Iran Watch Newsletter: February 2023

February 28, 2023

Publication Type: 

  • Newsletters

This month’s newsletter features the findings from an Iran Watch roundtable on Iranian drones. An expert panel convened by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control identified areas where the United States and its partners could do more to slow Iran’s drone development and halt the flow of capable Iranian drones to Russia.

The newsletter also includes profiles of entities supplying Iran’s drone program, as well as news about the detection of uranium particles enriched to 84% purity in Iran, the inauguration of a uranium mine in Yazd province, and Iran’s plans to build a drone production facility in Russia. Additions to the Iran Watch library include documents on Iran’s weapon transfers abroad, U.S. sanctions enforcement, and new human rights sanctions from Western governments related to Iran’s protest crackdown.

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Shahed 191 drones
A display of Iranian drones modeled after the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. (Credit: Tasnim News Agency)

Roundtable | Clipping Tehran's Wings: How Supply-Side Controls Can Impede the Iranian Drone Program

Iran’s aerial drone program has become an area of increasing concern to the United States and its partners in recent months, particularly in light of Iran’s direct transfers to Russia and illicit shipments to proxy groups such as the Houthis in Yemen. The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control convened an expert panel for a private roundtable discussion on how sanctions and export controls can inhibit Iran’s development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The panel offered recommendations of how supply-side controls, despite some inherent limitations, can be strengthened and can continue to limit the size and capability of Iran’s drone arsenal in the future. A supplementary fact sheet summarizes these recommendations.




Small Iranian companies and foreign suppliers play a key role in Iran’s increasingly diversified drone development program.

Beijing MicroPilot UAV Flight Control Systems

A China-based company that sells complete UAVs as well as autopilot systems and engines for UAVs; reportedly sells engines manufactured by Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Company (Mado Company), used in Shahed-series drones.

Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Company

An Iran-based company specialized in manufacturing UAV components; according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, has procured UAV engines for entities linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Abdollah Mehrabi

A brigadier general in the IRGC and former co-owner of Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Company; has procured UAV engines from Mado Company on behalf of the IRGC Aerospace Force Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization.




Mohammad Eslami at Narigan uranium mine
AEOI chief Mohammad Eslami at the inauguration ceremony for the Narigan mine. (Credit: Islamic Republic News Agency)

U.N. Inspectors Detect Near-Weapons-Grade Enriched Uranium in Iran | Wall Street Journal

February 19, 2023: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors detected uranium particles enriched to 84% fissile purity in Iran in recent weeks, according to three senior diplomats. Iran does not however appear to be accumulating uranium stocks at that level, according to the diplomats. A spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency did not deny the report, but he suggested that more highly enriched particles could be a byproduct of enrichment to lower levels.

Iran Announces Start-up of Uranium Mine | World Nuclear News

February 7, 2023: The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced the beginning of operations at the Narigan Mining and Industrial Complex in Yazd province. At the inauguration ceremony, Mohammad Eslami, head of the AEOI, said that uranium from Narigan will be sent to Esfahan for "purification" and will be used for making nuclear fuel. He claimed that the site contained an estimated 650 tons of natural uranium and 4,600 tons of molybdenum.

Moscow, Tehran Advance Plans for Iranian-Designed Drone Facility in Russia | Wall Street Journal

February 5, 2023: According to unnamed officials from a U.S.-aligned country, Iran and Russia are advancing plans to build a factory in Russia that can produce at least 6,000 Iranian-designed drones in the coming years. On January 5, a delegation led by Abdollah Mehrabi and Ghassem Damavandian traveled to Yelabuga, Russia, to tour the planned site. The two countries are also developing a version of the Shahed-136 suicide drone with a better engine that would travel faster and farther than the current model. The drone factory is part of a $1 billion deal between Tehran and Moscow.




The United States and its partners worked to expose and thwart Iranian transfers of drones and other arms.

The United States used secondary sanctions and administrative actions to punish violations of existing sanctions on Iran.

Western governments announced more sanctions against Iranian entities involved in the violent suppression of protests.