Is Iran becoming a Major Regional Arms Producer?

The JCPOA, and the prospect of the lifting of conventional arms-related sanctions in the next five years, have resulted in the Iranian armed forces seeking a way to expand their domestic military industrial capabilities and become part of the international arms market. For instance, Iran’s minister of defense participates in most military exhibitions in the region.

He is also constantly in contact with countries such as China and Russia regarding the transfer of the most advanced military equipment technology to Iran. In this vein, it appears that the sanctions related to conventional weapons trade are already being dropped, and that in the near future Iran will become a serious rival of both Western and Eastern arms firms that are presently providing conventional weapons to regional states.

At the Baghdad exhibition, Iran has showcased a wide range of military equipment such as twinned combat boats, powerful sea engines, unmanned aerial vehicles, various mortars, different rockets and artillery systems, defense items such as advanced systems capable of identifying chemical and radioactive elements, as well as systems capable of designing and producing helicopter and reconnaissance aircraft. Considering Iran’s active participation in the Baghdad military exhibition, it can be concluded that Iran wants to enter the lucrative global arms market.

Given the nature of political relations between Iran and the West, what can be described as a mutual arms embargo — beyond the existing legal restrictions— appears to be in place. Meanwhile, during the past two years, the Iranians have generously delivered weapons to their regional partners so much that Lebanon’s defense minister has announced that his country is ready to receive a large amount of weapons from Iran to address the needs of its military.

Thus, if the current trajectory of arms deliveries continues, it appears that countries such as Iran, Russia and China are set to become the Middle East’s main weapons suppliers.

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