Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami says the country expects to begin exporting arms now that the arms embargo on the country is lifted.
The arms embargo was lifted as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, despite US objections. Iran has seen this as a major victory over Washington. It comes just a month before US elections could potentially reverse US policy in the last several years that sought to pressure Iran economically.
Iran's missile and drone programs threaten Israel, and Iran has continued its attempt to export these key systems via Iraq to Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran's claims about its weapon-program abilities is designed to show it can strike at enemies far from home.
Iran's message on arms exports is interesting because it indicates the general view that the danger of the expiration of the embargo may be more complex than the notion that Iran will now import weapons as a threat.
Iran's economy is a mess, and the country does not have huge funds to buy foreign weapons. Instead, Iran, because it was under siege from US sanctions, has perfected certain weapon capabilities that mesh well with its defense outlook. It uses ballistic missiles and drones to create a tactical and strategic threat to the region.
Iran's multilayered drone and missile threat is in contrast to its weak conventional forces. It has starved its regular army of resources and plowed them into the IRGC's Aerospace Force. In doing so, it created an asymmetric threat to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, US bases in Iraq and also against Israel.
Iran exports precision-guided munitions via Syria to Hezbollah. It has sent ballistic missiles to Iraq and carried out precision strikes in Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
This has all been done in the last three years. Iran struck ISIS in Syria in 2017 and 2018, Kurdish dissidents in Iraq in 2018 and US bases in Iraq in 2020. Iran hit Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq complex in 2019. This means that Iran under punishing sanctions has done more than it ever did when it was not under sanctions.
The message of Hatami is that Iran is ready to offer "cooperation for production" to foreign states. Iran wants cash, and it can sell weapons or cooperation.
"We are a significant power in the field of missiles," Hatami said. "In the field of land, we have all defense items from tanks to artillery, mortars, antitank weapons and vehicles for sale."
"We are one of the world's leading powers in the field of UAVs, and in the field of navy, we build all kinds of vessels, [including] submarines, and arm them at the level of great powers," Tasnim News Agency quoted him as saying.
Iran says it is a global power in radar and has improved its air-defense systems.
It used the 3rd Khordad system to shoot down a US Global Hawk drone in 2019 and tried to send the system to Syria in 2018. An airstrike by an unknown country destroyed the system at T-4 base in 2018 in Syria. Iran has built the 3rd Khordad and the Bavar air-defense system, Hatami said.
His interview about Iran's arms-sales capabilities had an interesting reference to US arms sales. He noted that the US had harmed Saudi Arabia and the UAE through arms sales, appearing to allege that being dependent on the US made these countries not invest in their own industry.
Iran, like Turkey and Israel, is one of the few countries in the region that has a large indigenous local production line for weapons. Most countries in the region historically relied on the US or Russia and to a lesser extent China, France, the UK, Germany and others.
Iran says its defense industry is cost effective and efficient. Clearly, it is openly advertising its arms now, using its defense minister as part of the public-relations pitch.
It is only a matter of time, apparently, before other countries come to Tehran to make purchases. Iran will still need a variety of components from abroad, such as gyroscopes for drones.
Recent US reports say Iran has resumed cooperation with North Korea on ballistic missiles. North Korea recently showcased a new massive ballistic missile.
Iran is also closely watching the Azerbaijan military clashes with Armenia to see how drones with missiles and loitering munitions, a kind of kamikaze drone, function against tanks.
Iran wants to improve its loitering munitions and armed-drone arm, which it already vastly expanded in the last several years. Baku's use of drones likely impresses Iran and will lead to it confirming its investment in drones and missiles instead of tanks.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.