An Iranian general on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made a veiled threat at Israel, claiming that the Islamist regime has developed new ≈ drones specifically for attacking major Israeli cities.
Brig. Gen. Kioumars Heydari, commander of the Iranian military’s ground forces, said on Monday—as the United States was still commemorating Sept. 11—that Tehran has specifically developed a new long-range suicide drone with “‘unique capabilities” to strike Israeli cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa along the Mediterranean coast.
Iran’s Mehr news agency carried the remarks.
“We have specially designed this drone for Haifa and Tel Aviv,” Heydari said. “This is a unique drone that was developed for this task.”
The suicide drone is called the Arash-2 UAV.
He described the Arash-2 as a “spotter,” claiming it can hit targets like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s (IRGC) “Fath” ballistic missiles that deploy short-range attacks for suppressing the enemy’s anti-missile systems, according to Iran Press.
The IRGC is the Iranian special operations and intelligence force.
Heydari said the new drone would appear at future military drills.
According to analysts, Tehran officials often make exaggerated claims that exceed their proven capabilities. Iran is already in possession of drones that can reach Israel, although they have not been successful against Israel’s defense systems.
Tehran’s drone program has been subject to years of U.S. sanctions aimed to limit its development, following Iran and its proxies being blamed for attempted and successful attacks on U.S. targets and those of its Gulf state allies, Israel, and Saudi Arabia in the region.
Iranian Drones in Ukraine
The most recent allegations are that Tehran’s drones are supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Last week, the United States said Tehran had shipped drones to Russia and announced sanctions against Iranian–Russia military cooperation.
“The Russian military is suffering from major supply shortages in Ukraine, in part because of sanctions and export controls, forcing Russia to turn to unreliable countries like Iran for supplies and equipment,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sept. 8.
Tehran denied the allegations, while U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Julythat the United States has information showing that Iran is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones.
The administration released satellite imagery indicating that Russian officials visited Iran’s Kashan Airfield on June 8 and July 5 to view the Iranian drones.
The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said its sanctions were specifically targeting the IRGC Aerospace Force’s (ASF) Shahed-171 UAV program as well as drone projects by the IRGC Navy (IRGCN).
OFAC named Tehran-based air transport company Safiran Airport Services and three drone development and production companies—Paravar Pars Company, Design and Manufacturing of Aircraft Engines (DAMA), and Baharestan Kish Company—in the sanctions.
“In the past, the IRGC ASF distributed U.S. and Israeli-made UAVs to Paravar Pars Company, which were ultimately used to reverse engineer and reproduce indigenously made UAV models,” the statement from the Treasury said.
Baharestan Kish Company’s managing director Rehmatollah Heidari was also named in the sanctions. The entities listed have had their U.S.based assets frozen and are banned from conducting U.S.-related business.
Brian Nelson, Treasury undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said the department “is committed to strictly enforcing our sanctions against both Russia and Iran and holding accountable Iran and those supporting Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”
The United States will not hesitate to target producers and procurers who contribute to Tehran and the IRGC’s drone program, he added.
Marriage of Convenience
Iran and Russia have been increasing their military and economic cooperation in recent months, as both regimes are facing limited options for partners in the international community amid heavy sanctions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran in July and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Moscow in January.
In July, Iran became Russia’s largest importer of wheat, reported The Wall Street Journal. In August, Russia helped Iran launch a satellite into orbit. The United States said the satellite could be used by Tehran to help monitor Ukrainian troop movements.
The threats come amid talks to revive the failed Iran nuclear deal as well as Tehran’s admission that it now has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb if it chooses.
Top Iranian officials—including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—made numerous threats against Tel Aviv and Haifa, most recently in June, saying that if Iran is attacked, presumably over its nuclear activities, Tehran will respond and “raze” both cities to the ground.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, thanked France, the UK, and Germany on Sunday for their “firm position” on Tehran after they blamed the regime for “jeopardising” the nuclear deal with their demands to remove the IRGC from terrorist listing, among other issues.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.