Is Iran becoming a Major Regional Arms Producer?

Enter Iran, which — after the Islamic State’s capture of Mosul in the summer of 2014 — was the first country that sent arms to Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish peshmerga. Moreover, deliveries of weapons to Iraq have increased so much that all semi-heavy artillery equipment, sniper weapons and many other types of personal and armored weapons presently used by Iraqi paramilitary forces are Iranian-made. In addition, over the past year, Iran has also started sending the T-72S main battle tank to Iraq.

The same trajectory is evident in regard to Syria. In comparison with Iraq, Syria has always had a more advanced and better-equipped army while Russian military cooperation has been continuous. However, as Iraqi and Afghan paramilitary forces entered Syria, and Damascus faced the danger of its arsenals being depleted, Iranian military equipment has emerged in Syria. For instance, during the ongoing battle for Aleppo, the extensive presence of Iranian-made goods has been widely recorded. This equipment includes Safir tactical military vehicles, Shaheen sniper weapons and other types of personal weapons.

It is thus evident that Iranian-made military equipment is officially and extensively now in use in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. Since Iranian-made arms and equipment have yet to be tested, it is not possible to compare them with the originals they’re modeled after. However, the expansion of terrorism in the region has given Iran an opportunity to test its military equipment in action and learn about possible defects.

Iran’s focus on its domestic arms industry has been ongoing. Upon taking office in 2013, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani published the general principles of the government and officially announced, in section 7.2.18, that “considering the international sanctions and the widespread threats against the country, it is necessary for the Administration to follow up on the self-sufficiency programs of the defense industry. Also, the Administration will put on its agenda the commercialization of military industries and will utilize the existing potentials of the country’s defense industry in order to increase the country’s foreign currency revenues.”

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