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Iran opposition group reveals alleged drone command centers, manufacturing sites

Illustrative: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Gen. Hossein Salami, left, and the Guard's aerospace division commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh talk while unveiling a new drone called 'Gaza,' in an undisclosed location in Iran, in a photo released on May 22, 2021. (Sepahnews of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, via AP)
Illustrative: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Gen. Hossein Salami, left, and the Guard's aerospace division commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh talk while unveiling a new drone called 'Gaza,' in an undisclosed location in Iran, in a photo released on May 22, 2021. (Sepahnews of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, via AP)

PARIS — The Quds Force of the elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), responsible for Iran’s controversial operations abroad, is increasingly using drones as the main means for carrying out airstrikes and supplying proxies, an exiled opposition group says.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says that the drones are being manufactured at eight plants in Iran, sometimes using materials smuggled from abroad, and then sent to countries like Iraq and Syria where they are assembled and then deployed.

The NCRI, the political wing of the People’s Mujahedin (MEK), which is banned in Iran, says it based its findings on reports from the network of supporters the MEK claims to maintain inside the country.

It supplies images that it claims are of drone production plants but it isn’t immediately possible to independently verify the claims.

The Quds Force, which was led by commander Qassem Soleimani until his killing in a US strike in Iraq in 2020, is accused by the West of leading Iranian operations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and seeking to strike Western targets.

The NCRI says the Quds Force is “chiefly using various unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for its terrorist operations as well as for supplying its proxies in the region.”

“To an extent, the regime is trying to compensate for its outdated and decrepit air force with this technology,” it adds.

It says that to produce the drones Iran has been smuggling some of the main parts, such as engines and electronic components from China as well as raw materials from Turkey and South Korea.

It says there is now a specialized UAV Command among the five command units of the IRGC Aerospace Force. The UAV Command has several groups that are stationed at various bases across Iran.

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