapidly improving the effectiveness of its drones through real-world use in Ukraine.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks at the Munich Security Conference, February 17, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The Al-Monitor news outlet last week quoted an unnamed Iranian defense official to the effect that China has joined the queue for Iranian drones.

“Our power has grown to levels where China is waiting in line to buy 15,000 of our drones,” the official boasted.

Iran maintains a foreign policy goal of developing stronger relations with countries in the global East, such as China and Russia, in an effort to balance against severe Western sanctions placed on it, due to its largely unmonitored nuclear program.

Speaking on the Iranian nuclear threat, Gallant said: “When we speak of preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, we must keep all the possible means, I repeat, all possible means on the table.”

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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