Although many of the recently unveiled systems are foreign copies or have unproven capabilities, they show a substantial indigenous development capacity that will only accelerate once the UN ban on weapons sales is lifted—even if past sanctions snap back into action.
On August 20, Iran took the unusual step of holding its annual “Defense Industry Day” events earlier than planned in order to coincide with UN Security Council deliberations on two key issues: the soon-to-expire ban on weapons transactions with the regime, and the U.S. threat to reactivate all past sanctions by triggering the nuclear deal’s snapback mechanism. With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York to make Washington’s case, Iran likely hoped to influence the conversation in its favor, uphold its reputation for defiance, and bolster its deterrence. Moreover, by unveiling a number of “high-end” military systems, the regime seemed bent on proving that there are no bottlenecks left in its production of key aerospace technologies, implying that further sanctions will not impede its progress on that front.
Read the full policy analysis at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.