Iran has sent drones, thousands of advisors to Venezuela

Special to

WASHINGTON — The United States has been tracking Iranian sales of
unmanned aerial vehicles to Venezuela.

Officials said Iran regards Venezuela as a key ally in South America.
They said thousands of Iranian advisers, including members of the Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps, have been working to bolster the military and security forces
of the South American state.

What is believed to be an Iranian drone at Venezuela's El Libertador Air Base. /Omar Quintero

The State Department has confirmed that Iran was delivering UAVs to Venezuela. Officials said the UAVs were not armed with weapons and could not threaten South America.

“Our understanding is that these UAVs would not be equipped with weapons but are more sort of camera surveillance type things, flying cameras if you will,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

In a briefing on June 19, Ms. Nuland said Venezuela was violating United Nations sanctions on Iran. She said Washington was monitoring Iranian relations with Caracas and would respond.

“All countries, including Venezuela, have an obligation to comply with international sanctions against Iran, so we will continue to monitor this situation between Iran and countries in the hemisphere closely,” Ms. Nuland

In June, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad conducted his second tour
of South America in six months. Ahmadinejad’s itinerary included Bolivia,
Brazil and Venezuela in what officials said was meant to demonstrate
Teheran’s foreign relations amid sanctions.

The UAV delivered to Venezuela was identified as the Harpy-1, said to be
a variant of the Muhajer-2. Officials said Venezuela was overseeing local
production and assembly of the UAVs as well as bases to host the Shihab-3
intermediate-range ballistic missile.

“Iran is continuing to look for friends wherever it can find them, and
what we are saying to all of our partners in the hemisphere is that this is
an opportunity, when Ahmadinejad comes knocking,
to underscore the unity of the international community in not wanting to see
Iran get a nuclear weapon,” Ms. Nuland said. “With regard to Venezuela, —
we will see how that goes.”

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